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Predicting the UK Football Season

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Now that was a crazy weekend. The world of sports gave us a number of stories to dominate the day. Michael Vick returned to the world of football, joining the Philadelphia Eagles and expressing sorrow on 60 Minutes to dog owners everywhere. Saturday marked the beginning of the Premiership in England and I found myself watching at least a half of five soccer games this weekend (the best goal occurred in Wigan vs Aston Villa…but of course you already knew that). We had Kentuckian Tyson Gay running the second fastest 100 meters time ever, only to be passed by Usain Bolt who became the fastest man in the history of humankind (that blows my mind to process). Then the weekend concluded with Y E Yang and his rooster-labeled shirt taking down the mighty Tiger, while smiling and raising the roof up and down the fairways. And the craziest part that happened to me is something I cant even tell you about right now, but will at some point in the future….just remind me after a few weeks.

However if you are a true UK fan (and I know you are), what you cared the most about was the UK football scrimmage that took place on Saturday. It was the kickoff to the last few weeks of practice before the Cats’ season and attempt at a 4th straight bowl game kicks off in Cincinnati on September 5. With that date rapidly approaching, I thought now was a time to look at the Cats’ schedule and decide what percentage chance UK has of winning each game on its schedule. Without further ado:

Miami (OH) — 85 Percent

Over the past few years, games against MAC teams have been anything but pushovers in the land of college football. Toledo went into the Big House last year and knocked off Michigan and other MAC teams have given top programs scares all around the country. Thus on first glance, the game against Miami (OH) would seem to have some danger for UK and to be the type of game that could derail the season very early. But this is not Ben Roethlisberger’s (or for that matter Wally Sczerbiack’s) Miami team. Last year the Redhawks went 2-10 and they have a new coach, new system and vastly different personnel this season. They are picked by Phil Steele to be last in the MAC and are thoroughly in rebuilding mode. While playing in Cincy gives them at least a puncher’s chance, the Cats are a heavy favorite. Miami’s 15 percent shot represents a scenario in which UK has no offensive firepower and loses the turnover battle. Chalk this one up to the Blue

Louisville — 70 Percent

One can never underestimate the role desperation can play in a football game. Simply put, most believe that this game could be the determinative factor in whether Steve Kragthorpe is the Louisville coach next season. With the Cards having to make a Bowl Game, it is hard to see a scenario where that can happen without this win. Thus they will come into Commonwealth desperate. Fortunately for the Cats, the Cards simply aren’t as good as UK on both ends of the ball. Their QB situation is still up in the air, it isn’t clear that they have receivers that can compete and they lost their rocks on the offensive line. Scoring points will again be an issue. However they aren’t as awful as UK fans would wish and in this rivalry game, strange things can happen. I like UK to win, but it is important that Hartline and the offense put up 24 points, just to make it certain.

Florida — 7 Percent

Unfortunately, the Cats have little to no chance against the Fighting Tebows. Everything that could work against UK is in place in this game. The Gators have a running QB (which UK has always struggled against) that also happens to be the best player in college football. They are likely better at every position than UK (except possibly the secondary) and their athletes are simply on another level. Add to it, UK’s abysmal record against the Gators in history and Florida’s likely place as the national champion favorite, and one has to hope for a miracle.

Alabama — 17 Percent

The back-to-back UK games against national title contenders ends with Alabama in Lexington. The last time the Tide played in Lexington, UK famously won, tearing down the goalposts in an exciting game (and we will forget that the Tide finished 4-7 that season). This isn’t a Mike Shula Alabama team. Nick Saban has most of his talent back and they will contend (along with Ole Miss) for the SEC West title. The Cats have a talent mis-match in this game again, but they wont be scared of the Tide. Kentucky played them well last year in Tuscaloosa and the Tide don’t put huge points up, which means UK can stay in the game. For UK to win, they have to keep the score low, get a couple of turnovers and then make a move in the 4th quarter. That is possible, but I put the chances at 1 out of 6…respectable, but not likely.

at South Carolina — 20 Percent

This year of course is when the schedule is bad for UK…great teams at home, mediocre teams on the road. I like the other way (when South Carolina, Georgia, Auburn and Vandy are home) because it gives more potential for upsets. South Carolina is a team that this season could be ripe for the taking in Lexington, but will be very difficult to touch in Columbia. This is probably Spurrier’s best offense since he has been a Gamecock and he has a legitimate chance to finish second in the SEC East (the game against UGA in week 2 will decide it). UK doesn’t beat Spurrier and doesn’t beat good teams on the road, so 1 in 5 might be optimistic. But there is the chance that UK’s offense clicks and South Carolina loses its first two games and falls apart. But don’t count on it.

at Auburn — 25 Percent

If ever there was a year to beat Auburn on the road, this is the year. New coach, talent down and a fanbase that is ready to turn on the staff if they struggle. But it is Auburn, it is on the road and it is the end of a TERRIBLE four game streak for the Cats. If this game were in Lexington, I might even predict a UK win. However I don’t like when or where the game is being played. Having said that, 1 out of 4 isnt bad and there is a script for UK to win the game. Keep the score low, take advantage of Auburn’s offensive problems and pull out a win at the end. This game (and UT at home) represents UK’s best chance for a 7th win and with Midnight Madness the night before, it could be the perfect UK weekend.

Louisiana Monroe — 80 Percent

This game worries me more than it should….and it should worry you a bit too. It comes after the murderous four game stretch and La-Monroe comes off an open date. La Monroe is considered one of the potential surprise teams in college football by Phil Steele and has a number of starters returning on offense. The last time UK played La-Monroe, you may remember that they trailed most of the game and came back and won 42-40 at the end. Add to that the fact that Kentucky last year was a shoestring tackle away from losing to MTSU and you can see how a disaster could strike. Nevertheless, Kentucky has ULM outpaced at every position and should have absolutely no problems in a normal game. I expect the Cats to roll, but this is the one game that should be a red flag.

Mississippi State — 55 Percent

The Mississippi State game every season is simply beyond rationality. Two years ago the best Kentucky team in recent memory lost in the rain at home in one of the most depressing games of all time. Last year, Kentucky played MSU in Starkville, seemed to have nothing go right and still yet pulled out a victory that guaranteed a bowl game. This year, MSU will be better and has a new coach that will change the offense. However the coaches and players know that this game could end up being the game that decides whether the Cats go bowling again. MSU will get Kentucky’s best effort and the Cats should win a game that is beyond crucial.

Eastern Kentucky — 98 Percent

This game is a certain win and really is more about setting up the final three games than actual domination on the field. If things have gone as to plan, this win will make the Cats 5-4 going into their final three. We could be seeing a game in which Hartline and the receivers are clicking on all cylinders before they head to the game of the year in Nashville. It also may be the one game in which our marching band wins the day.

at Vanderbilt — 51 Percent

The ultimate tossup game. Going into the season, Vandy is widely considered to have more talent, but in the end the Cats and ‘Dores are on similar paths every season. Both teams will be on the edge of Bowl games and both teams really need this game. The Cats had been on a mini-Vandy streak until last season, winning four straight. The home field advantage in Nashville is virtually non-existent and the Kentucky crowd will be more than sufficient to make the game almost like a neutral battle. Last year Vandy needed the game more than UK and its win put it in a Bowl game. This year, Vandy’s schedule is easier than UK and the Cats will need it more than the ‘Dores…thus they will get it.

at Georgia — 15 Percent

Another game that would be better if in Lexington, the victory over Georgia in Lexington three years ago was really the starting point of the birth of the Rich Brooks turnaround in Lexington. This game is on the road and will be more than a bit difficult for the Cats. Georgia has UK at virtually every position and by virtue of the game being at the end of the season, the Cats wont get to take advantage of some of the Dawgs inexperience early. 15 percent may be a little high when one looks at history, but there is the possibility that the Cats could be something like 7-3 coming into this game. If for some reason that happens, I say they roll on to a win here. But I don’t think that is what they will be, so a loss is likely.

Tennessee — 30 Percent

Except for the year in which the Cats lost in 4 OTs, this may be UK’s best chance to end the Tennessee losing streak since it began. UT has a new coach that has major feast/famine potential and regardless of how successful he may be in the future, his talent is not up to regular Big Orange standards this season. If the Cats have lost to either Vandy or Mississippi State, this game might be for a Bowl berth, but either way, it is a chance for Micah Johnson and Trevard Lindley to get their signature wins. Tennessee is still better than UK going into the year and the record versus UT commands the above odds. But if there ever were a year to do it, this might be it.

Overall Record — 6-6 Independence Bowl vs Colorado

If the Cats win the games in which they will be favored, they will have 5 victories. Then they beat Vandy in a game where they will likely be the underdog but it should essentially be a tossup. They lose all the games in which they are the underdog (with the possible exception of a year-defining win against either Tennessee or Auburn) and they finish 6-6. Unlike last year, more teams in the SEC will be bowl eligible this year, with the Music City and Liberty slots taken by these teams. The Cats move into the Independence/Papa Johns slot, along with Vandy and because the Independence payout is greater, they go to Shreveport to play a Big 12 team that Phil Steele slots to be Colorado. I go, if only to taunt the Buffalo from up close, and the Cats win their fourth straight bowl game to finish out great careers for the Seniors.

So there you go, that’s the prediction. Clay Travis Live Blog is at 1 pm and otherwise stay tuned for a day of news, views, and ridiculousness.

Article written by Matt Jones