The last time we saw the Cats on the field, they were taking down the Penn State Nittany Lions and winning the Citrus Bowl.
Last season, the Cats really relied on their defense to get to 10 wins. We have heard Eddie Gran say that he couldn’t “mess it up,” meaning don’t turn it over and run through Benny Snell.
Now, it is most likely the offenses’ turn to go win games. The defense lost a lot of talent, especially in the secondary, and will have to go through a lot of growing pains. So, it is going to be up to Terry Wilson, Lynn Bowden, and the rest of the offense to fill up the scoreboard.
Speaking of Wilson, he was one of the top quarterbacks in scrambling yards last season, and the hope is he’ll become a better passer this season while also using his legs to help keep defenses from being able to double-team Bowden.
The other top scrambler? Toledo starter Mitchell Guadagni.
Most scramble yards last season (drop back, non-sack)— David! (@ADavidHaleJoint) August 9, 2019
Bryce Perkins, 482
Kyler Murray, 421
Woody Barrett, 399
Mitchell Guadagni, 367
Eric Dungey, 357
Terry Wilson, 349
It’s no secret that Kentucky has struggled with mobile quarterbacks in the past, and with a completely rebuilt secondary, keeping Guadagni contained in the pocket will be a big key in the Cats getting this win.
You can read more about what to expect from Guadagni over at Hustle Belt. Be sure to also read their preview of running back Bryant Koback, who began his college career at Kentucky before transferring to be closer to home and have a bigger offensive role.
Kentucky opened as a 13.5 point favorite over the Rockets but that has not been bet down to make the Cats an 11.5 point favorite. The over/under is currently sitting at 62.
According to ESPN’s Football Power Index, the Cats have an 85.8% chance of winning.
The Action Network shows that 68% of all bets are being placed on Toledo to cover the spread.
It’s hard to factor in recent betting trends since this a brand-new team, but here are some trends via OddsShark:
- Kentucky is 10-3 SU in its last 13 games
- The total has gone OVER in 4 of Kentucky’s last 5 games
- Kentucky is 2-10 ATS in its last 12 games at home
- Kentucky is 6-1 SU in its last 7 games at home
- Toledo is 4-2 ATS in the last 6 games.
- The total has gone OVER in 8 of Toledo’s last 12 games.
- Toledo is 4-2 SU in the last 6 games.
- The total has gone OVER in 4 of Toledo’s last 6 games on the road.
- Toledo is 4-2 ATS in the last 6 games played in August.
- Toledo is 6-1 ATS in the last 7 games played in week 1.
- The total has gone OVER in 6 of Toledo’s last 9 games played on a Saturday.
- Toledo is 1-7 SU in the last 8 games when playing as the underdog.
Mark Stoops has not been very successful at covering the spread which is why most of the bets are going Toledo’s way.
So, what do the experts have to say about this matchup?
Story broke down every position for both teams and determined Kentucky is better at quarterback, wide receiver, offensive line, defensive line, linebackers and special teams, while Toledo is superior at running back and defensive back. Both teams are even in the tight end department.
Prediction: Kentucky 35, Toledo 30
“Upset of the Week: Kentucky lost two of its best players in recent years, if not ever, in running back Benny Snell and linebacker Josh Allen. The Wildcats also lost their entire secondary, and against a bombs-away offense like Toledo, that could be a problem. The Rockets are one of the favorites in the MAC and their explosive offense is one of the best in that league. Toledo will at least be able to keep it close and I think they can steal the win.”
Pick: Toledo (+11.5)
“I’ve been saying all offseason that I don’t expect the Wildcats to come crashing back down in the SEC East, but this is going to be a dangerous matchup for Kentucky. Toledo has a roster loaded with experience and had a ton of success on offense last fall. If this game turns into a shootout, it could fall on Terry Wilson’s shoulders to win it. Kentucky has been saying all the right things this offseason when it comes to Wilson’s growth in the passing game but until we actually see it on the field, it’s fair to question how far his game has progressed.”
Prediction: Kentucky 30, Toledo 24
Chris Marler- Saturday Down South
“Kentucky is gonna throw all over Toledo, pull the starters early, and open themselves up for a prime backdoor cover.”
Prediction: Kentucky 31, Toledo 21
“Kentucky isn’t going to be as strong or as tough as it was last season, but it’s not going to be the type of team that will pull away fast and make things easy
The Wildcats will be methodical, but it’ll go on enough consistent scoring margins to make the Rockets press. UK will force two key turnovers, score off of both of them, and come away with a nice opening day win – even if it’s not easy.”
Prediction: Kentucky 34, Toledo 20
“With a healthy (Mitchell) Guadagni leading the way, there’s no question that this Toledo team can contend for a spot atop the MAC. However, until he gets back in rhythm after two serious injuries, I’ll take the proven talent that Stoops’ side brings to the table.”
Prediction: Kentucky 28, Toledo 23
Oddsshark is currently predicting a Kentucky win, 32-26
KSR has 11 predictions for UK’s 2019 season, and they all have the Cats beating Toledo.
All three of Cats Illustrated’s football writers picked Kentucky to win. Jeff Drummond: went Kentucky 36, Toledo 23. Travis Graf is more confident with a Kentucky 42, Toledo 27 prediction. Justin Rowland played it safer and went with a Kentucky 34, Toledo 23 projection
Adam Haste: Coming into the 2019 season, I am very excited for the potential that this team has. I have some concerns about the young secondary but other than that, this defense is stacked at every position with depth.
This year’s offense should be a lot flashier and more exciting than what we saw a year ago, as we will see a lot more plays through the air. AJ Rose is more of a speed back that can break off huge runs compared to 4 yards a carry power football that we saw last season.
As for week 1, the Cats better come prepared for battle because Toledo is a quality opponent that will give the Cats a tough time if we don’t come ready to play. However, in the end I think the Cats will start the season 1-0.
Prediction: Kentucky 34, Toledo 17
Drew Brown: The wait is finally over! Everybody is ready for some college football and understandably so but it will be important for the Cats to taper their emotions early on in this one.
Toledo is a team that’s expecting to play for a conference championship and will likely not be intimidated when the ball is kicked-off at Kroger Field on Saturday. It goes without saying that a team from the Mid-American Conference has surely had this game against an SEC opponent circled on their calendars this entire off season. Jason Candle’s team will arrive in Lexington aiming to make a statement against a Power 5 program.
The Rockets have the necessary talent to put points up on the board and potentially take advantage of a injury riddled and unproven secondary. I think the first quarter is going to be critical for how this matchup will unfold.
UK needs to come out ready to execute a game-plan and not give the Rockets any hope from the very opening drive. A sluggish start, specifically with any turnovers, could make for a long afternoon.
Fans saw first hand a year ago against Central Michigan just what can happen in an opening game when Kentucky comes out flat. With the offensive and defensive line advantages, there should be no reason that UK can’t impose their will early and often in the trenches.
I am anxious to see what Eddie Gran has in mind for the first offensive drive of the 2019 season. You can only assume that the first several play calls are already set in stone and that Lynn Bowden will be targeted early. I have a hunch that you could see Terry Wilson green lighted to throw one deep should a second and short situation present it self.
Ultimately, I do expect an ugly game that might just leave fans feeling a bit concerned about the season outlook as a whole. But it’s just game one and the Cats should have enough of a talent gap to win this game, even if they don’t cover the spread.
Prediction: Kentucky 31, Toledo 21