Following a comeback win at Missouri, the Kentucky Wildcats have had their worst two weeks of the season on the football field.
A blowout home loss to the Georgia Bulldogs, followed by an embarrassing letdown at Tennessee, the Wildcats make their return to their home turf for a matchup with Middle Tennessee.
Saturday’s home game will be the last of the 2018 season, therefore honoring 16 seniors on the Kentucky sideline. Names like Adrian Middleton, Bunchy Stallings, CJ Conrad, Darius West, Derrick Baity, George Asafo-Adjei, Jordan Jones, Josh Allen and Mike Edwards will be among those playing in their final home game.
Sitting at 7-3, Kentucky has the chance to win-out and drastically increase their bowl chances as well as escape a devastating ending to such a spectacular season. However, that all starts with handling business against the Blue Raiders.
Kentucky has certainly had their struggles in recent weeks but there’s no question that they were out-manned in regards to pure athleticism in both losses. Tennessee’s record isn’t exactly favorable, but their recruiting maintains above-par.
Middle Tennessee puts forth a respectable football team, but nothing like those of the SEC. If Kentucky can mentally fasten the lid on their recent struggles, their edge in physicality should have this game in control by halftime.
A mixture of running back Benny Snell receiving a healthy amount of carries, along with quarterback Terry Wilson being handed a longer leash with the football, should open up the offense. Such a spark from that side of the ball should more than reward a defense that has carried the 17th-ranked Wildcats throughout the season.
The current senior class (2015-18) has 26 total wins, the fifth-most since freshmen became eligible to play in 1972-73. It would move into a tie for fourth with the 1974-77 class with one more win.
The Cats ranks 11th nationally in scoring defense, allowing just 16.2 points per game. They also rank 18th nationally and fourth in the SEC in total defense yards per game (321.8), 22nd nationally in team passing efficiency defense (112.41 rating points), and 16th in pass yards allowed (180.4).
That defense will need to keep playing at a high level to slow down the Blue Raiders and help the offense work through its issues.
Kentucky opened as a 14-point favorite. The spread has since grown to 16.5 in some sportsbooks. Kentucky is 0-4 against the spread when favored this season.
Here are some more recent betting trends for both teams:
- Kentucky is 1-4 ATS in its last 5 games
- Kentucky is 7-3 SU in its last 10 games
- The total has gone UNDER in 6 of Kentucky’s last 7 games
- Kentucky is 2-9 ATS in its last 11 games at home
- Kentucky is 5-1 SU in its last 6 games at home
- Middle Tennessee is 5-2 ATS in its last 7 games
- Middle Tennessee is 6-1 SU in its last 7 games
- Middle Tennessee is 4-8 ATS in its last 12 games on the road
- The total has gone OVER in 6 of Middle Tennessee’s last 9 games on the road
Despite recent struggles, experts are remaining on the Kentucky side. However, that’s not exactly saying they’re predicting the Wildcats to cover their 14.5 point spread.
CBS Sports predictors Barrett Sallee, Chip Patterson, Dennis Dodd and Tom Fornelli expect the Blue Raiders to come within two touchdowns while Barton Simmons, Ben Kercheval and Jerry Palm expect Kentucky to win by more than 14.
All seven, however, expect Kentucky to win “straight-up.”
USA Today experts remain in unison with CBS, as Dan Wolken, Eddie Timanus, Erick Smith, George Schroder, Jace Evans and Paul Myerberg all picked Kentucky to win.
OddsShark predicts a final score of 31.9 to 21 in favor of the Wildcats, which has the Blue Raiders covering the spread and the game total of 46.5 points going over.
The Wildcats started the season in unimaginable fashion. From winning their home opener despite multiple turnovers, to breaking the 31-year streak at Florida, to being ranked in the AP Top-25 for the first time in 11 years, to this final home game of which most of their veteran-rich starters will suit up for the last time... this specific Kentucky team has made their mark in program history.
Saturday is, for the seniors and most likely junior Benny Snell, the team’s last 60-minute session to play in front of their home crowd. It’s their momentum-finding game leading up to Kentucky’s annual matchup with Louisville.
A younger, less experienced & less motivated Kentucky team would almost certainly play down to their competition on Saturday. However, head coach Mark Stoops and his best team since coming to Kentucky should be ready to come out swinging.
Final Score: Kentucky 30, Middle Tennessee 10