I did suggest in the preseason that we could wind up at 6-6, but I felt the probability was unlikely to occur. After six games, however, I believe the idea of 6-6 is now within the realm of probability. Six games to go. Surely, we can win one of them, considering how competitive this team is. That lone loss to Florida could have been a win. I won't blame it on the refs as many have because we had a dropped pass and a dropped INT near the end.
Could I, or can I, predict which game we'll win? Nope, but I think the candidates are teams with either weak offenses or weak defenses. I don't think we can beat either Mississippi State or Georgia, both home games. That being said, since both are home games, you just never know. Kentucky's wins over South Carolina and Louisiana Monroe were record setting for UK.
So, right now, I'm saying we will have to win a road game. Those are LSU, Missouri, Tennessee or Louisville. Of these four teams, Louisville's defense gives me cause for concern, but it may be a false concern. Here's the current NCAA rankings of Kentucky and our upcoming opponents:
Louisville (1st), Georgia (11th), Tennessee (16th), LSU (29th), Kentucky (32nd), Missouri (58th), Mississippi State (87th)
Louisville (1st), Georgia (12th), Mississippi State (29th), Kentucky (63rd), Missouri (65th), Tennessee (67th), LSU (81st)
Passing Yards Allowed (Pass Defense):
LSU (7th), Tennessee (8th), Louisville (11th), Kentucky (20th), Georgia (27th), Missouri (58th), Mississippi State (120th)
This gives us an idea where Patrick Towles can make a difference if he throws like he did against South Carolina and Florida. And, it gives us an idea where the Wildcat (Kempcat, Boomcat or Heardcat) might work. Some of the teams we face are offensively challenged. Take a look:
Mississippi State (11th), Kentucky (37th), Georgia (40th), LSU (t-64th), Louisville (97th), Missouri (104th), Tennessee (106th)
Georgia (11th), Mississippi State (13th), LSU (32nd), Kentucky (50th), Missouri (76th), Louisville (90th), Tennessee (109th)
Mississippi State (42nd), Kentucky (44th), Tennessee (62nd), Louisville (72nd), LSU (93rd), Missouri (96th), Georgia (110th)
Quarterback play will be the key in all these upcoming games, so maybe we should look at who's doing well and who isn't.
Patrick Towles (UK)) 1541 yds (36th), Dak Prescott (MSU) 1478 yds (42nd), Justin Worley (UT) 1388 yds (48th), Maty Mauk (UM) 1207 yds (66th), Anthony Jennings (LSU) 928 yds (94th), Hutson Mason (UGA) 843 yds (103rd), Brandon Harris (LSU) 452 yds (118th), Will Gardner & Reggie Bonnafon (UL) are not listed in the NCAA's top 125.
Dak Prescott 165.6% (10th), Patrick Towles 142.9% (41st), Hutson Mason 141.2% (45th), Anthony Jennings 130.5% (64th), Justin Worley 130.4% (65th), Maty Mauk 127.5% (71st), Gardner & Bonnafon not in the NCAA's top 116.
Hutson Mason 70.5% (5th), Justin Worley 63.3% (33rd), Patrick Towles 62.5% (t-38*), Dak Prescott 61.5% (t-48th), Maty Mauk 54.4% (105th), Anthony Jennings 50.0% (108th), Garner and Bonnafon not ranked in the NCAA top 116
Passing Yards per Game:
Patrick Towles 256.8 (37th), Dak Prescott 246.3 (43rd), Justin Worley 231.3 (50th), Maty Mauk 201.2 (71st), Hutson Mason 140.5 (103rd), Anthony Jennings 132.6 (109th), Brandon Harris 64.6 (122nd), Gardner and Bonnafon are not ranked in the NCAA's top 125.
Passing Yards per Completion:
Anthony Jennings 16.28 (3rd), Dak Prescott 15.40 (8th), Patrick Towles 12.84 (38th), Maty Mauk 12.32 (49th), Justin Worley 10.06 (105th), Hutson Mason 9.26 (115th), Gardner and Bonnafon are not ranked in the NCAA's top 116.
Points Responsible for:
Dak Prescott 138 (t-2nd), Justin Worley 92 (t-23rd), Maty Mauk 90 (t-26th), Patrick Towles 72 (t-52nd), Hutson Mason 68 (t-61st), Brandon Harris 54 (t-106th), Jennings, Gardner and Bonnafon are not ranked in the NCAA's top 179 (actually a lot more without counting).
* Towles is tied with Notre Dame's Everett Golson
I'm not sure why Will Gardner's stats aren't included in the NCAA rankings. You can see his and Bonnafon's stats here. If you'll recall, back when practice first started, the Louisville fans (some anyway) were saying he was better than Teddy Bridgewater. Whoever winds up as the starter over the rest of the season (Gardner will start against NC State), Bobby Petrino's quarterback coach and offensive line coach are going to have to do a better job for Louisville to have a chance against Florida State and Notre Dame.
One thing we know, Kentucky is going to have to defend against the run with Georgia since Nick Chubb has done an admirable job replacing Todd Gurley. The 'Dawgs Hutson Mason is a great quarterback who hasn't had to do too much passing because of the 'Dawgs running game.
Mississippi State's strength is on offense, and our defense will have to play at their very best in their effort to stop the Bulldogs. Prescott is undoubtedly one of the best quarterbacks in the nation. LSU is another team who is going to try to run the ball down our throats. Expect Louisville and Tennessee to try to beat us with their passing game. The problem for Louisville, however, is they don't have much of a passing game and Worley isn't all that great against a strong defense. Both (the Birds with teeth and the Vols) will rely on their defense to win the game when they play Kentucky. Offensively, both are rather pedestrian, as is Missouri, who may be the overall weakest team on our schedule. Never the less, Missouri is dangerous when they play well.
Of course, every team is a product of its schedule and the strength of that schedule. Here's the current Sagarin Ranking and SOS:
#3 Mississippi State - SOS # 16
#7 Georgia - SOS #23
#12 LSU - SOS # 13
#22 (is he serious?) Tennessee - SOS # 6
#27 Louisville - SOS # 52
#36 Missouri - SOS # 20
# 45 Kentucky - SOS # 136
Obviously, Jeff Sagarin's handy dandy computer doesn't watch football games. Just my humble opinion. Garbage in, garbage out, as they say. Tennessee is the 22nd best team in our great land? Regardless, everyone knows, or should know by now, that the SEC West is the toughest conference division in the nation.
Anyway, here's our schedule and our remaining opponents' schedules.
For a better comparison between UK and its six future opponents, below are cumulative stats for each comparing each to the opponents already faced. I think you can make some conclusions based on the information. If not, then enjoy the colorful pictures.
This will be our toughest game to date, no doubt about it. LSU is always strong at home. Death Valley is one of the best atmosphere's in college football. I was there in 1998 when Mumme took Couch, Yeast and the Cats to Baton Rouge. That was my favorite trip. Mumme relaxed his team and shook up LSU coach Gerry DiNardo by meeting him at mid-field before the game while eating a hot dog. Kentucky won that game 39-36. The LSU fans were great before, during, and after the game and very gracious in defeat. We sat right in the middle of a bunch of them and I can tell you they drink...a lot.
Kentucky's entrance onto the field forced the Cats to run right pass Mike, The Tiger. That was one BIG cat and he let our Wildcats know of his presence. Of course, the LSU fans thought our players' reactions to Mike was funny. That was all well and good, but a different kind of cat walked away with the sweet taste of victory. As I said, we had a great time and the food in Baton Rouge matches that of New Orleans.
For those UK fans going to Baton Rouge, you'll get to see the awesomeness of Tiger Stadium and the passion that LSU fans have for their Tigers. You might even get to see Les Miles test the grass with his taste buds. You can't help, but like the Mad Hatter. He's a great coach caught in a rebuilding year, but he's found his running game in Leonard Fournette, last year's #1 recruit. He was very impressive at The Opening and that has carried over into his freshman season. He and Kenny Hilliard have combined for 828 yards over six games. Against Florida, Fournette ran for 140 yards on 27 carries. He and Georgia's Nick Chubb are probably the best freshmen running backs in the SEC. Kentucky's defense against the run will have to do better than what we've seen in the previous six games. You can see Fournette's progression here.
If Kentucky's offense plays as well as they have against Florida and South Carolina, this is a winnable game. I just don't see LSU blowing out the Wildcats, but they can most definitely beat us which is why they are favored by 9.5 (?). The question, for me, is can the Wildcat defense come up with some big plays to help our offense? I sure hope so. I think this will be a very entertaining game if Kentucky is focused and not intimidated by the Bengal Tiger faithful.
Looking Ahead to Louisville
I don't recommend that our players or coaches do this, but the BBN can. Louisville is currently our biggest rival. Our game against the Cards could wind up being the make or break game for Kentucky's bowl eligibility. Hopefully, that won't be the case because I think we're a little better than that. My hope is that our last game is of no more consequence than a 7th or 8th win to top off our season. I will focus on the Louisville game each week as I present an article each week similar to this one. The reason? Because I can.
Is Louisville's defense really the best we'll face? Probably so, at least, for our ground game. If you look at their schedule and the teams they've played, you have to wonder how good they are. Todd Grantham has taken an already strong Charlie Strong defense to new highs for Louisville. Here's who they played and who they will play the rest of the season.
Offenses they already played haven't been all that great: Miami's offense ranks 56th, Virginia's ranks 76th, Florida International's ranks 119th, Wake Forest's ranks 125th (dead last in Div I), Syracuse's offense ranks 67th, and Clemson's ranks 38th.
Offenses they will face: NC State's ranks t-64th, Florida State's ranks 32nd, Boston College's ranks 44th, Notre Dame's ranks 42nd and Kentucky's ranks 37th. So, like Kentucky, Louisville's schedule is much tougher on the back end.
Note: FCS teams are not included.
The rushing offenses that the Cards have faced: Miami's ranks 70th, Virginia's ranks 54th, FIU's ranks 111th, Wake's ranks 125th, Syracuse's ranks 42nd, and Clemson's ranks t-97th. Remember, Clemson lost a large part of their offense when Watson went down, yet they still won.
What the Cards have coming against them: NC State's ranks 45th, Florida State's ranks 95th(Yikes!), Boston College's ranks 4th, Notre Dame's ranks 64th and Kentucky's ranks 50th.
The passing offenses that the Cards have faced: Miami's ranks 44th, Virginia's ranks 79th, FIU's ranks 109th, Wake's ranks 103rd, Syracuse's ranks 78th, and Clemson's ranks 19th.
Cards have coming What the against them: NC State's ranks 75th, Florida State's ranks 19th, Boston College's ranks 120th, Notre Dame's ranks 34th and Kentucky's ranks 43rd.
The scoring offenses that the Cards have faced: Miami's ranks 58th, Virginia's ranks 56th, FIU's ranks 100th, Wake's ranks 121st, Syracuse's ranks 105th, and Clemson's ranks 24th. That's three decent teams and three really crappy teams.
Scoring offenses to come: NC State's ranks 61st, Florida State's ranks 20th, Boston College's ranks 67th, Notre Dame's ranks 40th, and Kentucky's stands at 29th.
JFWIW, Kentucky has an open date before the Louisville game. Heh!
No matter what happens the rest of the season, Mark Stoops has already won more games than 2012 and 2013 combined. Plus, he has made Kentucky football fun again. Bless his pea-pickin' heart. That sixth win? As someone said, "At this point, what difference does it make?"