Kentucky Football

Predicting Kentucky's Game-By-Game Outcome -- Part 2

July 8, 2018
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Welcome back! It is now time for me to dive into the second half of Kentucky's 2018 football schedule. In the first half of the season, I predicted the Cats to go 3-3 with only one SEC win in four opportunities. With that said, things brighten up greatly in the second half of the season. The brutal stretch of Mississippi State, South Carolina, and Texas A&M will lead the Cats into a much-needed bye week.

Fresh off the bye week, Kentucky will start out against Vanderbilt at home.

vs Vanderbilt Commodores 

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Last season, Kentucky traveled down the Nashville and obliterated the Commodores. In a game that halted with a final score of 44-21, it was arguably the most dominant win of the Mark Stoops Era. Vanderbilt found the end zone first, but Kentucky went on to score 34 unanswered points. 

The Commodores rank 108th in the nation in returning production from a season ago, which favors the Cats. However, they do return Kyle Shurmur at quarterback, who quietly had a very impressive season in 2017. Shurmur threw for 2,823 yards and tossed 26 touchdown passes to only 10 interceptions. He ended the season with a respectable 58% completion percentage. 

One of the biggest losses for the Commodores was Senior running back, Ralph Webb. Over his tenure at Vanderbilt, Webb ran a total of 999 plays from scrimmage, gaining over 4,700 yards and scoring 35 touchdowns. 

I believe this season will be a struggle for Head Coach Derek Mason and the Dores. After what happened last year in Nashville, their trip to Lexington isn't looking promising. The Cats come back fresh and grab an important W.

Record: 4-3 (2-3)

at Missouri Tigers

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The last time Kentucky went to Missouri, they won comfortably, 35-21. The score looked much closer than the game was. Last season, the Tigers traveled to Lexington for a shootout which Kentucky won, 40-34.

With that said, Mizzou started to turn things around after their game in Lexington and looked like a much better football team the rest of the season. Quarterback Drew Lock is getting serious love from the NFL after how he performed last season. Lock managed to toss 44 touchdowns to only 13 interceptions and was only 36 yards away from throwing 4,000 yards. Lock is the best quarterback Kentucky will face in 2018.

The Tigers rank 7th in the SEC in returning production from a season ago. This game could be very dangerous for Kentucky. With Georgia coming to town the week after, this is the definition of a trap game. 

I believe this might be the closest, most nerve-racking game on Kentucky's schedule this season. It is really hard for me to pick who wins this game, but I know it will be won in the final minutes. I think Kentucky wins a big game against my dark-horse team in the SEC.

Record: 5-3 (3-3)

vs Georgia Bulldogs

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I believe this is the only for-sure loss on Kentucky's schedule. Head Coach Kirby Smart has turned the Bulldogs into a completely different animal. Last season, the way the Bulldogs played and the way they gave away a National Championship tells me they will be back in the College Football Playoff again this season.

With that said, the Bulldogs do lose quite a bit of production, ranking 95th in the nation in returning production from 2017. The two biggest losses are in the backfield, the presence of Nick Chubb and Sony Michel will be gone, eliminating one of the scariest duos college football has ever seen. On the other side of the football, the Bulldogs lost their heart and soul in linebacker Roquan Smith, a first-round pick in the 2018 NFL Draft.

However, they return a great, young quarterback in Jake Fromm. Georgia is well-coached and scary good. I think Kentucky keeps it close in the first half, but then I see the Bulldogs running away with it as the game progresses.

Record: 5-4 (3-4)

at Tennessee Volunteers

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Last season, Kentucky knocked off Tennessee for the first time since 2011. The Cats somehow managed to win the game in incredible fashion, again. Kentucky turned the football over a total of four times in the length of the game, while Tennessee only turned it over once. They were the first team to win a game with a negative three turnover margin in 25+ seasons.

Now, the Cats will look to knock off the Vols on the road for the first time since 1984. Tennessee will be led by first-year Head Coach, Jeremy Pruitt, who took the job in December, leaving his position as Defensive Coordinator for the 2017 National Champion, Alabama Crimson Tide. Coach Pruitt will be inheriting a roster that ranks 113th in the nation in returning production. After going winless in the SEC last year for the first time since joining the conference in 1933, it may be another tough year in Knoxville.

With that said, it will take a while for Pruitt to get things up-and-running in Knoxville. In the meantime, he will have to work with what he has. I don't think the Vols have an answer of Benny Snell, as he ran for 180 yards and three touchdowns on them a season ago. Kentucky's experience will take the wheel in this one. The Cats earn bowl eligibility with two games left on the schedule. 

Record: 6-4 (4-4)

vs Middle Tennessee State Blue Raiders

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The Blue Raiders went 7-6 last season, which isn't too shabby. However, the competition they faced is not up to par with the Southeastern Conference. They opened the year off against Vanderbilt and lost 26-8. 

This season, MTSU will have to face off against three SEC teams. The brutal schedule for the Blue Raiders consists of Vanderbilt, Georgia, and Kentucky. All of these games will be played on the road, and I believe you can chalk them all up as an L.

Record: 7-4 (4-4)

at Louisville Cardinals

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Kentucky's most-hated rival, the Louisville Cardinals. Two years ago, the Cats got the biggest win of the Mark Stoops Era, a 41-38 victory at Papa John's Cardinal Stadium. Entering the matchup, Louisville was ranked 11th in the nation with the eventual Heisman Trophy winner, Lamar Jackson at the helm. Kentucky was a 27-point underdog. They pulled off an upset the big blue nation will probably never forget.

Last season, however, was a completely different story. Jackson and the Cards got their revenge in a 44-17 blowout of the Cats. Once things got chippy early, Kentucky collapsed and Louisville stayed calm. The only positive thing the Cats pulled away from the game was Benny Snell's 211 rushing yards.

This year will be completely different, Head Coach, Bobby Petrino will have to figure out life without a special talent like Lamar Jackson. However, it wasn't just Jackson and a bunch of dudes, as a lot of people will find out this season. Louisville ranks 124th out of 130 in returning production from last season.

The Cards are now in rebuilding mode, and this season doesn't look too promising. I believe Kentucky will travel to Louisville and get a win, marking the Cats first eight-win season since Coach Rich Brooks led them in 2007. 

Record: 8-4 (4-4)

Conclusion

I believe Kentucky has a chance of going 11-1 this season. Those odds might be minuscule, but they are there. Looking at the schedule, I believe the only for-sure loss is against Georgia.

It is hard to predict the other three losses I have down for the Cats. Florida, Texas A&M, and Mississippi State all have very talented rosters, but they are all entering the season with a new guy in charge. However, those games all come in the first half of the schedule, which could hurt the Cats. Early in the season, there will be some soul-searching, but I see Kentucky improving throughout the season.

With that said, I believe Kentucky goes 8-4 this season, which will lead them to a third-straight bowl game. Although it is untelling who Kentucky will play in the bowl game, I feel like they have a good shot at winning nine games for the first time since 1984. 

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Predicting Kentucky's Game-By-Game Outcome -- Part 2

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