Recapping the simulation from last week, the WhatIfSports.com prediction engine predicted a 19-13 Kentucky victory over Kent State. The prediction was about four touchdowns off. Just as it did against Louisville in week one, WIS vastly underestimates this Kentucky offense, which currently ranks 18th in the country in passing yards. Predicted to throw for 190 yards on the Golden Flashes, Maxwell Smith collected 354 yards in the air with an astounding 76.9% completion rate.
Looking ahead to Saturday’s showdown with another in-state rival Western Kentucky, WIS predicts a 24-17 Wildcats win. This time, the odds of winning are considerably better than against Kent State, giving the Cats a 71.8% chance of victory where they were given only 65.8% chance of winning last week. This is an interesting outcome from the simulations no doubt, as the trendy upset pick around college football for this week are the Hilltoppers.
Western Kentucky knocked off Austin Peay in their season opener and faced No. 1 ranked Alabama last week, being shutout 35-0. Quarterback Kawaun Jakes is the heart of the Tops offense and will need a big game, making plays through the air and with his legs. He wasn’t able to break out of the pocket against the stout Crimson Tide defense but was able to effectively scurry around against Austin Peay, extending plays and rushing for a touchdown. Jakes doesn’t have a Denard Robinson kind of blinding speed, but he is quick enough to cause problems if a defense can’t contain. Jakes was able to piece together a respectable game against one of the best teams in college football, throwing for 178 yards on 20-of-31 passing.
For Kentucky, last week was exactly the kind of game it needed to get the ball rolling. Blowing out a team they’re supposed to blow out, and finding some new breakout players. Aaron Boyd had the game of his career — literally. His emergence as a potential star is just another reason to be excited about the Air Raid version 2.0 offense. Max Smith has done an outstanding job thus far, and all indications are he will continue his torching of defenses against Western Kentucky, a team that has no business hanging with the Cats’ athletes.
For the third straight week, WIS has likely undervalued the Kentucky offense, predicting 210 passing yards. The play calling for this UK team has become a pass now, pass later, and pass again system. Something fans are certainly enjoying. Max Smith will throw for well over 200 yards against Western on Saturday, and with CoShik Williams back in the lineup at 100 percent, the rushing yards are likely to exceed 142 — or at least the simulated 4.4-yards-per-rush average.
Western will likely pick up the yardage early and maybe find the end zone with ease on their first possession or two. But look for the Kentucky defense to really buckle down in the latter half of the game, just as it did against Kent State. Don’t read too much into how Western played Alabama last week either; being beaten “only” by 35 points, versus Michigan being beaten by 27 the week before, will mean absolutely nothing on Saturday.