This is August. At 2 a.m., when sleepless Wildcat fans stare at the ceiling, it’s with visions of CFP wins dancing in their head or with the fear of 4-8 and a new coaching search. If anyone doubts that the SEC means more, these middle-of-the-night delusions would cinch it. But let’s drag them into the light.

For Kentucky fans, here are the best and worst possibilities for 2021.

Best: Chris Rodriguez leads the SEC in rushing

All the pieces are in place for this one. Kentucky returns 3/5ths of an outstanding offensive line and added LSU transfer Dare Rosenthal. Meanwhile, Rodriguez, a punishing bruiser of a back, rushed for 785 yards and 11 touchdowns last season in the all-SEC schedule. The only reasons he didn’t have more then? Rodriguez missed 2 games due to COVID protocols and he split carries with (now departed) senior AJ Rose and Kavosiey Smoke. His 6.6 yards per carry bested all 5 rushers who had more yards than he did in 2020.

Worst: Injury to Josh Ali and/or Wan’Dale Robinson

New offensive coordinator Liam Coen is onboard to breathe life into a morbid passing game (114 and 121 yards passing per game each of the past 2 years, respectively). While Coen’s scheme will help, somebody has to catch all these passes that are coming. Ali snagged 54 passes last season, more than triple the No. 2 receiver. He obviously knows what he’s doing. As does Nebraska transfer Wan’Dale Robinson, who caught 91 passes in a pair of Nebraska seasons, despite playing a fair amount of running back. Those two can catch passes and get downfield. It’s not really clear who else can. If one or both isn’t available, it’ll be a massive challenge for the UK offense and new starting QB Will Levis.

Best: The pass rush is back

Kentucky had an effective defense last year, allowing 381 yards and 25.9 points per game to opponents. This was particularly impressive since UK’s pass rush kind of disappeared. In the previous 3 years, UK had 30, 38, and 33 sacks. In 2020, the Wildcats had just 14, one of the lowest totals in the conference. While UK lacks a single dominant pass rusher (Josh Allen-style), there are plenty of talented guys who should each contribute a couple or more sacks and get UK back to at least 25-30 sacks, and maybe more. Given how Stoops’ DBs performed last year with fairly little support up front, an improved pass rush could really jump-start UK’s defense.

Worst: Will Levis isn’t ready

The other aspect of Coen’s new offense is figuring out who throws the ball. Penn State transfer Will Levis won the job in camp, but what happens if he struggles or is injured? Joey Gatewood is transferring again. Freshman Beau Allen doesn’t have much experience.

The scouting report on Levis is that he has the arm strength to make all the throws at the SEC level. His issues are accuracy and consistency. There’s reason to think that Levis winning the starting job will be best for the offense. Kentucky could certainly have success with Gatewood (had he stayed) or Allen, but the easiest thing would be that Levis plays well and keeps the job.

Best: 10-2 and a trip to Atlanta

If Coen’s offense really is a go, if the pass rush picks up, if injuries don’t cripple Kentucky at an increasingly smaller number of positions that can’t afford a loss, there’s plenty to like here. A home game against Missouri in Week 2 is crucial but aligns fairly well for UK.

A potentially 4-0 Kentucky team has home games with Florida and LSU and a trip to Athens. That’s the worst part of the schedule, and it’s hard to imagine Georgia stumbling too badly.

But for argument’s sake, it’s Georgia, you never know. Split the games with Florida and Georgia (which probably means beating Florida in Lexington — not a small feat either) and manage a 6-2 SEC mark. Win the East tiebreaker, head to Atlanta and even if you can’t overtake Alabama, you’ve got another season like 2018, which would certainly be welcome in Lexington.

Add an 11th win in a big-time bowl, preferably over another historically tough Big Ten foe.

AD Mitch Barnhart signs Stoops to a lifetime contract, work starts on an expanded Kroger Field (and in my personal dream, UK buys out the marketing contract and switches the name back to Commonwealth Stadium), and Stoops reels in his best recruiting classes yet in 2022 and 2023.

Worst: 5-7 and Stoops moves on

If the offense never coalesces (and it didn’t for Shannon Dawson in 2015), and the pass rush doesn’t come back, it could be a long season. A loss in Week 2 would really end any sort of hopes of finishing higher than 3rd in the East, and 4th might be a practical ceiling then.

Winning at South Carolina seems easy, but SEC road games rarely are.

Then there’s the longer view. The elephant in the room is SEC expansion. Stoops has fought an uphill battle to bring UK to its current position. If his reward is a 9-game SEC schedule with Oklahoma or Texas or Clemson or Florida State added into the mix (or a couple of them), he might decide that his Big Ten roots or his connections to Big 12 via brother Bob would be easier to follow than the death march of the future SEC.