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Kentucky Wildcats Football: Breaking down the second half of the season

Mark Stoops and his team have a chance to do something special.

NCAA Football: Missouri at Kentucky Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports

The second half of the Kentucky Wildcats football season is only a couple of days away. The first half of the season was a success as far as the record is concerned (5-1, 2-1 SEC) but the jury is still out as to whether or not this team is actually good, mediocre, or maybe even bad.

I tend to lean towards them being good, but there have been moments where the team looked unprepared and sometimes even flat-out tired. The early season was filled with injuries and moving pieces at multiple positions. Guys that weren’t expecting to had to play big minutes.

But now everyone is back to being healthy (that we know of) and the coaches have had an extra week to figure out the identity of this team. Last year Eddie Gran figured out that the power running game with Boom Williams and Benny Snell was the way to go. What changes will he make this season?

Nine wins is possible, not likely but possible. If the coaching staff can have this team prepared to execute and utilize their best players, then it can happen.

The Path to Nine Wins

The second half of the season is here, and the path to nine wins is laid out in front of Mark Stoops and his Kentucky Wildcats. The rest of the schedule looks much more favorable than it did at the beginning of the season thanks to some teams faltering.

I broke up the remaining games as likely, 50/50, and likely losses.

Likely Wins

  • Tennessee- Normally this would be a tough game for the Wildcats as they’ve defeated the Volunteers only once in my lifetime. But with the absence of an offense of any substance, them coming into Kroger Field following a game against Alabama, and the continued downward spiral that is Butch Jones, I feel really good about getting the W here.
  • Ole Miss- Another home game, this time a team from the SEC West is coming to town. The Landsharks/Black Bears/Rebels are 3-3 and a little better than we all thought. They are very similar to Missouri as far as their sometimes explosive offense and their total lack of defense.

Louisville- The Cardinals get worse game by game. Their defense is one of the worst in the country, and Lamar Jackson is a one-man band on offense. OK, he has a couple of decent wide receivers but his o-line still sucks, and he has a former QB/wide receiver as his running back. Bobby Petrino may have lost his team after the 45-42 loss to Boston College in the Pizza Box.

50/50

  • Mississippi State- The Bulldogs are a bit of an enigma. They beat LSU 37-7, and they’ve been rolling over teams like BYU, but they’ve been shellacked by Auburn and Georgia. They have a dual-threat quarterback, and those guys always give the Wildcats trouble. Playing in Starkville is always tough, but the Cats handled the rabid fans in South Carolina quite well in perhaps their best performance of the season. One thing is certain, Stephen Johnson is proving to be a road warrior.
  • Vanderbilt- Yeah, I know Vandy stinks out loud, but UK has had their struggles in Nashville, and I don’t see that changing. Derek Mason always has his defense ready to play against the Cats, and I don’t see this year being any different.

Likely Losses

  • Georgia- This is the only game left on the schedule that seems like an L at this point. Georgia is a top five team, and they have some impressive wins on their resume. Kirby Smart brought the brutal running game from Tuscaloosa and implemented it in Athens. And their defense isn’t anything to sneeze at. Kentucky has won in Athens recently, and they were only a missed field goal away from winning last season, so anything can happen.

I predict that Kentucky will win all three of the likely games, drop one of the 50/50 games, and lose at Georgia. A nine-win season for coach Stoops in year five would be amazing considering the program when he took over.