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Kentucky vs. Eastern Michigan: Analysis, expert picks & prediction

Breaking down how the experts view Kentucky against Eastern Michigan.

Jason Marcum - Sea of Blue

As Week 2 of the college football season begins, the Kentucky Wildcats are fresh off a season-opening victory over the Toledo Rockets of which featured many new faces playing key roles.

While there are indeed some newcomers wearing Kentucky blue, there are also returning stars such as quarterback Terry Wilson and wide receiver Lynn Bowden. The duo connected on multiple occasions last Saturday during the team’s win, but it was the Wildcats’ running game that stole the show.

Kentucky’s three-headed rushing attack of AJ Rose, Kavosiey Smoke and Chris Rodriguez rushed for a combined 176 yards with a pair of touchdown scores to quickly fill the large shoes of former Wildcat Benny Snell Jr.

This weekend, as the Wildcats lace up their cleats for a second consecutive home game, Kentucky will host the Eastern Michigan Eagles with hopes of starting the season 2-0. With a heavy amount of roster turnover from last season, the Wildcats will gladly take every win they can.

So will they have a strong chance of doing so on Saturday?

Analysis

ESPN’s Football Power Index is predicting Kentucky has a 92.3% chance of victory on Saturday against Eastern Michigan. After opening as a 15-point favorite, the line has narrowly moved to -15.5.

Kentucky’s secondary will be in for an interesting task against Eastern Michigan quarterback Mike Glass, who began his season by completing 20/22 pass attempts and tossing three touchdown passes against Coastal Carolina. Running back Shaq Vann was effective on the ground with 108 yards on 22 carries while adding two catches for 13 yards.

While the Eagles may have benefited from a lack of talent on the opposing defense last week, Kentucky should still keep their guard up to build momentum for Florida the following week.

On offense, the Wildcats should continue to look for consistency in the run game. Not only does this allow the defense to play less snaps and therefore have more time to rest, but it also allows the field to open up more for Wilson and his offensive weapons.

But don’t sleep on Kentucky’s defense, which has allowed 24 points or less in 14 of its last 15 games. That is the best such stretch since October 14, 1978 to Sept. 6, 1980.

While Eastern Michigan is a tough MAC opponent, these are the types of games Kentucky has been winning under Mark Stoops, especially over the last two seasons. The Cats now are 11-3 over their past 14 games. The record is tied for the second-best in the SEC over that span behind only Alabama (13-1).

Both teams are entering Saturday with a 1-0 record, but it’s hard to see Eastern Michigan leaving Kroger Field with a better record than Kentucky.

Odds and Betting Trends

Kentucky opened as a 14-point favorite at home, and the line has slowly crept up to 15.5 as of Friday afternoon. The Cats covered the 11.5-point spread last week against Toledo, despite falling behind 14-7.

2018 was the best season Kentucky has had under Mark Stoops vs. the spread, as they covered in seven of 10 games. While a 7-6 mark may not seem great, it’s a big improvement over the 24-36 ATs record Stoops had in the previous five seasons in Lexington.

Kentucky (Via OddsShark)

  • The total has gone OVER in 5 of Kentucky’s last 6 games.
  • Kentucky is 4-1 SU in their last 5 games.
  • Kentucky is 7-1 SU in their last 8 games at home.
  • Kentucky is 10-0 SU in their last 10 games against an opponent in the Mid-American Conference.
  • The total is gone UNDER in 7 of Kentucky’s last 10 games played in September.
  • The total is gone UNDER in 4 of Kentucky’s last 5 games played in week 2.
  • Kentucky is 7-13 ATS in their last 20 games played on a Saturday.

Eastern Michigan (Via OddsShark)

  • Eastern Michigan is 6-3 ATS in their last 9 games.
  • The total has gone UNDER in 5 of Eastern Michigan’s last 5 games.
  • Eastern Michigan is 4-1 SU in their last 5 games.
  • Eastern Michigan is 16-3 ATS in their last 19 games on the road.
  • Eastern Michigan is 0-9 SU in their last 9 games against an opponent in the Southeast conference.
  • The total has gone UNDER in 9 of Eastern Michigan’s last 10 games played in September.
  • Eastern Michigan is 6-14 ATS in their last 20 games played in week 2.
  • The total has gone UNDER in 8 of Eastern Michigan’s last 10 games played on a Saturday.

Expert Picks

College Football News thinks Kentucky will notch a double-digit win, but don’t sleep on an Eagles team that won at Purdue last season.

The Kentucky pass rush and defensive front will bother Glass enough to keep him from getting comfortable, but the Eagles won’t go away. The Wildcats will once again have to play a full four quarters against a MAC team, but the lines will be stronger, and they won’t make the massive errors EMU – see the win over Purdue last season – needs to pull off the shocker.

Prediction: Kentucky 31, Eastern Michigan 20

Mark Story of the Herald-Leader thinks Kentucky has the position advantage everywhere other than defensive back, as the Eagles’ secondary racked up four interceptions last week. Story ultimately made a prediction of Kentucky 38, Eastern Michigan 21.

TeamRankings is projecting a 35-19 win for the Cats, while numberFire is going with a 28-16 win for Big Blue Nation.

Athlon Sports thinks the score will be closer, as they’re picking the Cats to win 35-24.

I’m not really sure how OddsShark came up with a 27-26 score for Kentucky, but hey, if it’s a one-point game, we know who to put more stock in going forward.

Bill Connelly’s S&P formula gives Kentucky an 87% chance of winning and projects a 50-31 win for the home team.

Prediction

When comparing his play to last fall, Wilson appeared to have vastly improved when analyzing his play last Saturday against Toledo. While the second-year starter clearly made a handful of errors, his throws on second and third reads were precise and he seemed much more comfortable in the pocket.

With so many defensive stars now gone from the program and to the National Football League, the responsibility of leading this team to wins mostly falls on the shoulders of Wilson. If Kentucky’s offensive line can maintain a clean pocket on Saturday, the Wildcats shouldn’t have a problem moving the ball up and down the field.

Final Score: Kentucky 36, Eastern Michigan 16