The Orlando Sentinel has ranked all 120 Football Bowl Subdivision teams in the country. We’ll take a closer look at a new team daily, counting backward from No. 120 to our projected No. 1 team. We will not be including the four teams the NCAA lists as still reclassifying to the Football Bowl Subdivision level.
Today at No. 70: Kentucky
Coach: Joker Phillips (11-14, 3rd season)
2011 record: 5-7 (2-6 in SEC, eighth in SEC)
Look back: Although the Wildcats fell short of a bowl and being competitive in the SEC, they ended Tennessee’s 26-year win streak in the series. At the time, that ranked as the longest by any one opponent over another.
Offensive starters lost/returning: 5/6
Defensive starters lost/returning: 6/5
Key losses: Without question, the loss of LB Danny Trevathan will be hard for Kentucky’s defense. Trevathan led the SEC in tackles the past two seasons and was an All-American. He had 372 career tackles and leaves a giant hole in the middle of the Wildcats’ defense.
Safety Winston Guy ranked second in the conference in tackles behind Trevathan and will also be difficult to replace.
Top returnees: Kentucky returns two All-SEC honorees from last season – OG Larry Warford, who was a second-team pick, and QB Maxwell Smith, who made the All-Freshman team. Smith is likely to be the starter going into the season. He took over the position in the eighth game of the season last year after Morgan Newton was injured. WR Demarco Robinson and LB/DE Alvin “Bud” Dupree both made an impact this spring and could be relied upon in their sophomore seasons.
Strengths: Phillips has said he likes the interior of the team’s defensive line, calling DTs Mister Cobble and Deonte Rumph “as good a tandem as we’ve had.”
Weaknesses: Kentucky replaces three starting offensive linemen and four linebackers. Inexperience at those positions could be difficult to overcome facing SEC opponents.
Outlook: Kentucky ranked among the bottom three in the SEC in nearly every major statistical category on offense and defense last year. With a schedule that includes trips to Florida, Arkansas and Missouri, don’t expect this to be the year when the Wildcats get out of the SEC basement.
Sept. 1 at Louisville
Sept. 8 vs. Kent State
Sept. 15 vs. Western Kentucky
Sept. 22 at Florida
Sept. 29 vs. South Carolina
Oct. 6 vs. Mississippi State
Oct. 13 at Arkansas
Oct. 20 vs. Georgia
Oct. 27 at Missouri
Nov. 3 vs. Vanderbilt
Nov. 14 vs. Samford
Nov. 24 at Tennessee
Rest of the countdown: