It’s just one game, right? The first game of the season is just as important as the 3rd game or the 7th game or the last game. Or at least that is what some fans would love to tell you. I have always argued the first game is the most important, no matter who the opponent, because it not only has an affect on the confidence of the team and coaches, but also greatly affects the attitude of the fans. In the years when Louisville was trouncing UK in that first game of the season, you don’t think some fans had already given up on the season after Week 1?
But, does the outcome of the first game actually have a tangible correlation to the outcome of the entire season. Below, I have each opening week game since 1990 divided up in 4 groups: Big Losses, Small Losses, Small Wins, and Big Wins. I decided that any win or loss by MORE THAN 14 POINTS was considered big. Games in bold are seasons where Kentucky made a bowl game.
BIG LOSSES (MORE THAN 14 POINTS)
2006: Louisville 28-59 (finished 8-5)
2004: Louisville 0-28 (finished 2-9)
2003: Louisville 24-40 (finished 4-8)
2001: Louisville 10-36 (finished 2-9)
1999: Louisville 28-56 (finished 6-6)
1996: Louisville 14-38 (finished 4-7)
2005: Louisville 24-31 (finished 3-8)
2000: Louisville 34-40 (finished 2-9)
1995: Louisville 10-13 (finished 4-7)
2010: Louisville 23-16 (finished 6-7)
2002: Louisville 22-17 (finished 7-5)
1997: Louisville 38-24 (finished 5-6)
1994: Louisville 20-14 (finished 1-10)
1992: Central Michigan 21-14 (finished 4-7)
1991: Miami (OH) 23-20 (finished 3-8)
1990: Central Michigan 20-17 (finished 4-7)
BIG WINS (MORE THAN 14 POINTS)
2009: Miami (OH) 42-0 (finished 7-6)
2008: Louisville 27-2 (finished 7-6)
2007: Eastern Kentucky 50-10 (finished 8-5)
1998: Louisville 68-34 (finished 7-5)
1993: Kent State 35-0 (finished 6-6)
Kentucky has made 8 bowl games since 1990. In 5 of those 8 years, they won their opening game by more than 14 points. UK has not missed a bowl game after winning the opener by more than 14 points. While 6 out of the 7 times they WON the opening game by less than 14 points, they have also missed a bowl. And in only 3 out of 16 seasons where they lost their opening game or won it by less than 14 points have they made a bowl.
Point is, win big in week 1 and you almost surely will win “big” the rest of the season. Keep that in mind going into the WKU game.