It’s a new season and a new offense for Kentucky as they prepare to open the 2021 campaign against Louisiana-Monroe on Saturday. With all the new, there may be some question about what exactly Wildcats fans are expecting to see. Here are 5 things the Big Blue Nation could be looking for Saturday.

1. Convincing victory

Yes, UL-Monroe was winless last year. But Kentucky hasn’t been particularly sharp in openers under Mark Stoops (losing in 2013, 2016 and 2020, and playing close as a big favorite in several others) and in the history of the UK/UL-Monroe series, there have been some close games. Rich Brooks’ 2006 team nearly frittered away a 42-40 game against the Warhawks, and in the series’ first meeting, back in 1994, UL-Monroe (then Northeast Louisiana) beat Kentucky 21-14. Granted, long ago and far away, but Kentucky’s first order of business is, as the film Remember the Titans famously observed, leave no doubt. A 3-touchdown plus margin would suffice.

2. Big Will-style

He has been talked about constantly since he left Penn State for Lexington. Will Levis is officially QB1, and Kentucky fans can be forgiven if they’re excited to see the first highly-rated drop-back passer in Lexington since Drew Barker got injured. That said, Kentucky fans shouldn’t expect to see a return of Hal Mumme and the Air Raid. It’s probably not realistic to expect 50+ pass attempts or 400 passing yards. What is realistic is to expect to see Kentucky able to make defenses honor all facets of their offense on all downs, which should yield both some downfield passing plays and some nice holes for UKs running back to runs through. In terms of numbers: 200-250 passing yards and a couple of touchdowns seem like a reasonable thought.

3. Pound ’em, Smoke ’em

Meanwhile, how will life be for Kentucky’s stable of running backs? Chris Rodriguez and Kavosiey Smoke might not see quite as many carries as they would have under Eddie Gran, but 12-18 carries for C-Rod, 6-10 for Smoke, and another 4-5 pass receptions for the duo will probably yield the kind of productivity that Kentucky is used to. As much as the production, it’ll be interesting to see who plays how much, how both standout backs do in the passing game, and also, who will be the third back. In terms of numbers: 200 rushing yards and 50-75 receiving yards for the group seems plausible, and the emergence of the third back would be a nice bonus.

4. Who emerges as the No. 3 receiver (or the No. 4 or 5?)

Kentucky’s passing game is in decent shape at receiver — at least to open the season. Fifth-year senior Josh Ali and standout transfer Wan’Dale Robinson are solid. But who else can answer the bell in the passing game? Senior Isaiah Epps has shown flashes of big-play ability but struggled to stay healthy. Junior walk-on Rahsaan Lewis (that’s the son of Ray Lewis — yes, that Ray Lewis) has impressed in practice and may earn significant time, and a bevy of freshmen have significant hype, but of course, no experience. Hopefully, Ali and Robinson can stay healthy and productive, but Kentucky needs at least or two more receivers to step up — and that opportunity begins in earnest on Saturday.

5. The mystery linebacker

The spring injury to D’Eryk Jackson left Kentucky with a big hole in the defense at middle linebacker. Until 2020 Ole Miss tackle leader Jacquez Jones transferred to Kentucky. A wily veteran, Jones seemed like he’d claim the spot — but then he missed a good chunk of fall camp with injury concerns. In his stead, true frosh linebacker Trevin Wallace has impressed those around the program. How tight is the battle for the starting job? Tight enough that Stoops’ initial depth chart has the two bracketed at the position with an “or” between them. Obviously, both are likely to play early and often. Jones’ experience will be hard to keep off the field — but then so will Wallace’s athleticism and upside. Big Blue Nation would love to see both make their respective cases on the field against UL-Monroe.