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- Head coach: Rich Brooks (7th season at Kentucky, 32-41; 25th season overall, 121-152-4 at Oregon and Kentucky)
- 2008 record: 7-6 (2-6 SEC, 6th East), beat East Carolina 25-19 in Liberty Bowl
- Returning starters: 11 (8 offense, 3 defense)
- Total offense: 299.3 (9th SEC, 106th nationally)
- Total defense: 332.4 (11th SEC, 40th nationally)
- Series: Auburn leads 24-5-1
- Last meeting: Auburn won 49-27 in 2005 in Lexington
- Consensus prediction: Sixth in the SEC East
- Oct. 3: Alabama
- Oct. 10: at South Carolina
- Oct. 17: at Auburn
- Oct. 24: UL Monroe
- Oct. 31: Mississippi State
To see if that's the case, I went to Chip Cosby, the Kentucky beat writer for the Lexington Herald-Leader. Make sure to read all of his Wildcats football coverage here and his blog here.
AB: Defensive end Jeremy Jarmon was supposed to be the anchor of the defense but left for the NFL's supplemental draft after being ruled ineligible for his senior season because of a failed drug test. What does his absence mean to Kentucky's defensive front, which already lost a pair of starters in Myron Pryor and Ventrell Jenkins?
CC: Jarmon's absence is huge. He's an elite pass rusher who likely would have approached double-digit sacks, and none of UK's returning defensive ends have even recorded a tackle in a college game. Throw in the loss of Pryor and Jenkins, and the defensive line could be the biggest question mark on the team right now. Senior tackle Corey Peters is an underrated player who could challenge for All-SEC honors, but the Wildcats will need to find a pair of capable ends. Junior-college transfer DeQuin Evans will be expected to come in and contribute immediately.AB: The Wildcats cupboard isn't bare on defense. Linebacker Micah Johnson and cornerback Trevard Lindley both considered the NFL but came back to Lexington. Can this year's defense come close the success it had last season, when it ranked 40th nationally in total yardage?
CC: A lot depends on the line play. The back seven should be fine with a pair of cornerstones Lindley, who could be the best corner in the nation, and Johnson, who's solid in the middle. But if the defensive line can't generate much pressure, that will slightly negate what Johnson and Lindley can do to opposing offenses.AB: Will Mike Hartline be the answer at quarterback or are Rich Brooks and Joker Phillips going to use a variety of players under center like they did for much of last season?
CC: It's Hartline's job to lose. He'll be the starter for the season-opener against Miami, and if he plays well early and the offense moves the ball, he'll remain the starter. One of the two true freshmen (Morgan Newton and Ryan Mossakowski) will likely be worked in as a backup, and Randall Cobb could see some time at QB in the Wildcat package, but Brooks seems committed to Hartline at least in the short term.AB: The running game suffered last year but seems to have promise this season, with plenty of experience on the offensive line coming back. Can running backs Alfonso Smith and Derrick Locke, two explosive runners, handle the workload now that Tony Dixon is gone?
CC: If the Cats can run the ball effectively, that would take a lot of pressure off Hartline. Alfonso Smith has played well in spurts as a backup but has battled injuries. He's waited patiently for his chance to be the feature back and has added 10 pounds in the offseason. He has a good combination of size and speed; he just needs to stay on the field. Derrick Locke was probably UK's best all-around back before suffering a season-ending knee injury against Arkansas. It remains to be seen if he'll be back at 100 percent to start the fall, but if he is, the Cats look to be in decent shape at RB.AB: Brooks has made headway in succeeding at a school where basketball is king, with three straight victories in second-tier bowls (two at the Music City, one at the Liberty). Does Kentucky have the resources or commitment to make that next step as a football school to compete in the upper echelon of the SEC, be it under Brooks or when his successor Phillips takes over the reigns?
CC: Kentucky hasn't proven yet that it can take that next step and compete for an SEC championship. They've slowly crawled up the ladder of respectability under Brooks, but they need to breakthrough with an 8-9 win season that sees them as a legitimate contender in the SEC East. If they can get that one "big" year, then I think they have the resources to start to attract the kind of talent that they need to get to that level. But they have to prove they can compete first.NCAA '10 on PlayStation 3 says ... Auburn 37, Kentucky 14. The Tigers improve to 5-2 overall (3-1 SEC) after outscoring the Wildcats 27-7 in the second half. Craig Stevens' 37-yard fumble return for a touchdown helps Auburn take a 10-7 lead into halftime. Kodi Burns adds touchdown runs of 3 and 4 yards in the third quarter before hooking up with Gabe McKenzie for a 16-yard touchdown pass in the fourth quarter to put things away. Burns throws for 255 yards, Ben Tate runs for 139 and Montez Billings catches eight passes for 93 yards. Jake Ricks has a monster game on defense, with eight tackles, four tackles for a loss and two sacks. Antonio Coleman adds four TFLs and two sacks. Auburn holds Kentucky to only 256 total yards.
Up next: The tough stretch of Auburn's schedule is up, starting with a trip to Baton Rouge to take on LSU.