G.W. Gras

Senior Writer for The Bears Brawl and Lead Host of The Bears Brawl Podcast.

Kentucky Wildcats
Last Season (9-3, regular season; 10-3 counting bowl game)
This Season O/U Win Total 6

The Kentucky Wildcats were everyone’s favorite under-dog bet in 2018. At least if you were sharp about your wagers. . .

Finishing 10-3 last season was much due to an amazing defense, strong offensive line and stud running back, Benny Snell. . . This season guard Logan Stenberg and center Drake Jackson are the only returning starters on the offensive line.   Gone are Benny Snell, drafted by the Pittsburgh Steelers in the fourth round and  defensive stud Josh Allen, who went seventh overall in the NFL Draft.

Source: Butch Dill/Getty Images North America

Head coach Mark Stoops is putting his faith in quarterback Terry Wilson, who was a great leader but not a great quarterback.  Sure a 67% completion percentage looks great, but when you finish the season with under 2000 passing yards, 11 touchdowns and 8 interceptions – there’s not much to really feel to confident about.  Consider those were Wilson’s numbers behind a strong offensive line and one of the best running backs in college last season – yikes. . .

When judging the Wildcats’ success for the upcoming season, it’s less about them and more about their competition. Seven or eight losses aren’t totally out of the line though.

Kentucky opens the season against Toledo, and that can be tricky for the Wildcats, Florida will be looking to start up a new winning streak against Kentucky and most of their schedule are games that can go either way – with the opposition all having better offenses. The Wildcats might still be the most blue-collar team in the in the SEC East, but keep in mind, even in their best season ever, they went 5-3 in their own conference.

Talent wise, this year’s team is a tremendous drop off but when looking for wins, their strength of schedule may flip in their favor.  Their out-of-conference-schedule should get them at least three wins, possibly even four, if they can get by Toledo (doubtful).  That means they’d just have to get three more wins on their schedule to either tie or get passed 6 wins.  Missouri, Tennessee, Arkansas, South Carolina, Mississippi State and Vanderbilt are all teams in the same boat as Kentucky (kinda-sorta).

Remember we don’t need them to be a spectacular like last year – just a little above average.

THE PICK: OVER 6 WINS

 

 

Alabama Crimson Tide
Last Season (12-0, regular season; 14-1 counting bowl games)
This Season O/U Win Total 11

Nick Saban has built the most ridiculous powerhouse in college football.   And it’s taken Dabo Swinney to begin building his own ridiculous powerhouse in Clemson, that has given the Crimson Tide a run for it’s money.

Source: Ezra Shaw/Getty Images North America

Quarterback Tua Tagovailoa was the talk of the nation, but towards the end of the season, in games against Georgia and especially in the championship loss to Clemson, he seemed, average at best. Now, is Tua just “average at best?” Who knows. 2019 will answer that question. But in the end – doesn’t he just have to be average? Saban has won with his share of AJ McCarron’s, Jake Coker’s and Greg McElroy’s under center – and they have done just fine. Tua has more talent than those three and Saban is smart enough to not put his quarterback in similar situations as he did against Georgia (who they still beat) and Clemson. Alabama will bring in yet another big, strong, and NFL ready offensive line to protect Tua, but more importantly they will be the key to a powerful rush attack. Najee Harris will finally be the main back, but even then, expect five-star recruit Trey Sanders to get some burn behind this offensive line.

This rush attack will be key for new offensive coordinator, Steve Sarkasian to implement his style of play and open up the play-action pass, which Alabama traditionally displays well. This is great news for wide receiver Jerry Jeudy, who was voted in 2018 as the best receiver in college football.

Defensively, there is future NFL talent just sprinkled all over the place. They don’t allow anyone to run on them and that is in big part due to the presence of defensive end Raekwon Lewis and linebacker Dylan Moses.

The great thing about Alabama is that they are so well coached, and talented – that they never fall for “trap games,” “let down games” or “are caught sleeping.” On the schedule itself, it should be pretty predictable until November. They open November against rival LSU, but remember last year, that was supposed to be “the one” to trip up Alabama and the Tide won 29-0.  Add to the fact that LSU has to come to Bryant-Denny Stadium this year and the “threat of the Tigers” seems non-existent. The following week, they go into Mississippi State, but the Bulldogs’ defense lost a lot of talent from last year and their offense isn’t consistent enough to hold off the tide. Their Iron Bowl match-up against Auburn won’t do much to scare off betters either.

It’s Bama. Don’t over-think it.

THE PICK: OVER 11 WINS

G.W. Gras
twitter @GeeSteelio