Kentucky had been knocking on the door for a couple of year. Last year they kicked it in by posting its first winning record since 2009 and going to its first bowl since 2010. In 2014, the Wildcats opened 5-1, only to go 0-6 down the stretch and finish 5-7. It was more of the same in 2015 as the Cats went 4-1 to start the season only to close the show 1-6 and miss a bowl again with s second 5-7 season.
Last year was Mark Stoops fourth year as head coach at Kentucky and he was literally coaching for his job. Sitting 2-2 after a loss at Alabama, the Cats then proceeded to take care of business against the teams they should have beat and but together a 5-2 run that culminated in a 41-38 road upset of Louiville as +28-point underdog. This was not only a major win for the program and a recruiting boost, the seventh win guaranteed a winning record and a bowl bid.
The future is indeed bright for Kentucky, a basketball school looking to establish a winning football culture in the Bluegrass. With 17 returning starter, a brand new $45 million dollar training facilty, a $120 million remodeling of Commonwealth Stadium in 2015, and a very favorable schedule … expectations will indeed by high in Lexington in 2017.
Last Season Kentucky Football ATS Results & Key Stats
2017 Kentucky Wildcats Football Conference & Non-Conference Schedule
|Date||Opponent||Spread (Est.)||Win Chance|
|Estimated Wins: TBD|
Much like last year, Kentucky’s September 2nd opener at Southern Miss is critical. In 2016 the Golden Eagles walked into Lexington and came away with a 44-35 win. Southern Miss rallied from 35-10 down with 34 straight points making the loss all the more painful. It will be payback in Hattiesburg and to understand just how far Kentucky has come, the Cats are -10 point favorites (at this writing) on the road and this a team that has won just four true road games in five years.
UK should be 3-0 before hosting Florida and with all the dark clouds surrounding the Gator program, there could be an upset in the making. Two home games where the ‘Cats will be favored and a very winable trip to Mississippi State could find them 7-0 before hosting Tennessee October 28th. A win over the Vols would not only get a gorilla sized monkey of the programs back, it would have Kentucky 10-0 before playing at Georgia and then hosting a revenge minded Louisville in the teams finale.
In short, this Kentucky team can do some big things. The Wildcats can realistically win four of their five road games and get Florida, Tennessee, and Louisville at home. In a perfect storm, these Wildcats could challenge for the SEC East crown.
Kentucky Roster Breakdown, Recruiting & Depth Chart
Last year Kentucky returned nine starters on offense and it turned out to be a break out year for the Wildcats. They are in the same position this year with nine returnees but are are in a very differnt situation that in 2016 they needed to find a quarterback where this year they will have a veteran in senior Stephen Johnson at the controls. The Cats lose tow of their top three rushers but do return the explosive Benny Snell (1113, 5.9, 13 TDs as true frosh last year. The plug ins should be just fine behind an earth moving offensive line. Five differnt backs rushed for 75+ yards plus in the Georgia game towards the end of last year.
This will be UK’s best defense of the Stoops era and it will have to be better than the one that allowed better than 31-points-per game last year. The Cats really have no excuses as they have nine starters back and even have some Juco help up front. Every player on the projected starting 11 on the stop unit are either juniors or seniors. Eight of the top ten tacklers are back and the linebacking corps is considered one of the SEC’s best and features all SEC 2nd teamer Jordan Jones.
Wildcats Future Odds to Win the CFB Playoff & Expected Win Total
Regular Season Win Total
SEC East Odds
SEC Championship Odds
National Championship Odds
Odds Courtesy of 5Dimes
Kentucky Football Season Projected Record & Finish
Mark Stoops and the Wildcats can make history with this team. They miss Alabama, Auburn, and LSU out of the SEC West and face their two toughest opponents in the East at Commonwealth Stadium. Kentucky is loaded with 17 returning starters. Seniors took just 16% of the snaps last year so this is a veteran team with lots of experience. Last year, the Cats ran for the second most yards in school history behind an offensive line that returns four that have 47 starts among them in 2016 alone.
The defense improved exponentially allowing 528 ypg. in the first three games and then allowing just 406 ypg. the rest of the way. The Cats will have to deny the big play and keep people out of the end zone. This team returns 115 of last years 143 defensive starts and a tick better than 78% of last years tackles. The special teams and kicking game are better than average with improvement needed in the return game.
Kentucky and Mark Stoops are out of excuses. This is a make or break year that will either raise Kentucky football to the next level or keep them at bottom half of the SEC after thought status.
Win Total Prediction