Kentucky is coming off their BYE week to resume the second half of their season as they travel to 3-2 Mississippi State.
Following their matchup with the Bulldogs, whom they beat on a time-expiring field goal a season ago, the Wildcats will host the Tennessee Volunteers and the Ole Miss Rebels, visit the Vanderbilt Commodores and the Georgia Bulldogs and then return to Kroger Field for their annual regular season finale with their cross-state rival Louisville Cardinals. Here I examine what the 5-1 Wildcats can potentially do down the stretch and what their record could ultimately be.
Kentucky @ Mississippi State
Surprisingly Kentucky has been given only a 21% chance to upset Mississippi State by ESPN’s FPI, despite the Wildcats’ undefeated road record. Though the Bulldogs have a pretty impressive home win over LSU in week 3, they’ve dropped back-to-back road match-ups with Georgia & Auburn via blowout. They’ll look to get back on track this weekend against BYU and then prepare for the Cats to come to town. The Wildcats are second in the SEC with a +8 turnover margin and Nick Fitzgerald’s five interceptions on the season is something they could capitalize on. Fitzgerald has also been underwhelming in the air, attempting under six yards per pass. If Kentucky can get healthy up front and fix their big-play issues, the Wildcats’ defense could have a successful outing on the road. I’m going to predict a win here for the Cats, but a close one nonetheless.
Kentucky vs. Tennessee
Tennessee has been one of the bigger dumpster fires of the season. They began their season with a roller coaster overtime win over Georgia tech but in week 3 lost to Florida on what might have been the worst hail-mary defense I’ve ever seen. They responded with a win against UMass but an ugly one at that. Then in week 5 were handed their worst home loss in history with a 41-0 slaughtering by Georgia. ESPN’s Power Index gives the Cats a 57.1% chance to win at home. Quinten Dormady has been nothing more than below average this season, tossing six touchdowns but also as many interceptions. John Kelly has been impressive on the ground but Kentucky’s front seven has been even more impressive against the run. Look for Kentucky to win this matchup pretty convincingly.
Kentucky vs. Ole Miss
The Wildcats will face the Rebels in their second game of a home-stand. Ole Miss has been a disappointment this season and I doubt that changes at Kroger Field. They’ve lost three straight heading into week 6 after winning their first two match-ups this season. Time will tell over the next few weeks how good (or bad) they really are, as they host Vandy, LSU & Arkansas. But for now I see Kentucky winning, again, pretty convincingly. ESPN’s Power Index gives them a 67.8% chance to win, their best of the three games post-BYE week.
Kentucky @ Vanderbilt
For what was an impressive start (3-0) to their 2017 campaign, they’ve dropped three straight (all-be-it to ranked teams) by a combined score of 142-38. Two were home match-ups, yes against Alabama and Georgia, but nonetheless home blowouts. The Power Index gives Kentucky a slight edge of upset (52.1%) but with four weeks until the contest, it’s hard to tell how stout both teams will be next month. What we do know is Kyle Shurmur has thrown 12 touchdowns to one interception. He’s also averaging over seven yards per attempt in the air. It should make for an impressive quarterback showdown between Shurmur and Stephen Johnson. We also know Ralph Webb has been unimpressive on the ground this season, averaging just 2.8 yards per carry and punching in just three scores. I’m going with my gut and predicting another close win for the Cats.
Kentucky @ Georgia
Yes, I have the Cats (so far) undefeated post-BYE week. That, unfortunately, ends with this game. The Wildcats will take their second loss against a team who I believe should make the college playoff. It’s obvious Kentucky is getting just under 7% to upset the Bulldogs. But I think it’ll be a lot closer than people predict. The two-headed machine of Nick Chubb & Sony Michel is a tough test but I believe in this Kentucky front seven. I also believe in Stephen Johnson and veteran quarterbacks are the game changers on the road. The Cats will keep it close for most of the game but eventually the talent level will play largely in Georgia’s favor.
Kentucky vs. Louisville
This is probably the one you all have been waiting for. As the Cardinals did in 2015 at then-Commonwealth Stadium, last year the Wildcats went into Papa John’s Stadium and ruined the Cardinals Thanksgiving. This year the Cards will look to avenge the loss which they were favored by 28 points but they’ll also be pretty banged up at skill position as well on the defensive side of the ball. For Stephen Johnson’s last game in blue, I believe he out-duels former Heisman Trophy Winner Lamar Jackson for a close, win that’s game of the year for the Wildcats.
I’m probably going with my heart slightly more than my head, but yes I’m predicting a 10-2 Kentucky Football season. I think this is the best roster the Wildcats have had in a long time and after the Florida debacle, I believe Mark Stoops will coach his tail off to get the most out of his guys.
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