Kernel Sports Staff predictions for the 2018 football season

Freshman Line Backer Deandre Square of the University of Kentucky football team during Media Day at Kroger Field on Friday August 3, 2018 in Lexington, Kentucky. Photo by Olivia Beach | Staff

Another season of Kentucky football is only days away, and between an All-American running back candidate and a veteran defensive unit, excitement for the Cats is high.

Kentucky will kickoff its 2018 campaign this Saturday when the Cats host Central Michigan at Kroger Field at 3:30 p.m. Before the action takes place, the Kernel sports staff sat down to discuss what they think fans will see this upcoming season.

Here’s what they had to say.

What do you think UK’s finishing record (including UK) will be?

Erika Bonner (Sports Editor): The Cats will end up with a 7-5 record, going 4-4 in the SEC. Aside from the non-conference games, Kentucky’s schedule will be tough (that goes without saying though; it is the SEC after all). I think there will be a few games where the Cats will shock BBN though, despite the tough schedule.

Chase Campbell (Assistant Sports Editor): UK will finish 8-4, and will finish an even 4-4 in SEC play. A weak non-conference schedule that peaks at Lamar Jackson-less Louisville will give BBN what they’ve asked for the last two years.

Chris Leach (Sports Features Editor): I think UK will finish 6-6 with a 3-5 SEC record in the regular season. It’s not that I’m down on the Cats, I just think they don’t have many opportunities with their schedule. Home games against Mississippi State, South Carolina and Georgia will be tough, while traveling to Florida, Texas A&M and Louisville aren’t much better.

Who will be the season MVP?

Bonner: Benny Snell. I think it’s obvious, and hard to say anyone else. Being one of Kentucky’s biggest assets, he brings big energy and remains as UK’s arguable top playmaker.

Campbell: Can I say anyone other than Benny Snell? He gets better every year, and even when he’s down, he’s one of the best players on the field, although pride might hurt him.

Leach: Benny Snell. The man has been at the top of opponents’ scouting reports his first two years, and no one stopped him. Expect Snell to keep rolling with him approaching some big-time records.

Who will be UK’s breakout player?

Bonner: I’m going to agree with Chase on this one and go with Tavin Richardson. Kentucky’s coaching staff has been high on Richardson so far in the pre-season, and I think he’s going to have a lot to offer come Sept. 1st.

Campbell: Wide receiver Tavin Richardson. I’ve been really high on Richardson recently, and it’s because of his length and athleticism. If his route-running is better, he’ll be a terror.

Leach: I’m picking someone the coaching staff has said nothing but positive things about since arriving in January, and that’s DeAndre Square. Jordan Jones always seems to be hurt and the linebackers sub out a lot, which could open up a role for Square if he lives up to his preseason hype.

How many draft picks will UK have at the 2018 NFL Draft?

Bonner: We’ll go with three…. and a questionable fourth? Josh Allen, Mike Edwards, Jordan Jones and possibly Snell. I can’t say with confidence right now that he’ll go pro after this season.

Campbell: Three is the clear-cut, definitive choice, and the answer hinges on Snell’s choice. If he stays, then only Mike Edwards and Josh Allen will be selected.

Leach: I’m going with five: Josh Allen, Mike Edwards, C.J. Conrad, Snell and Jones. Some of those guys could have gone pro after last season, but decided on a senior season encore instead. If correct, that would be the most draft picks UK has had since 1979.

What will be UK’s best win of the season?

Bonner: Kentucky’s last game of the season against Louisville will be their best win. Arguably UK’s biggest rival, I think they’ll be hungry for the win, especially after last year’s 17-44 loss.

Campbell: Week two at Florida. After 31 long years, UK is going to take advantage of Florida’s transitioning, unstable organization and their own veteran defense to stuff the Gators in Gainesville.

Leach: Week five against South Carolina. If I’m right, UK will still be winless in the SEC and looking for a big game before going to A&M. No better time to have a big game than in front of the BBN against an opponent they’ve beaten four consecutive times under the lights (unconfirmed still, but the last six matchups have kicked off no later than 7 p.m.)

What will be UK’s worst loss of the season?

Bonner: I have to go with Florida. Even though it’ll be early in the schedule to call it their worst loss, I think it’ll be very difficult for the Cats to beat the Gators in Gainesville.

Campbell: Week 10 at Tennessee. Tennessee will be good, mind you, but it’s a game the Cats should win on paper, and that’s why they’ll lose. They have a habit of playing to the game on paper.

Leach: Week 12 at Louisville. If I’m correct, UK will be riding a two-game win streak and bowl game berth into Louisville, so expectations could be a bit high. Louisville is still a good football team and it will be difficult for UK fans to end another season with a loss to their arch-rival.