Season two of the Mark Stoops era begins tomorrow with a renewed hope and optimism that has not been around the program for a while. Last year was widely considered to be a honeymoon year for Stoops, but with two straight stellar recruiting efforts, results are expected. But how many wins are expected from this Kentucky Wildcats Football team?
I am of the “Rome was not built in a day” camp and would be OK with four-five wins and an improved effort each week. But in the tough SEC, is that possible? Let’s take a look at this season, game by game, as I pull out my crystal ball and tell you who I think will win.
Away we go …
UT MARTIN SKYHAWKS
12:00 PM @ COMMONWEALTH STADIUM
Season two of the Mark Stoops era will get off to a good start with a win over the overmatched Skyhawks from the Ohio Valley Conference. Kentucky has moved their FCS game to the beginning of the year and this should be a good opportunity for the new offense pieces to snap into place. As with anything new, there may be a slow start, but by halftime Patrick Towles should be in command and the Wildcats defense should be able to dominate.
KENTUCKY 35 UT MARTIN 10 (1-0)
3:30 PM @ COMMONWEALTH STADIUM
The Bobcats are on a five-year bowl streak but it will be a challenge to stretch it to six. The Bobcats return just four starters on offense and three of those are on the OL. The majority of the defense returns, but the offense will be a work in progress when they face UK and the Wildcats should build on a strong week one performance.
This should be a good early test for the UK offense, but in the end think UK has too much firepower. Look for the running game to set the tone early and the success on the ground will equate to a fairly easy UK win.
KENTUCKY 27 OHIO 13 (2-0)
7:30 PM @ GAINESVILLE, FL
As last season went on, the Kentucky loss to Florida seemed more like a lost opportunity to end the streak. With the Gators coming off a 4-8 mark, you get the feeling that the talent levels between the two have not been closer than they are right now. That said, Florida still has a sizable talent advantage and Kentucky is too young to be able to pull off the upset on the road.
However, Georgia Southern was able to knock off UF at the Swamp last year, but that have been anomaly. Regardless, this may be Kentucky’s best chance to steal a win at the Swamp in the last twenty years or so. This game will be closer than expected, but the Gators extend the streak another year.
FLORIDA 31 KENTUCKY 17 (2-1) (0-1)
TBA @ COMMONWEALTH STADIUM
Up to this point, Kentucky’s season has gone as expected with a 2-1 record. The game versus Vanderbilt presents the first opportunity to flip the script and to win an SEC game. That should be easier said than done because the Commodores have owned and embarrassed Kentucky recently.
However, their greatest asset, James Franklin, is gone and they have lost a lot of talent. And you just don’t know how the team will respond to the new coach in front of what should be a rowdy Commonwealth Stadium. This game will be a big determiner as to how the season will go and if Kentucky is going to take that step, they must win. A lot of what made Vandy tough was Franklin and for now, the jury is out as to whether Derek Mason can replicate that.
They will be underdogs, but I’m calling this as Stoops’s first big win of his tenure at Kentucky.
KENTUCKY 24 VANDERBILT 21 (3-1) (1-1)