Kentucky football is nearing the start of the 2023 season, which opens with a game against Ball State. The noon kickoff will be just the second time the two schools have faced, with the Wildcats taking that matchup in 2001.
22 years later, the Cats and Cardinals will meet again, this time in Lexington to start the new college football season.
Kentucky football will be heavy favorites against Ball State, but the last time they played, the Cardinals gave them a bit of a scare.
The 2001 Kentucky Wildcats team fell short of anything special, finishing the season with a 2-9 record. One of those wins was a 28-20 defeat of Ball State, who surprisingly went 5-6. In fact, the Cardinals would later knock off #25 Toledo and win a low-scoring game at UConn. They finished 4-3 in the MAC, and just one win away from becoming bowl eligible.
Despite Kentucky’s struggles, they found a way to grind out a win over the Cardinals, their only non-conference win of the season. The Cats would later beat Vanderbilt, for their lone SEC win.
In their win over Ball State, Kentucky had to both come from behind and hold off a late Cardinals comeback.
The Wildcats found themselves trailing 10-7 over halfway into the second quarter, before a touchdown would give them a 14-10 lead heading into the half. Later in the 4th quarter, with six minutes left, Ball State would score a touchdown, reducing UK’s lead from 28-13, to 28-20. Neither team would score the rest of the way, giving Kentucky their first win of the season.
Kentucky did damage on the ground, with running back Chad Scott going for 119 yards and a touchdown. Shane Boyd completed 15-of-22 passes for 215 yards and 2 TD, with Derek Abney and Derek Smith catches the TDs.
This season, Kentucky football has a much better outlook than Ball State.
The Wildcats come into the 2023 season looking to follow up on a 7-6 record from the year before. UK returns talent all across the board, with quarterback Devin Leary on a mission to prove doubters wrong and overcome an injury.
On the flip side, Ball State went 5-7 in a much easier conference. Four of their losses came by a single possession, but a 59-10 whooping from Tennessee might give a better inclination of how the Cardinals and Wildcats will match up this season.
No betting lines are out yet, but Kentucky should be favored to start the season 1-0, and improve their all-time series record against Ball State to 2-0.