Fresh on the heels of an incredibly hard-fought SEC road win over Florida in the Swamp, the Kentucky football team heads home for a pair of non-conference games supposedly less stressful contests to fine-tune and tinker with what it learned all the while being a top-ten ranked team.
On Saturday they welcome head coach Mark Stoops’ hometown school to Lexington in Youngstown State, an FCS team that has also become a fertile recruiting hub for the Wildcats. The Big Blue (2-0, 1-0) is currently ranked No. 9 in this week’s AP Poll and No. 10 in the coach’s poll.
And let’s not forget to celebrate Stoops becoming the all-time wins leader of Kentucky football surpassing legendary Paul “Bear” Bryant with the 26-16 Florida win.
However, flashback to last season and its deja vu of sorts where UK beat Louisiana-Monroe in the opener and followed by scratching out a 35-28 win over Missouri in week 2.
This season it’s Youngstown State (2-0) in week 2, but last year it was UT-Chattanooga that frighteningly threatened to pull the stunner in week 3 actually leading 16-14 in the fourth quarter before Kentucky could rally for a 28-16 win.
"“I think it’s to not have that hangover after a big win. We can ride that high for a few days. But, as we saw last year, with the FCS opponent coming in here and giving us a really good game, we don’t want to leave any doubts about our preparation.”"
Youngstown presents a mirror type of Kentucky football offense with a pretty wide-open scheme except they possess a running game, something UK doesn’t have as of yet.
Last week the Penguins defeated Dayton 49-16 and set a school record of six touchdown passes with Sophomore Demeatric Crenshaw throwing for five of those and junior Mitch Davidson added the other.
Crenshaw, connected on 11-of-17 attempts for a career-high 230 yards, threw four of his touchdowns to four different receivers in the first half that accounted for 153 yards before halftime.
He was the Missouri Valley Football Conference freshman player of the year last year.
Then there is senior Jaleel McLaughlin who carried 13 times for 129 yards and has 2,168 yards in just over two seasons with 21 rushing touchdowns averaging 6.3 yards a carry. He also was the recipient of one of those touchdown passes that covered 52 yards.
Kentucky vs Youngstown State Odds Week 3
Spread: Kentucky -27.5
Moneyline: Kentucky -3,001, Youngstown St. +1,200
One stat will tell the tale in this game. Through two games the Penguins have converted just 8 of 22 third-down chances and 2 of 4 on fourth-down tries. Opponents also possess the ball an average of more than three minutes than they do.
Levs is 34-56 for 505 yards, four touchdowns, and a pair of interceptions. Kentucky controls the ball by almost four minutes more than its opponents but is just 6 for 21 on third down and 0-2 on fourth down tries.
Kentucky traditionally doesn’t put the foot on the gas and leaves teams in their wake very often and as much as they need to mentally and to keep the attention of voters for the next two weeks until heading to Ole Miss I think I’d take the under here in looking at the line and odds from WynnBet.
Kentucky vs Youngstown State Prediction Week 3
This Kentucky football squad comes in this game with not a lot of eyes on it despite its ranking. It needs to be impressive, methodical, and efficient in stranding the Penguin team to watch Levis move the Wildcats up and down the field.
Kentucky’s defense will be up to the challenge and would love nothing more than to pitch a shutout. Something very doable and eye-catching and they haven’t allowed a touchdown pass yet this season.
Six times in this decade UK has beaten FCS teams by 31 or more points.
But as Levis noted it’s up to the team to get going early, especially with the Noon kickoff.
"“I think just bringing the energy. Again, noon game, that can kind of get in the way of guys’ ‘juice’ and we’re getting up early and getting over there. Expecting another great crowd from the fans but sometimes, in a situation like that, you’ve got to rely on your own energy. The second you’re behind, it might be too late.”"
Levis will be ready let’s just hope the Kentucky backfield finally shows up this season as it has yet to fire at all this season rushing 64 times for a mere120 yards combined against Miami (Ohio) and Florida. That equates to ranking 123rd in the nation in yards-per-carry out of 131 teams.
I think the floodgates will finally open and Kentucky will move the ball once they get on the board early and Brad White’s defense could just pitch that shutout and not allow any Penguin to find the endzone.