Paul Finebaum's SEC favorite behind Georgia, Alabama in 2022
July 26, 2022
The SEC is considered to be one of the most competitive conferences in the country when it comes to football, but the discussion only focuses on the two teams that played in the national championship game last season: Georgia and Alabama.
The other league members are also talented, but the two powerhouses are still the main focus of the media. ESPN's Paul Finebaum believes that the next challenger to Alabama and Georgia will be someone other than Smart and Saban.
During an appearance on "McElroy & Cubelic In The Morning," Finebaum picked Kentucky as the team that he believes will challenge Alabama and Georgia for the SEC title. He said that the Wildcats have a relatively straightforward path to the championship.
"The question remains very difficult but I'd probably go with Kentucky only because I know what they have," Finebaum said. "All it's going to take for Kentucky is to hold serve on games that they have to win then maybe pull that one upset. Have a type of season where Will Levis just rises up and ends up being one of the top couple of quarterbacks in the country and ultimately upset Georgia."
Kentucky as most consistent program, per Finebaum
Under Mark Stoops, Kentucky has become one of the most consistent programs in the country. The Wildcats started out with a 2-10 record in his first season in the program and then improved each year. They have made six consecutive bowl appearances and are currently amidst a four-game winning streak.
They also return a good defense. In 2021, they finished second in the SEC East behind Georgia. Playing in the East gives them an advantage over the other teams. However, they lost one of their key offensive coordinators, as former offensive coordinator Noel Coen was hired by the Rams.
Despite not being the most talented team in the country, Kentucky is still considered the safest bet for analysts. The consistency that the Wildcats have shown over the past five seasons has made them one of the most consistent programs in the country.
"(Kentucky is) the only one I could even make an argument for. The rest of them I think you're just simply taking too big of a risk. Whether it's Texas A&M pulling off the Alabama win? Florida having a miracle first season like Gus Malzahn (at Auburn)? Something along those lines. I can't come up with one frankly other than to play the odds and give you Kentucky," said Finebaum.
According to Stoops, he is proud of how hard his staff works to develop the players they recruit. He also noted that they can keep some of their recruits from going to Kentucky.
Stoops has a lot of concerns about the new rule known as the NIL. He believes that it will harm college football. However, the coach is still confident that his players will figure it out.
The success of Stoops and Levis has made the Wildcats believe they can reach the Atlanta Dome. The current state of the SEC has left the door open for them to play in the championship game on December 3. However, they have to focus on the task at hand, starting on September 3 against Miami.