LEXINGTON, Kent. – Terry Wilson will be the starting quarterback when Kentucky opens its season Saturday in a non-conference game against visiting Central Michigan, but the focus of the offense will once again be Benny Snell, Jr.
The junior running back will look to get off to a strong start in his bid for a third straight 1,000-yard season for the Wildcats, who have won all six prior meetings with the Chippewas.
TV: 3:30 p.m. ET, ESPNU. LINE: Kentucky -17
Snell is the top returning rusher in the SEC after logging 1,333 yards and a conference-best 19 touchdowns a season ago. The 5-11, 223-pound native of Westerville, Ohio, was the 19th player in SEC history to reach 2,000 career yards prior to his junior season and joined Georgia's Herschel Walker and Knowshon Moreno as the only players to have at least 1,000 yards and 13 touchdowns in his freshman and sophomore seasons.
Already the program leader in rushing touchdowns with 32, Snell needs 1,412 yards to surpass Sonny Collins, who accrued 3,835 yards from 1972 to 1975, as the school's all-time leading rusher.
Central Michigan will also have a new starting quarterback in sophomore Tony Poljan, who saw limited action under center and at wide receiver last season for fourth-year coach John Bonamego.
ABOUT CENTRAL MICHIGAN (2017: 8-5)
The Chippewas have a polished runner of their own in junior Jonathan Ward, who churned out 1,017 yards on the ground and caught 48 passes for 470 yards while amassing 13 total touchdowns last season. In his team's eight wins, Ward went for 836 yards on 121 carries (6.9 average) but was limited to 181 yards on 58 runs (3.1) in five losses.
Poljan, the Michigan Gatorade Player of the Year in 2015, can also run despite his 6-7, 235-pound frame as he had more than 3,000 yards and 58 touchdowns on the ground at Lansing Catholic.
ABOUT KENTUCKY (2017: 7-6)
Wilson spent a redshirt season at Oregon in 2016 before heading to Garden City Community College in Kansas and was the No. 5 rated junior college player by ESPN. The sophomore dual-threat quarterback, who chose the Wildcats over Florida and Nebraska, threw for 2,113 yards and 26 touchdowns and ran 518 yards and five scores for Garden City last season.
Wilson beat out sophomore Gunnar Hoak, who redshirted in 2016 and practiced but did not see any action last season for Kentucky, which has won nine straight against teams from the Mid-American Conference and 19 of 22 overall.
1. Wildcats senior LB Josh Allen, who has racked up 20.5 tackles for loss and 14.5 sacks in three seasons, and senior S Mike Edwards, who became the fourth player in school history to lead the team in tackles and interceptions, join Snell on the preseason All-SEC first team.
2. Redshirt freshman Naasir Watkins or sophomore transfer E.J. Price will play left tackle for Kentucky after starter Landon Young was lost for the season with a right knee injury.
3. Snell will attempt to join Artose Pinner (2002), Moe Williams (1995) and Collins (1973) as the only Kentucky players to lead the SEC in rushing yards.
PREDICTION: Kentucky 27, Central Michigan 16