Leading up to this week’s season openers, Saturday Down South’s Brad Crawford breaks down scouting reports for the SEC’s out-of-conference opponents and what makes them click:

  • Boise State vs. Ole Miss (Atlanta, Thursday), 8 p.m., ESPN; Temple at Vanderbilt, 9:15 p.m., SEC Network
  • TODAY: UT Martin at Kentucky (Saturday), Noon, SEC Network
  • WEDNESDAY: West Virginia vs. Alabama (Atlanta, Saturday), 3:30 p.m., ABC; Clemson at Georgia (Saturday), 5:30 p.m., ESPN; South Dakota State at Missouri (Saturday), 3:30 p.m., ESPNU
  • THURSDAY: Idaho at Florida (Saturday), 7 p.m., ESPNU; Southern Miss at Mississippi St. (Saturday), 7:30 p.m., SEC Network
  • FRIDAY: LSU vs. Wisconsin (Houston, Saturday), 9 p.m., ESPN; Utah State at Tennessee (Sunday), 7 p.m., SEC Network

Opens Saturday at Kentucky (Saturday, Noon, SEC Network)

THE SKINNY: An FCS program from the Ohio Valley Conference, UT Martin’s 0-3 all-time against SEC opponents, a stretch that begin in 2008 at Auburn. Jason Simpson’s entering his ninth campaign as head coach and last year’s 7-5 finish was his fifth winning season. The Skyhawks return 10 starters to a team picked to finish in the middle of their league and will play two quarterbacks Jarod Neal and Dylan Favre until one separates from the other. Favre’s the nephew of former Southern Miss quarterback and future NFL Hall of Famer Brett Favre.

KEY PLAYER: FCS Preseason All-American Tony Bell is UT Martin’s best player, a tackle machine at outside linebacker. Last fall, Bell accumulated a league-best 10.5 sacks and 15 tackles for loss. Shielding him away from the Kentucky backfield is a primary focus for the offensive line according to Mark Stoops, but shedding blocks is one of his specialties. In four-wide sets, one of the Wildcats’ pass-catchers not involved with the play could be used as a screen to slow him down.

WHAT TO WATCH: Kentucky’s first opener at home since 2007 should feature plenty of tackles behind the line of scrimmage and a couple big plays in the passing game. Offensive coordinator Neal Brown’s confident in Patrick Towles’ ability from the pocket and says the redshirt sophomore’s decision-making is the most important element in establishing rhythm in the Air Raid.

FINAL SAY: To continue the spring momentum seized after signing the most talented recruiting class in school history, beginning the season on a positive note is essential for Kentucky. The Wildcats have dropped consecutive openers and a loss to UT Martin as a four-touchdown favorite would cripple the message Stoops has pushed throughout the offseason. For the first time in two years, the offense has weapons and the Wildcats’ front four is one of the SEC’s best. Those factors lead to a quality outcome.