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Breaking down UK Football’s best path to a third-straight bowl game

A look at the 6 likeliest wins for UK this season.

Jason Marcum - Sea of Blue

Coming off back-to-back 7-5 seasons, your Kentucky Wildcats will look to build on their success with a third straight trip to a bowl game.

This is in no way saying that I think Kentucky will only win 6 games this year. To the contrary, I actually think they will win 7, and maybe even 8 games.

However, this list is simply ranking the 6 games Kentucky is most likely to win from least likely to most likely. The reason for only picking the 6 likeliest is because that’s the magic number to make a third straight bowl game.

So, let’s get started.

6. South Carolina Gamecocks

Last season, Kentucky beat South Carolina on the road 23-13 for their fourth straight win in the series. It’s probably one of the most underrated streaks in the SEC and the Wildcats will look to extend that streak this upcoming season.

The Gamecocks finished last season with a 9-4 record, which is very impressive. They return a ton of talent in QB Jake Bentley and star WR Deebo Samuel, so if UK is going to knock them off again this year, it’s going to take a huge effort.

With that being said, the good news is Kentucky also returns a lot of talent. And they will be playing at home this season. Kentucky has run all over the South Carolina defense the last few seasons, and they will hopefully do the same this year.

Benny Snell rushed for 102 yards and two touchdowns, and Stephen Johnson added 74 yards on the ground to pace the Kentucky offense. This year will be no different, as the best RB in the SEC will run wild. Let’s just hope the Kentucky defense can slow down this dangerous South Carolina offense.

Percentage chance to win: 55%

5. Missouri Tigers

Missouri is poised to possibly have the best offense in the SEC. They return their star QB Drew Lock. They did, however, lose their offensive coordinator as he became the new head coach at Central Florida. And in to replace him is former Tennessee head coach Derek Dooley.

If Dooley doesn’t completely mess up this offense, then this will be a tough game to win. I do think Kentucky is better than Missouri, but winning on the road in the SEC is never an easy task, especially against a preseason Heisman candidate in Drew Lock.

The problem with Missouri, though, is their defense is abysmal. In 2017, the Missouri defense ranked third to last in the SEC giving up an average of 31.8 points per contest. That’s the reason Kentucky will go into Columbia and knock off the Tigers for a fourth straight season despite an absolute shootout.

Percentage chance to win: 60%

4. Middle Tennessee State Blue Raiders

This is a must-win game for Stoops and Co. The problem is MTSU is not going to be an easy win. They run Tony Franklin’s Air Raid offense with the head coach’s son at QB. Not to mention said head coach’s son, Brent Stockstill, is a three-year starter who can run.

However, while it won’t be a walk in the park, I think Kentucky will still win by three touchdowns. MTSU was 7-6 last season with decent wins at Syracuse and in their bowl game against Old Dominion. But Vanderbilt and Minnesota, two less-than-stellar teams, blew their doors off.

Kentucky will win handily, but it won’t be easy.

Percentage chance to win: 90%

3. Vanderbilt Commodores

I know it might sound crazy putting Kentucky more likely to beat an SEC foe than Middle Tennessee State, but it’s no offense to Vandy. MTSU simply has a track record of being a good football team and Vandy, well, doesn’t.

Kentucky stomped Vanderbilt on the road last season 44-21 for the second straight season. This year will be no different as the Commodores come to Lexington. Vanderbilt is typically better defensively than offensively, but with the return of QB Kyle Shurmur, I don’t think that will be the case again this year.

Shurmur is a solid QB with a lot of experience, but that won’t be enough to put Vandy over the hump this year. Kentucky wins this one in a blowout.

Percentage chance to win: 91%

2. Central Michigan Chippewas

Central Michigan is a lot similar to MTSU in that it won’t be an easy win. The Chippewas won 8 games in 2017 and they return a star RB in Jonathan Ward.

Last season, Ward ran for 1,017 yards, averaging 5.7 yards per carry, with ten touchdowns. And yes, I know he played against a bunch of weak opponents, but he did play against one team Kentucky knows well: Eastern Michigan.

You might remember that EMU had a chance to beat the Wildcats last season with a Hail Mary at the end of the game. Kentucky came out victorious, but Benny Snell was held to only 75 yards rushing and one touchdown on 21 carries, averaging 3.6 yard per carry.

Ward, on the other hand, ran wild against EMU. He ran 19 times for 159 yards and two touchdowns, averaging 8.4 yards per carry. I know it’s hard to compare two different teams playing a common opponent, but this kid is the real deal.

I don’t doubt for a second Kentucky will win, but it might be ugly.

Percentage chance to win: 95%

1. Murray State Racers

While I’ve already said a couple times that some of the teams on Kentucky’s schedule will not be a walk in the park, this one will be.

Murray State finished the season 3-8 last year. They are an FCS team. And their only wins last season came against Jacksonville State, Tennessee Martin, and Division II Kentucky Wesleyan. Louisville stomped them 55-10.

While the Racers might come out with a little chip on their shoulder against an in-state team, it won’t matter. Kentucky wins in a no-doubter.

Percentage chance to win: 99.9%

It’s almost that time of year again, folks. Go Cats!