Can Kentucky Compete in the SEC in 2022?

Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Can Kentucky Compete in the SEC in 2022?

Football

Can Kentucky Compete in the SEC in 2022?

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Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

The Georgia Bulldogs have been the “big dog” in the SEC east for quite some time. In somewhat recent history the only serious competition to the Bulldogs has traditionally consisted of the Florida Gators and Tennessee Volunteers. However, in more recent times a new challenger has emerged in terms of the divisional race, the Kentucky Wildcats.

That being said, the Wildcats haven’t tasted victory over the Bulldogs since 2009, despite being competitive for the most part over the last few seasons. The big blue seems to be inching closer each year, however, especially finishing second in the division last season. The question is, is 2022 finally the year Kentucky gets over the hump? Simply put, it’s not a given but it is certainly possible.

Mark Stoops has accomplished many impressive feats throughout his building of this Wildcats program. Multiple wins over Florida and Tennessee as well as two Citrus Bowl titles over Big-10 mainstays Penn State and Iowa, which led to two 10-win seasons, all since 2018. For many of your blue-blood programs, this would be ‘just another season’ however, in Lexington it seemed once impossible to accomplish. The next step in the progression of this Kentucky program is beating Georgia and winning the east. 2022 could their best shot. 

The road to the SEC championship still runs through Athens, but for Kentucky, there is a road. However, there is a road for the old stalwarts as well. Tennessee and Florida both seem to be back on an upward trajectory both on the recruiting trails as well as on the field. The Wildcats will have to at least beat one of them if they want to punch their ticket to the SEC title game.

That, however, is just one obstacle. Kentucky will also need to win at least nine regular-season games outside of Georgia in order to have a shot. This is, however, very doable for this Wildcat team that will be loaded with talent on both sides of the ball, while being led by an All-American candidate at quarterback in Will Levis.

Beating the Bulldogs will naturally be the biggest obstacle of all, but this will be their best shot to date. Georgia lost a lot of talent to the NFL Draft this season. Of course, they will be replacing them with more five- and four-star talent, however, outside of quarterback and a few other places, this roster will be very unproven. This will be what could give the Wildcats the edge.

Kentucky is returning a lot of valuable experience on both offense and defense, especially at key positions. Wide receiver and cornerback are the only positions where the Wildcats will be inexperienced. However, the receiver position will be the deepest it has been in many years and they are going to be loaded in one key area, speed.

Cornerback is the biggest question mark on this roster; however, this staff has worked hard at replenishing the position this off-season. Both lines will once again be incredibly stout, the linebacker unit could be near elite as will the running game. At this point, everyone in the SEC is aware of how dangerous Will Levis is behind center. Add in to this a stellar coaching staff and this could be the year Stoops and his Wildcats have been working towards for a very long time.

Make no mistake, Stoops and his crew have a lot of work to do. No path in the SEC is ever easy and this year will be no exception. That being said, 2022 could be the year the stars finally align for the big blue nation. 

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