I placed a fiscally-responsible bet on Kentucky winning over eight games this season:
I've not bet a Kentucky win total since 2019, but I liked enough of the fundamentals - data and subjective - to risk a few months worth of an HBO Max subscription to take the leap. Reasons? I have a few...
The Action Is The Juice
This line opened in June at -115 juice for over eight wins. It's now moved to +110*. This is, in part, a principle play to fade the public money that flowed towards under eight wins thereby pushing the under line as high as -145 at some books. I'm also willing to take the risk because I think eight wins is the most likely outcome which would result in getting my stake back. So, no harm no foul. Getting my money back at 0% return in four months is something I can live with given the whims of alternative investment vehicles such as: snake oil futures, Bored Ape NFTs, climate-killing crypto mining, or other run-of-the-mill Ponzi schemes featuring today's jargon but the same age-old grift.
*If you bet $1, and you win, then you'd get your $1 back plus an additional $1.10 (for a total of $2.10). In contrast, a -145 line means if you bet $1.45, and win, you get that back plus an additional $1.00 (you are risking $0.35 more for the likelier outcome). No, American odds are not intuitive; and yes, the European decimal system is superior.
Ideally, rather than give a book my money for four months, it would be better to bet the spread in UK's "swing opponent" games. Today, Kentucky would probably be at least a three point underdog at: Mississippi, Florida, and Tennessee. Today, Kentucky would probably be a pick-em at Missouri, and a small favorite at home against Louisville. Kentucky won't get to eight wins without winning these games; alas, betting these individual games isn't an option. There's no chance getting a stake back quicker for outcomes necessary to going over the eight win season total.
The Football Reasons
- Eight, count 'em, eight home games.
- Seeing Chris Rodriguez practice with the team suggests he's probably cleared to play this season from whatever mysterious issue has been hinted at by BBN's Talking Heads. Seeing him get reps with the second team further suggests he'll be suspended the first week for the DUI arrest, but will play the following week against Florida. Rodriguez is arguably one of the best running backs in the country, and his participation is almost certainly necessary for a New Year's Day bowl.
- The level of recruiting the last three cycles underscores (currently) unproven back-ups will be competitive versus most P5 opponents across the course of the season. I feel more confident in their pedigree relative to Missouri, South Carolina, Louisville, Mississippi State, and Ole Miss back-ups. In practical terms, the unknowns on the offensive line, secondary, and skill positions will probably be solid to strong by midway through the season. It's hard to imagine Kentucky strikes out at all its question marks given the level of recruiting and development we've previously observed - with lesser talent - in years past. It could happen but I'm not betting on multiple letdowns.
- Will Levis has moved from overrated to underrated by college football national media. He was a "random number generator" to quote Spencer Hall last season, but he also has a stronger arm and better mobility than CJ Stroud and Bryce Young. He doesn't have their touch, their personnel weapons, and last season he didn't have their mental acuity; but his foundational strengths combined with his seeming competitive nature suggests he worked to improved his weaknesses in the off-season. Maybe that's glass half-full fan talk. But, even if he can't win 10 games again without Wandale Robinson he's still projected first round QB talent, and normally that goes a long ways towards achieving eight wins.
- The season previews of Kentucky's opponents have highlighted most of the "swing game" opponents relied on the transfer portal to fill roster needs. For example, Florida has relied two years running on defensive line transfers and this year its also tapped the portal for receivers. South Carolina and Ole Miss flipped some of their offensive skill positions to make up for recruiting misses. Louisville went even further and experienced a "roster upheaval". They need a lot of those transfers to pay-off to beat the good teams on their schedules. In some cases, P5 opponents struck out on players/positions of need; specifically, Missouri's inability to land a QB in the portal is led towards an announcement this week they'd be starting a non-threatening quarterback Week One. Sometimes transfers are a home run for a team (e.g. Wandale Robinson), and sometimes they aren't effective (e.g. Tre'Von Morgan). Regardless, today's ease of transferring puts a spotlight on areas of weakness for the outside observer that previously wouldn't always be apparent until games were played. UK was relatively more reliant on the transfer portal last season, and that gamble paid off in spades. This season there are fewer transfers for UK which suggests to me better in-house recruiting and developing barring UK missing out on big-time transfers (e.g. Jordan Addison). UK's exposure to transfers not panning out is less than its key opponents. Less risk favors UK.