Kentucky Football 2022 Season Prediction Preview Awards Bowl Game
Can Mark Stoops keep Kentucky football as top-25 team in the country? The 2022 season could be huge for the Wildcats.
With 33 wins over the past four seasons, two 10-win campaigns and four straight bowl wins, head coach Mark Stoops has taken Kentucky football to new heights. Sure, they may never be the Wildcats’ basketball program, but don’t let that detract from the level of consistency and prevalence that Kentucky has achieved under Stoops.
But now with one of the most talented groups we’ve seen in quite some time, could the Wildcats be the best they’ve ever been under this regime?
The Kentucky Wildcats go into the season ranked 22nd Fan Page Top 50 Preseason Ranking.
Kentucky Football 2021 Season in Review
Prior to the 2018 campaign, it had been more than four decades since Lexington had seen a 10-game winner on the football field. But after last season, that’s two of the last four years that the Wildcats have hit the 10-win mark.
All three of Kentucky’s losses in the 2021 season came in the SEC, which is to be expected given the nature of the conference. However, even finishing 5-3 in the league and winning every other game is a flawless performance, especially when it’s interrupted by the season-ending 20-17 Citrus Bowl win over Iowa.
Kentucky Wildcats offensive preview for the 2022 season
- Returners (5): QB Will Levis, RB Christopher Rodriguez, TE Brenden Bates, OL Eli Cox, OL Kenneth Horsey
- Notable newcomers: WR Tayvion Robinson (Virginia Tech), 4-star WR Dane Key, OL Tashawn Manning (Auburn), 4-star OL Kiyaunta Goodwin
- striker: Will Levis
Last season, the offense was about midfield in terms of performance, but despite the return of just five starters, there’s reason to believe there could be an upward trend this side of the ball.
Rodriguez is a stallion at running back and despite some big losses down the line the transfer portal has been friendly and should offer plenty of push up front, particularly Auburn’s Tashawn Manning, a mauler on the inside. But really, that insult will go as far as Will Levis can take it, especially with Wan’Dale Robinson gone now.
Levis is rightly being hailed as a potential first-round pick in the NFL draft. He’s got a cannon arm and was throwing for 24 touchdowns a year ago, but the key will be honing his decision making and then cutting turnovers. If he can do that and be a more efficient signal caller, this could be one of the best offenses in Kentucky in quite some time, if not ever.
Kentucky Wildcats defense preview for the 2022 season
- Returners (5): LB JJ Weaver, LB DeAndre Square, LB Jacquez Jones, CB Carrington Valentine, S Tyrell Ajian
- Notable newcomers: DL Darrion Henry-Young (Ohio State), CB Keidron Smith (Ole Miss),
- striker: JJ Weber
Mark Stoops has done a fantastic job throughout his tenure, bringing guys into the building, developing them and then reaping the rewards of experienced players. That’s mostly the case again, albeit with only five starters returning.
These five returnees will be crucial. Leading the pack is leading sack-getter from a year ago, JJ Weaver, who will have even more pressure to make quarterback with the departure of Josh Paschal. Meanwhile, the rest of the linebacker corps has been strong over the past season and should stay the same. In addition, Valentine and Ajian are followers in the secondary school who should serve as anchors for this unit.
The big question is on the defensive line. There are talented players including Ohio State’s Darrion Henry-Young along with some former 4-star recruits in Josaih Hayes and Justin Rogers. What we haven’t seen is these guys getting meaningful snaps ahead of time, which is something to monitor, especially early in the year.
Kentucky Football Players Awards clock for the 2022 season
Several Kentucky football players are on the preseason watch lists, but these three stand out.
Eli Cox, Outland
Cox missed the end of last season with a hand injury and will move from guard to center this season, but his pedigree is undeniable. As one of the few returnees in the Wildcats’ trenches, he’ll have his chance to shine.
Will Levis, Maxwell/O’Brien
With 33 total touchdowns in 2021 and now hoping he progresses with the experience he gained in Kentucky last year, all eyes will be on Levis. If he delivers, it could pay off both individually and for the team as a whole.
Chris Rodriguez, Maxwell
Rodriguez, who averaged over 100 rushing yards per game last season, is helping Levis and seems poised to do the same again. Elusive and explosive, he should be able to show his talent to the full in the 2022 season.
The Kentucky Wildcats’ biggest game on the 2022 schedule
We’ll see a big Test for Kentucky basically right outside of goal as the second game of the season will take the Wildcats to a date with the Florida Gators in Gainesville on September 10th.
As Florida enters its first season under Billy Napier, there are both reasons for hope and serious questions about what the Gators will be like. This is the perfect time for Kentucky to catch this team as their experience and consistency within the program could prove invaluable in a matchup like this even while on the road.
With a tough home stretch in the SEC and the Rivalries matchup against Louisville, setting the tone early in the conference opener against Florida should prove crucial.
Kentucky Football Best Case Scenario
The best-case scenario from Lexington begins with the Wildcats making deals against Florida and in the three surrounding non-conference games, none of which pose a major threat. That’s a 4-0 start before the team head to Oxford to try and stop the Lane Train.
With the turnover that Ole Miss will endure, we can also book that as a win for the Wildcats, as well as home games against South Carolina and even Mississippi State, despite the Bulldogs being a difficult matchup. However, the best case scenario is for this team to start 7-0 before heading into their open week.
They really catch things up from there when they play Tennessee and Missouri away before finishing with three home games against Vanderbilt, Georgia and Louisville. While only the Vandy game is a real gimme for Kentucky, all of those games are winnable except for the matchup with the reigning national champions.
It may be a long way off, but there’s a world where this Kentucky football team finishes the regular season 11-1 but is still out of the SEC championship game thanks to the loss to Georgia.
Kentucky football’s worst-case scenario
Unfortunately, the worst-case scenario for Kentucky isn’t great. If the offensive and defensive lines don’t coalesce quickly, it could mean an early loss in Florida, and things could get worse from there.
Although Ole Miss is basically undergoing a change across the board, it’s going to be explosive and dangerous, which could be a problem unless Kentucky’s offense blocks far up front — they won’t be able to keep up the pace. Mississippi State could cause more trouble if Mike Leach’s offense finally gets a firm footing in Starkville, which would put the Wildcats 3-3 into the off week.
If things go wrong we can record losses in Tennessee and at home to Georgia which would make the matchup at home to rival Louisville the difference between 6-6 and 7-5. That’s not going to please a lot of Kentucky fans, but if this team goes 6-5 into this matchup, I like Louisville’s upside much better at this point, which means the lowest bar for the Wildcats this year is a 6- 6 regular players is the end of the season. Still bowling, but not at all what Big Blue Nation is hoping for.
Prediction for the 2022 season of Kentucky soccer
The good news for fans is that I don’t see the 6-6 scenario really coming into play – it’s more of a doomsday scenario than anything.
Instead, the best bet for this team is probably that they finish the regular season 9-3. As mentioned, I’ll call Georgia a loss no matter what, but they’ll probably lose at least two more games from the matchups against Florida, Ole Miss, Mississippi State, and Tennessee. But I still like that the team is making it through Louisville in the fight for Bluegrass State, so not only is it another nine-win season with a chance to get back to 10, but braggart rights in the state are still going strong just taste so sweet.
Kentucky Football 2022 Bowl Game Prediction
Bill Bender’s shell projections for Sporting News Use the Wildcats against Pitt in the Gator Bowl.
Next: No. 21: Arkansas
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