The Kentucky Wildcats are certainly likely to struggle this year having to replace half their team, including over 60 percent of defense, which was their strength. While they return some offensive production, including quarterback Terry Wilson, they lose running back Benny Snell Jr., who was their one star on that side of the ball. And their recruiting class was third from last in the league.
Taking all that into account, you would think Mark Stoops should have a drop-off year and be below this. But his team won its final three games, bouncing back from that 24-7 blowout loss to the Tennessee Vols, and they also managed to beat a very good Penn State Nittany Lions team in the Citrus Bowl to finish 10-3 and in the top 12.
If production matters at all, there’s no way we could drop them below any of the four teams on this list who lost their final game by 25 points or more, and the one team who didn’t, the Vanderbilt Commodores, has to replace as much talent as UK. Also, Stoops has shown in the past, such as 2016 after losing Patrick Towles, that he often gets better after losing key talent.
As a result, the Wildcats have to be in the middle of the pack of our SEC Power Rankings for now, even if they remain a lower tier. There is no reason to bet against them just yet, and they could still be decent this year.