2023 Kentucky Wildcats football betting preview: Devin Leary raises ceiling

Kentucky’s Devin Leary throws the ball past J.J. Weaver (#13) during open practice for the fans on Saturday.April 1, 2023Kentuckypractice 03
Kentucky’s Devin Leary throws the ball past J.J. Weaver (#13) during open practice for the fans on Saturday.April 1, 2023Kentuckypractice 03 /

Kentucky had a decent season in 2022, 7-6, but relative to 2021, this is a far drop-off after going 2021.

However, head coach Mark Stoops has made the necessary changes for a big year in Lexington, landing one of the most coveted players in the transfer portal, Devin Leary from North Carolina State. Can Leary lift the Wildcats back to 10-win contention?

He’ll do it with a veteran offensive line and the return of 2021 offensive coordinator Liam Coen, who returns after a year with the Los Angeles Rams. As always, UK has a loaded defense that will look to continue it’s top 20 form.

Here’s everything you need to know about the Wildcats from a betting perspective in 2023.

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Kentucky Wildcats odds to win SEC

Kentucky is a longshot to win the SEC, due mainly in part to the fact that the team is in the SEC East, the same division as the two-time defending champion Georgia Bulldogs. If you are feeling like the ceiling is truly high for the Wildcats, the team is +3400 to win the division and outlast Georgia, who is -430.

Get ready for Week 1 by checking out how the BetSided staff sees every ranked game going down against the spread here!

Kentucky odds to win the National Championship

Leary and Coen is a great combination that can have this Kentucky team playing at a high level, but National Championship level is too far of a reach. Oddsmakers have installed UK as 200-1 to win the Natty in 2023.


Bet over or under on Kentucky’s win total?

This number has been ticking up all season, up from 6.5 to now 7.5 shaded towards the under.

I’m here to tell you this Kentucky team is built to go over 7.5 and push to be the second best team in the SEC East. While I won’t call for the team to take the mantle from the Bulldogs in the division, but this team is primed for a big year.

Leary’s season was cut short last season, but across the past two seasons, Leary has combined to pass for nearly 4,600 yards with 46 touchdowns and nine interceptions. He will join a more modern and downfield passing game in Kentucky that has Coen calling the plays once again.

The team fell off a cliff in 2022 offensively, 100th in success rate and 105th in EPA/Play. But don’t let that cloud you from the 2021 version that Coen was the conductor of. That team with Will Levis under center rated 11th in success rate and 47th in EPA/Play. The team stayed ahead of schedule and bailed out what was a suspect defense (94th in success rate).

In 2021 it was the offense that carried the defense, and the opposite was the case in 2022. In 2023, this team will be balanced. Leary is arguably a superior quarterback to Levis and the team will replace veteran running back with Vanderbilt transfer Ray Davis. The team also returns the top three receivers in Barion Brown, Tayvion Robinson and Dane Key. While the offensive line was dismal, allowing 42 sacks on the year, four starters are back. The hope is that contunity can get this unit back in the right direction.

Meanwhile, the defense maintained its elite form despite not having the overwhelming athletes that the likes of Georgia of Alabama had. The unit was top 20 in success rate and 41st in yards per play. While the team lost leading havoc driver Jordan Wright (9.5 tackles for loss) Freshman All-American Deone Walker returns after having 4.5 TFL’s. The team shored up some losses in the secondary by counting on three former blue chip recruit transfers from Cincinnati, Ohio State and North Carolina.

Kentucky schedule analysis 

The team has a clear runway to starting 5-0 this season, opening home against Ball State, Eastern Kentucky and Akron, all games where the team will be favored by more than four touchdowns. After that, the team is on the road against the worst team in the SEC in Vanderbilt and home for Florida, where the team will be considerable favorites in both.

While the team will be massive underdogs against Georgia, the team will be a big home favorite against Missouri at home, setting up a potential 6-1 start to the year heading into the bye week.

Can Leary and co. find two more wins out of this schedule:

Tennessee, at Mississippi State, Alabama, at South Carolina, at Louisville.

It’s not a gimmie, but when we get to this part of the schedule, the Tennessee game may be a coin flip (the Vols play at Alabama the week before), and the team will be lined as a small underdog or small favorite in the remaining three road games.

At a + price, I think backing the Wildcats to shine in 2023 is worth it.

Game odds refresh periodically and are subject to change.

Track Reed’s bets here!