UGA Football

‘Kentucky deserved it more.’ SEC Hall of Famer defends pro-UK vote in preseason poll.

Kash Daniel: ‘Nobody wants to see us win. ... Besides my man Paul Finebaum.’

Kash Daniel spoke to reporters at SEC Media Days in Birmingham, Alabama, on July 18, 2019.
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Kash Daniel spoke to reporters at SEC Media Days in Birmingham, Alabama, on July 18, 2019.

Preseason polls overall haven’t been kind to the University of Kentucky football team, but one college football Hall of Famer is high on the Wildcats entering 2019.

Scott Woerner, a standout safety at the University of Georgia in the late 1970s who went on to play in the NFL and USFL, was the only voter among 46 who cast ballots for the preseason Super 16 Poll — a joint effort of the Football Writers Association of America and the National Football Foundation — to vote for Kentucky.

The Super 16 Poll was released Monday on the heels of The Associated Press Top 25, in which UK received no votes. Both were released a bit more than two weeks after the USA Today Coaches’ Poll, in which UK accumulated 79 points (good for 31st overall).

The AP and Coaches’ polls ask participants to rank their top 25 teams; the Super 16 Poll, as its name suggests, only asks for a top 16 ranking. Woerner ranked UK as his 15th-best team entering 2019, and was happy to defend it.

“I don’t care what anybody thinks, and I’m not trying to be difficult,” Woerner said in a phone interview this week with the Herald-Leader. “They had a good team last year. They played good football. ... There’s probably five teams I could have put No. 15, but in my book, I think Kentucky deserved it more than the rest of ’em.”

Woerner was in Lexington last year when his Bulldogs defeated UK, 34-17, to dash the Wildcats’ chances at an SEC East Division championship. He had a glass-half-full mindset about how Kentucky performed in that contest.

“I went on my gut feeling from having been there last year and watching them play,” Woerner said. “I thought, short of two or three plays, they’re in the game last year.”

Georgia’s Scott Woerner, right, intercepted a pass intended for Notre Dame’s Pete Holohan during the Sugar Bowl on Jan. 2, 1981, at the Superdome in New Orleans. The interception sealed Georgia’s 17-10 victory, which earned the Bulldogs the national championship. Associated Press

Woerner believes, particularly with upperclassmen, that how a team finishes its previous season can carry a lot of weight heading into its next season. UK bouncing back from its losses to Georgia and Tennessee to finish 10-3 and as Citrus Bowl champions is a positive indicator; he’s more worried about his Bulldogs, whom he ranked No. 6 in the preseason in part because of back-to-back losses to Alabama and Texas to end last year.

His respect for UK dates back to 1977, when he was part of a Georgia team that was blanked by the Cats, 33-0. Before last year, that was the last UK team to win 10 games.

“I think the worst ass-whooping I ever took was Kentucky in 1977,” Woerner said. “And it wasn’t just that the score was that bad, I’m talking about a physical beating.”

He believes Kentucky’s depth and experience in the trenches will make up for its unproven secondary this year.

“That’s where it begins and ends,” Woerner said. “It always begins and ends up front.”

The top seven teams in all three preseason polls ended up in the same order: Clemson, Alabama, Georgia, Oklahoma, Ohio State, LSU and Michigan.