The game: Sept. 8, 7:30 p.m., in The Swamp.
Last year’s result: Luke Del Rio threw a 5-yard touchdown pass to Freddie Swain with only 43 seconds remaining in the game to pull out a 28-27 victory for the Gators, who rallied from a 13-point deficit in the fourth quarter.
Key players returning: RB Benny Snell, TE C.J. Conrad, S Mike Edwards, OLB Josh Allen and LB Jordan Jones.
Key losses: QB Stephen Johnson, LB Courtney Love, WR Garrett Johnson, OT Kyle Meadows and K Austin MacGinnis.
Scouting the offense: The big question mark is at quarterback, where the Wildcats have to replace Johnson, who threw for 2,305 yards and 10 touchdowns last season. The leaders for the starting job are Terry Wilson, the No. 1 JUCO QB in the 2018 class, and sophomore Gunnar Hoak. Neither has played a down of major college football, so there’s a big question mark at the position. Where there is no question is at running back. Junior Benny Snell is one of the SEC’s elite backs, having rushed for 1,000 yards each of the past two seasons. The offense will be built around him. At wide receiver, the ’Cats must replace Garrett Johnson, who caught 48 passes for 539 yards last season. The leading returning receiver is Tavin Richardson, who caught 27 passes for 371 yards and one TD. Four of five starter return on the line, led by senior tackle George Asafo-Adjei.
Scouting the defense: The strength is in the back end, where the Wildcats return all four starters in the secondary, led by standout senior safety Mike Edwards, who intercepted four passes last season. He’s a headhunter who led all SEC defensive backs in tackles the past two seasons. The Wildcats must replace four starters among the front seven, including standout linebacker Courtney Love.
Scouting the special teams: The Wildcats have big holes to fill after losing both their punter and place-kicker. Austin MacGinnis was perhaps the best field-goal kicker in school history. Freshman Chance Poore is his likely replacement. The leader for the punting job is former Australian Rules Football player Max Duffy.
“As I move into year six, the biggest thing you look at at Kentucky, the biggest thing I feel is the change in expectation, and that’s a good thing. We’re excited about that. We embrace those expectations. Really it starts with our coaches, our fan base, and, most importantly, our players. We expect more. We’ve been close. We’ve done some good things. I’m proud of the work that we’ve done. We look forward to making a big jump this year.” — Mark Stoops