Ranking Kentucky’s 2022 Opponents: No. 8-5
With media days wrapped up, we now have some more insight into how each SEC team is gearing up for the 2022 season. The media picked Kentucky to finish second in the SEC East heading into this season, making the target on the Wildcats' back slightly bigger and the games on this schedule slightly more difficult.
Kentucky’s newfound rival (according to Missouri) is on the rise in the recruiting game. Eliah Drinkwitz has put together two highly touted classes in back-to-back years. With that, the Tigers are still likely a year away from being able to complete in the SEC east once again. Missouri is looking to replace Connor Bazelak, who decided to transfer to Indiana for the upcoming season. The Tigers are also void of their do-it-all back from the 2021, with Tyler Badie moving on to the NFL. Essentially, Drinkwitz is looking to replace a large portion of offensive production. Even with some big losses, the Tigers have shown resiliency and the ability to improvise in the early years of the Drinkwitz era.
The Governor’s Cup returns to Kroger Field for the first time since 2019, where Kentucky will look to make it four consecutive wins over their bitter in-state rival. Over the years, the physicality difference in the SEC and ACC has been put on full display. While records have been fairly similar, Kentucky has blown the Cards out of the water in their past three matchups, thanks to a heavy dose of the run game that Louisville has not had a prayer in stopping. Scott Satterfield is starting to get the ball rolling in the recruiting game, but the results of those efforts are still years down the road. While the Cards may be on their way to an 8-4 or even 9-3 year, thanks to the ACC, don’t expect this game to be much closer than it has been over the years. If it wasn’t for the fact that this is such a heated rivalry, as well as the fact that Malik Cunningham is one of the better quarterbacks Kentucky will face this season, Louisville would be much further down the list.
From this point forward on the list, the nerves will be heightened for me as I feel Kentucky could win or lose these games based on just a few plays. When facing a Mike Leach coached team, you never know what you are going to get. In 2020, the Bulldogs’ offense was anemic as Kentucky’s defense shut them out. In 2021, the script was flipped as Will Rogers went off for 344 yards passing with a 92% completion rate. Meanwhile, last year’s matchup was also one of Will Levis’ worst performances as a Wildcat, turning the ball over three times. With bowl hopes high in Starkville, Kentucky will need to be laser focused to avenge last year’s embarrassment. Mississippi State is always due for at least one upset win per year, lets hope it is not on October 15th in Lexington.
It may sound like a stretch to call a week two game a swing game, but the September 10th matchup with Florida is exactly that for Kentucky. With a win, the Wildcats will cruise to a 4-0 September, while a loss puts a huge damper on the fanbase's excitement. Thankfully for Kentucky, this is not Urban Meyer's Gators. The 2022 Gators and 2007 Gators do have one thing in common, an extraordinary athlete at the quarterback position. Let me make myself clear, I am not saying Anthony Richardson is anywhere near the player that Tim Tebow was. I am saying that Richardson is one of the top pure athletes in the country. Brad White and Mark Stoops will have their hands full in preparing for what could end up being the best quarterbacks the Wildcats face all season. While Florida definitely has their guy under center, the pieces around him on the offensive and defensive end have lot to prove until I'd feel comfortable moving them any further up this list.
In the next iteration, we will dive into Kentucky's most difficult opponents for the 2022 season. As we know, you can lose any given Saturday in the SEC.