Projecting the SEC East in 2013: At No. 7, the lowly Kentucky Wildcats

USA Today Sports

Kentucky's been the worst team in the SEC for quite some time. That should continue in 2013.

Florida's spring game, which serves as the almost-midpoint between the end of the previous season and the start of the next one, has come and gone, and now we have a solid four months before we get any more glimpses at the Gators. Thanks to Florida's baseball team being uncharacteristically bad this year, the wait seems even more unbearable.

That's why I've decided to start my football coverage now, because, hey, it's never too early.

Among the things to look out for in the coming weeks and months are game-by-game previews, team, conference, and national projections, and within the next week and a half, a special guest will join me to reminisce about his own sterling Florida career, as well as talk to me about his thoughts on the current and future Gators. (I'm still in the final stages of that last one- can't promise anything yet, but it appears to be as good as done at the moment.)

Anyway, it all begins with my first 2013 SEC East season projections. I hope you enjoy reading/discussing them as much as I enjoyed writing them.

I'm going to count backwards from No. 7 to No. 1, with one post a day for the next seven weekdays. So we begin today with the team that should be used to the bottom by now...

No. 7 Kentucky

Starters returning: Seven on offense, seven on defense

The good: The Wildcats return the most starters in the SEC East, including defensive tackle Mister Cobble. Together with fellow nose tackle Donte Rumph and linebacker Alvin Dupree, the Wildcats could have a decent front seven. Quarterback Max Smith is also back, along with receiver DeMarco Robinson. They could develop a nice passing combination and maybe scare some teams. Also, a new head coach appears to be just what the Wildcats needed. Joker Phillips just didn't get the job done and snagging Mark Stoops from Florida State should be considered a major upgrade in both coaching and recruiting.

The bad: There's a lot of it. Go make some popcorn.

True, the 'Cats return 14 starters, but that's from a team that went 2-10 a year ago; six of those losses were by 20 points or more. Next, the one player that they really could have used this year, top receiver La'Rod King, is gone. Above all else, the schedule is a gauntlet through hell. It's hard to tell which part of the schedule is worse, the home slate or away slate. The Wildcats play road games at Georgia, South Carolina, Mississippi State and Vanderbilt. But three of their home games are against teams that went to BCS bowls last year Florida, Alabama and Louisville. It would be nothing short of a miracle if this Kentucky team makes a bowl game in 2013.

The key: Try to get some cheap points on special teams, whether it be on a blocked kick or a big return? Sadly for Kentucky, neither the offense nor the defense can be considered a strength, leaving special teams as the best option to score.

Key game: Missouri. If there's any chance whatsoever of Kentucky making a bowl game, they have to knock off Missouri at home.

Somewhat relevant fact: Kentucky is the only team in FBS to ever lose 25 games in a row to two different conference opponents at the same time.

Relevant fact: All 10 of the same teams that Kentucky plays from a year ago beat them last year.

Overview: It's difficult to sound positive about Kentucky from an objective point of view. The Wildcats don't have an offense, don't have a defense, and don't have a favorable schedule. They simply have way too far to go before they're even considered for a bowl game. I'm not saying Stoops can't get this program back on track, but it probably won't be for a few years, and it certainly won't be this year. As anybody who follows SEC football can tell you, this is going to be a pretty rough ride.

Projection: 3-9 (1-7 SEC)

Agree? Disagree? Let me know in the comments. And for more on Kentucky, make sure to visit A Sea of Blue.

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