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BTI’s Rant and Ramblings: Cats Need to Buck Opening Game Trends

It feels like confidence is quite high for this UK football team heading into the opening game against Auburn.  And I think many fans have talked themselves into why Kentucky can and will win that game and become a serious news story right out of the gates.  I am probably one of those fans who thinks they have a real shot.  But facing a difficult opponent like Auburn in the 1st game might not be all it’s cracked up to be.  Because UK, under Mark Stoops, is not known for their fast starts to the season.  In fact, Kentucky is just 2-5 against the spread despite being 5-2 straight up in 1st games.  A quick recap in case you forgot.

2013: Western Kentucky 35, Kentucky 26
Spread: Kentucky -5.5

Obviously the opener truly exposed just how bare the cupboard was for Mark Stoops.  That game wasn’t nearly as close as the final score indicated as a Bobby Petrino led WKU dominated all aspects of the game.  It was clear the Cats were likely headed for a 2 win season after Week 1.

2014: Kentucky 59, UT-Martin 14
Spread: Kentucky -21.5

Cats did show some promise in this one, albeit against an FCS program.  The spread of this game clearly showed the bettors didn’t have a lot of respect for the Cats in Year 2 but UK showed renewed energy on their way to a 5-7 season.  Progress.

2015: Kentucky 40, UL-Lafayette 33
Spread: Kentucky -17

UK nearly blew this game completely, needing a late score and hold to survive.  The defense gave up nearly 500 yards but Boom Williams was a star Juice Johnson arrived as the top receiver threat.  But in a season with bowl aspirations, many were discouraged about the performance.

2016: Southern Miss 44, Kentucky 35
Spread: Kentucky -3.5

A low point in the Mark Stoops tenure.  What made this game especially difficult was the way the Cats came out fast and appeared more than in control headed into halftime.  But a late touchdown pass and a complete no-show in the 2nd half led to a terribly embarrassing loss.  It also started the gears moving towards the Stephen Johnson era, which would start 2 games later.

2017: Kentucky 24, Southern Miss 17
Spread: Kentucky -9.5

While the Cats got a must needed win to start this season, as some form of payback, they didn’t cover the spread and didn’t play particularly well.  But they gutted out a good win to start the year, which would lead to a second straight bowl game.

2018: Kentucky 35, Central Michigan 20
Spread: Kentucky -17.5

While the win was fairly comfortable, I think many were hoping of a more dominating performance but the Cats showed plenty of areas that needed improvement during a sluggish win over the Chippewas.  What’s amazing is this would turn into one of the best teams in UK history but after Game 1 many had their doubts.

2019: Kentucky 38, Toledo 24
Spread: Kentucky -9.5

Many thought this spread was an insult when it came out but when the game was tied at halftime, many understood what a challenge this would be and worried about another Game 1 struggle.  But UK sharpened up in the 2nd half, taking a 21-point lead at one point and coasting to victory, although barely covering the spread.  Nonetheless, one of the better opening game performances.

Taking out the UT-Martin game, which was a glorified practice, the only really good performance by the Cats was probably last year.  And even that was a tied game against a MAC school at halftime.  Kentucky hasn’t faced a ranked opponent in any of these games and still struggled.  Now, they also might have their best or second best team of the Stoops era.  They have many returning pieces.  They have motivation of not being ranked.  They have a QB looking to prove doubters wrong.  I think my feelings on the game, as they stand today, are this.  I think UK has a real shot at winning.  And I would be highly disappointed, in Year 8 of the Stoops tenure, if the Cats throw a dud out there.  But we have to face the real possibility that it could happen.  That UK could lose 35-10.  For whatever reason, UK is not sharp in 1st games of the season.  And while it only burned them against Southern Miss, it would burn them BIG TIME if they are not sharp against Auburn on the road.  So I will likely go into the game hopeful but also cautious.

Article written by Bryan the Intern

8 Comments for BTI’s Rant and Ramblings: Cats Need to Buck Opening Game Trends

  1. Ben27
    10:05 am September 1, 2020 Permalink

    They are already bucking trends: Opening on the road, Opening with an SEC team, Opening with a top ten team. It is a year for bucking trends!

    • chris gettelfinger is not walking through that door
      2:02 pm September 1, 2020 Permalink

      I hope so! Auburn ain’t no Lafayette.

  2. michaelb
    11:08 am September 1, 2020 Permalink

    I can’t believe how low I was on Eddie gran compared to now . He looked like a mastermind last year , hope he continues that streak

  3. az1006
    11:44 am September 1, 2020 Permalink

    I think this is a bit misleading. The last three years haven’t been struggles in the openers…All three were never-in-doubt, comfortable wins, albeit none were blowouts. Being tied at halftime last year isn’t a “struggle” considering we came out in the second half and took control of that game right out of the gate. The thing is, Stoops’ style of play isn’t conducive to blowouts, even against far inferior teams. I’ll admit openers in the first few years of his tenure left a lot to be desired (especially that 2016 debacle), but the last three haven’t been that. So that trend has really already been bucked, as far as I’m concerned.

  4. BigBluSoTru
    12:50 pm September 1, 2020 Permalink

    People need to realize we are not going to get the same luck of the draw like last year. Just about every game they played with a decent passing Qb exception FL and the Missouri Qb was basicially a shell of himself when we played them he was injured coming into that game. was in in rain downn pour. That allowed us to be in games and sometimes win those

    • bigbluebg
      12:59 pm September 1, 2020 Permalink

      We also controlled the ball. We had the ball for almost 40 mins per game on average. And our secondary played really well for most the year. I’d say you’re right when it comes to UGA. But UF it wasn’t raining and we lost all our starting safeties. So we weren’t lucky in that game. Kyle Trask is better than Franks…which is why Franks transferred

  5. az1006
    1:26 pm September 1, 2020 Permalink

    We were able to stay in games last year because our secondary played outstanding and we controlled the ball. The final drive against Virginia Tech is a microcosm of what our offense was last year: We got the ball with almost 9:00 left in the game, and scored the go-ahead TD with 15 seconds to go. It was masterful clock management.

    But, luck of the draw? We lost our starting quarterback in week two, our backup quarterback in week four, we couldn’t throw the football at all for the rest of the season, and you’re saying we were lucky? Sure, bad weather benefited us more than other teams because we ran the ball all the time anyway, but that’s just part of it. We didn’t win any games because of the weather. We would’ve won them anyway. It may have kept the Georgia game closer than it would’ve been, but otherwise we were better than Mizzou and Louisville, regardless of the weather.

    • chris gettelfinger is not walking through that door
      2:05 pm September 1, 2020 Permalink

      Amen about the clock management in the bowl game at the end. Draining 9 minutes, and it all happened even though it was against the august Bud Foster.