What will define success for Kentucky Wildcats football this year? The bar is set low for Mark Stoops after last years 2-10 debacle, but Kentucky fans will obviously look for improvement. I wrote a few months back that no Kentucky football coach since Bear Bryant had improved on their predecessor in both total wins and SEC wins.
If you go by that assessment, a 3-9 and 1-7 season for Kentucky will be a success. But most Kentucky fans will go for something other than a certain record. They want pride back. They want their football team to play for sixty minutes. And they want a team that is entertaining to watch and will not give up. I think they will get that this year.
But how many games will Kentucky win? I did my best at predicting this season. Let’s take a look.
AUGUST 31 – 7 PM
Here we go. This game has been tabbed as the most likely upset of the opening weekend and the Hilltoppers do return a lot of momentum from last years bowl team and are energized by a new coach. That in itself makes this a very interesting game. There are storylines galore for this game, but let’s look at the talent on the field.
Like Kentucky, WKU will not have the WR firepower in week one to fully implement their new coaches system. Look for Antonio Andrews to get his number called early and often and he will be a great test for UK’s revamped defense. And WR Willie McNeal could have a field day against UK’s young and untested secondary. But it’s important to look at who is not back for the Hilltoppers.
Kuwuan Jakes is gone and it looks like junior Brandon Doughty (22 pass attempts last year) and talented sophomore DeMarcus Smith look to fill the void. Smith would be intriguing, but is he ready for this game? Also, TE Jack Doyle will be very hard to replace. In addition, the right side of WKU’s offensive line is a huge question mark and the defensive line is untested and unproven. WKU has a very solid back seven on defense including loudmouth Andrew Jackson, but if the front four can’t stop UK’s running attack, it’s all for naught.
Both teams are motivated but in the end, Kentucky has more to prove. The fact that UK may even be close to an underdog in this game should be a rallying cry. If UK can not have a repeat of four interceptions versus the Toppers and win the turnover game, I am going with a score of Kentucky 28 WKU 17.
SEPTEMBER 7 – 12:00PM
Miami won four games last year and that was WITH All World QB Zac Dysert. Senior QB Austin Boucher did fill in quite well when Dysert was injured in 2010 and the Redhawks appear set at QB. However, the rest of the team is kind of a mess. Along with Dysert, Miami suffered big losses at WR, but returns Dawan Scott (851 yards). But Boucher and Scott are the only bright spots on the offense. The running game is terrible and the OL is not that good and extremeely thin.
Miami’s defense is experienced and returns a lot of juniors and seniors. That’s good in a way, but this was not a very good defense at all last year. This was a defense that gave up 56 points to Ohio State, 52 to Cincinnati, 49 to Akron and 48 to Kent State. Whew. This is a perfect game for UK to get untracked, especially on offense and get ready for the grind of the season ahead. Kentucky 31 Miami (OH) 17
SEPTEMBER 14 – 12PM
I love what Mark Stoops is doing at Kentucky and look for the Cats to eventually become the top team in the Commonwealth once again. But not this year. Louisville is just too loaded. And with a very weak schedule, look for Charlie Strong to try to make an example of the SEC Wildcats. If Teddy Bridgewater was not a Cardinal, I would watch him play almost every week. He’s that exciting and good. And he has a stacked WR corps to throw to, starting with DeVante Parker. Louisville’s concerns at RB seems to have been answered with Michael Dyer. The big weakness for the UL offense is the offensive line, which allowed 2.4 sacks a game and must replace two top players.
The Cards defense is solid and stingy against the pass but they must replace Adrian Bushnell. And Preston Brown and Marcus Smith return. This game will be at Commonwealth however, and the UK crowd will do its best to keep UK in the game as long as possible. It’s asking too much to expect an upset, but look for a Kentucky team that will fight hard for sixty minutes and raise a few eyebrows with a closer than expected game. Louisville 31 Kentucky 20.
9/28/2013 – TIME TBA
I don’t think there is a more disrespected or questioned 11-2 team from last year than Florida. And after a loss to Louisville in the Sugar Bowl in which the team was embarrassingly not interested in, perhaps rightfully so. Florida has a ton of questions on the offensive end. Jeff Driskell will need to take a big step up from last season and will do so without three of his four top receivers and Mike Gillislee. But the Gators are stacked with young talent and their offensive line is pretty much intact.
Same stories go on defense where UF lost seven starters, but Will Muschamp has the players to step in. As a team, the Gators still have enough talent and should be able to beat Kentucky nine times out of ten. While they won win 11 games, nine is a real possibility. They will be vulnerable though and the crowd at Commonwealth could make something special happen. I still can’t pick the Cats this year though. Florida 27 Kentucky 17.