Excited for Kentucky’s football season? You have a lot of reasons to be.

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Things certainly have changed around these parts. The University of Kentucky football program finds itself in the unfamiliar territory of not just vying for a sixth straight bowl appearance, but being expected to make, and for the fourth straight year, win one.

And why not? Mark Stoops has proved that a steady program can be maintained in Lexington, even without the threat of a modern passing attack; just imagine what the Wildcats might have been capable of with a forward pass the last couple of seasons. They appear to have that in their arsenal, now, and anticipation for the 2021 season has heightened in response.

That excitement isn’t misplaced. Here’s why (Be sure not to miss our accompanying story looking at the UK season from a pessimist’s standpoint).

1. Will Levis is a star

OK, “could be a star” is probably more fair, as far as the football field is concerned. It’s certainly less hyperbolic, considering that, to date in his three college seasons, the Penn State transfer has thrown 102 passes for 644 yards and three touchdowns (while rushing 133 times for 473 yards and six TDs). Away from the field, however, Will Levis has bloomed into something close to a household name thanks to his banana-consuming antics and general willingness to not take himself too seriously on camera. It speaks to his confidence as an individual, a trait that should positively carry over to the field. Levis may not be a proven “star” in some senses of the word, yet, but his ownership of being a “face” off the field for Kentucky is a good sign regarding his drive to be one on it.

2. Weapons

There are questions down the depth chart, particularly in the wide receiver room, but it’s tough to look at UK’s top pieces on offense and not feel giddy about the possibilities. Wan’Dale Robinson, a transfer from Nebraska who originally committed to UK, is, on paper, the best receiver that’s been in a Kentucky uniform under Stoops. Chris Rodriguez has the chance to have a Benny Snell-type junior year, except in a pro-oriented offense that should allow for the displaying of his versatile skill set. Josh Ali has been a steady contributor despite having his opportunities limited by UK’s previous offense, and should be able to break out. There’s ample game experience at tight end (“super senior” Justin Rigg) along with the athletic promise of a guy like Izayah Cummings (who moved to the position from receiver).

3. Big Blue Wall

It’s fair to wonder whether a unit that was asked only to run block 90 percent of the time the last couple of seasons will be able to smoothly flow between techniques this season, but the talent level is as high as it’s ever been. Dare Rosenthal, a starter at LSU, shores up left tackle, alleviating some concern at that spot, while returning First Team All-American Darian Kinnard anchors the right. Luke Fortner, another “super senior,” has taken well to the center role left behind by Drake Jackson. This group should be able to go eight or nine deep without too many hiccups.

4. Defensive backs

UK’s 16 interceptions last season were tied with four other schools for the third most in college football. It’s unlikely to replicate that feat (six of those came in one game, an indicator either of how random turnovers can be or how bad Mississippi State was in the early going), but that won’t be a reflection of its play in the secondary, the defensive group most stocked with seasoned players who’ve strung together several good seasons. Lexington product Davonte Robinson says he feels more like himself, which if true bodes well for UK’s ability to drop an additional defensive back into down coverage to alleviate depth issues in the linebacking corps. Yusuf Corker is capable of putting together an All-SEC kind of season at safety, and the unit boasts two more returning starters in Ty Ajian and Cedric Dort.

5. Cupcakes

Three “guarantee” games — Louisiana Monroe (Sept. 4), Chattanooga (Sept. 18) and New Mexico State (Nov. 20) — are on the schedule, making UK’s path to bowl eligibility as simple as it’s been in most seasons under Stoops; sweeping those games means all you have to do is beat Vanderbilt (typically the SEC’s punching bag) and two other teams on your schedule to reach the six-win minimum. Kentucky, of course, is seeking more than six, and its slate is favorable; three of what should be its four toughest opponents (Missouri, Florida and LSU) are at home. The Cats arguably should be favored against every other SEC team they play this season except Georgia. They’ll close at Louisville, whom they’ve beaten by a combined score of 101-23 in the last two meetings. If that doesn’t get you feeling optimistic about the chance for a warm-weather bowl trip this winter, nothing will.

UK season opener

Louisiana Monroe at Kentucky

When: Noon Saturday

TV: SEC Network