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Keith Taylor: Football is back, and it looks like a break-even season for UK against tough SEC

Kentucky will step into unchartered water and right into Southeastern Conference play when the season kicks off this Saturday at Auburn.

After weeks and months of debate, the Wildcats will join the rest of the league and provide a dose of normalcy as the nation recovers from a pandemic that has crippled sports and society as a whole since March.

What remains to be seen is if the conference can complete a full season without interruption and how teams will perform under a heavier work load, especially mentally, than normal.

Although the Wildcats won’t be playing non-conference opponents this year, the preseason provided the coaches and players more time to prepare and evaluate any given scenario that may transpire during an unprecedented season. Some of that preparation included players working out at more than one position and coaches preparing for several “what if” scenarios on all sides of the spectrum.

UK’s Terry Wilson suffered a season-ending knee injury against Eastern Michigan last year. (Photo by Tammie Brown, Kentucky Today)

Now that the league and conference schools have a plan in place, it’s time to make a projection of what the outcome could possibly look like following a 10-game SEC season.

Sept. 26: Kentucky at Auburn
The Wildcats have lost two in a row to the Tigers, both by a combined margin of six points and defeated Auburn 21-14 in their last visit to Jordan-Harre Stadium in 2009. Despite the win in 2009, Kentucky has won just two games at Auburn.
PREDICTION: Auburn 34, Kentucky 27.

Oct. 3: Ole Miss at Kentucky
The team’s first of two home games will be against SEC West foes Ole Miss and Mississippi State. The Rebels and Wildcats have split the past four games, with the Wildcats winning two of the last three in Lexington. Ole Miss won the last meeting at Kroger Field in 2017 but look for the Wildcats to get the home schedule started off with a victory.
PREDICTION: Kentucky 30, Ole Miss 7

Oct. 10: Mississippi State at Kentucky
Mike Leach, former offensive coordinator during the Hal Mumme era, makes his return to Lexington in his first season with the Bulldogs. Kentucky has won two of the last three against the Bulldogs and the last three meetings have been decided by seven points or less. This one will be equally as close.
PREDICTION: Kentucky 34, Mississippi State 31

Oct. 17: Kentucky at Tennessee
Jeremy Pruitt has never lost to Kentucky and is 2-0 against the Wildcats. It began with the Volunteers’ surprising 24-7 win in Knoxville in 2018, followed by a narrow 17-13 triumph last year at Kroger Field. Although Kentucky has beaten Tennessee twice in the past eight years the Wildcats haven’t won at Neyland Stadium since 1984.
PREDICTION: Tennessee 27, Kentucky 21

Oct. 24: Georgia at Kentucky
The Bulldogs have won 10 in a row over the Wildcats and shut down Kentucky 21-0 last season in Athens. Georgia is poised to make a run for the SEC East title and will agains be tough for the Wildcats to overcome.
PREDICTION: Georgia 42, Kentucky 32

UK linebacker Jamar “Boogie” Watson (31) is on the Chuck Bednarik Award watch list. (UK photo)

Oct. 31: Kentucky at Missouri
The Wildcats will spend Halloween in Columbia, a place where they have won the last two meetings between the two teams. Kentucky has won five straight against the Tigers and have proved they can win on the Tigers’ home turf.
PREDICTION: Kentucky 32, Missouri 17

Nov. 14: Vanderbilt at Kentcky
Following a much-needed break, Kentucky gets back on track against Vanderbilt, a team the Wildcats have beaten four straight times, including the last two in Nashville. Kentucky has won two of the two three games between the two foes by double digits and should continue the trend this time around.
PREDICTION: Kentucky 42, Vanderbilt 14

Nov. 21: Kentucky at Alabama
The Wildcats have never won in Tuscaloosa and own just two victories over the Crimson Tide, with both of those coming in Lexington. Since the Wildcats’ memorable win over Alabama in 1997, the Crimson Tide have won six in a row, including a 34-6 victory four years ago.
PREDICTION: Alabama 36, Kentucky 24

Nov. 28: Kentucky at Florida
Kentucky’s last visit to the Swamp was a memorable one, with the Wildcats defeating the Gators 27-16, giving the Wildcats just their fifth win in Gainesville. The Wildcats have closed the gap and have lost the last two games by eight points or less.
PREDICTION: Florida 34, Kentucky 28

Dec. 5: South Carolina at Kentucky
The Gamecocks snapped a five-game losing streak to the Wildcats in 2019 in Columbia but have lost the last three games in Lexington. Look for the Wildcats to finish the season on a high note on Senior Day at Kroger Field.
PREDICTION: Kentucky 28, South Carolina 21

Kentucky’s season-opening game at Auburn will begin at noon this Saturday. It will be telecast on the SEC Network.

Keith Taylor is sports editor for Kentucky Today. Reach him at keith.taylor@kentuckytoday.com.

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