Kentucky and Western Kentucky represent two teams in transition. Both schools replaced their head coaches during the offseason, and both head into 2013 with the uncertainty that comes with staff changes.
Kentucky is facing a total rebuild after going winless in SEC play a season ago and finishing with a 2-10 record. Western Kentucky, on the other hand, found some measure of stability in recent years, and it is coming off back-to-back seven-win seasons.
The Wildcats are betting on former Florida State defensive coordinator Mark Stoops to get them back to respectability within the SEC, which is a level that's been difficult to reach for the program. Getting off on the right foot with a season-opening win would be a nice way to start his tenure.
WKU would like to make it three winning seasons in a row, and the Hilltoppers should provide a challenge to Kentucky in this game; they beat UK last season, so they're capable pulling off the victory, and they know it.
Rankings and records: These two teams have met four times, and Kentucky has won three of those matchups. The Hilltoppers got the better of the Wildcats last season, winning 32-31 in Lexington.
Vegas: Kentucky opened as a three-point favorite but it has improved to as much as a 4.5-point favorite at some sportsbooks. The over/under is 57 points.
Weather: The high is expected to hit about 93 degrees, and there is a slight chance of rain.
Three names to know
Bobby Petrino -- After a year out of coaching following his unceremonious departure from Arkansas, Petrino is back on the sidelines. He steps into a pretty good situation, too, considering the recent success of the program and the fact that this team returns a lot of starters. He'll need to mold a new starting quarterback, but that's something he tends to do well.
Maxwell Smith/Jalen Whitlow -- Kentucky opted not to publicly announce its starting quarterback before kickoff, and the situation could remain somewhat fluid throughout the game. Both players saw time under center a year ago to varying degrees of success, and the Wildcats never found much reliability at this position. The Wildcats would really benefit from a positive step toward finding an answer here.
Antonio Andrews -- Andrews is coming off a huge junior season in which he ran for 1,733 yards, which ranked eighth among FBS running backs. If Western Kentucky struggles early on to throw the football, Andrews will be all the more important to its fortunes.
Two things at stake
Kentucky will take whatever it can get after winning just a pair of games last season, and the Wildcats probably are going to have another rough run through the SEC. It would be nice to kick off the Mark Stoops era with a win, but from a long-term perspective, it might be more important for the team to begin sorting out some of its roster issues.
Like the Wildcats, Western Kentucky needs to figure out what its identity is going to be under a new coaching staff. Will the transition be relatively seamless, allowing the Hilltoppers to keep winning and perhaps give them a shot at a Sun Belt title? To that end, beating Kentucky would be good for the team's psyche.
How to witness
TV: ESPNEWS (Joe Davis, David Diaz-Infante and Joe Budden)
Online streaming: ESPN3