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Kentucky’s Path to Seven Regular Season Wins is Simple

We are only two weeks away from Kentucky’s season-opener against Central Michigan.  Instead of getting into the nitty gritty on the Chippewas, let’s think about the big picture.

Mark Stoops has set the bar at seven regular season wins after achieving the goal in consecutive seasons.  With 18 returning starters, some fans are ready to see the Cats take another step forward by winning eight or nine games.  The pessimists point toward a difficult schedule and uncertainty at quarterback to question whether Kentucky can even become bowl eligible.

Advanced analytics say Kentucky will struggle to win six. Bill Connelly at SB Nation crunched the numbers using the S&P+ metrics to conclude that Kentucky will only be favored in five games.

Being favored doesn’t ensure victory, just ask the 27-point favorite 2016 Louisville Cardinals.  The formula for UK football success is simple: beat the teams you’re supposed to and pull of a few upsets. Here is how Kentucky gets to at least seven wins, and who they can potentially upset to get eight or more in the regular season, something that hasn’t happened since 1984.

Four Must-Wins: CMU, Murray State, MTSU and Vandy

Aside from Murray State, these games will not be easy.  Central Michigan won eight games in 2017, Middle Tennessee runs Tony Franklin’s Air Raid with the head coach’s son (a three-year starter who can run) at quarterback and Vandy’s offense will put up points with Kyle Shurmur’s arm.  At least two will be ugly wins, but wins are wins.

Two of Three Road Games: Mizzou, UofL and Tennessee

Last year the Cats had to win three road games to get to seven wins.  In 2016 they beat Mizzou and UofL on the road to reach seven.  Winning on the road isn’t something Kentucky fans are accustomed to, especially at Tennessee, but they must steal a few against comparable competition.

If you compare each position between UK and all three opponents, the talent is about even.  Missouri’s offense has the potential to be the SEC’s best, if Derek Dooley doesn’t mess it up, but nothing about Columbia, Missouri is scary.  Louisville is a rivalry game that is almost guaranteed to be close no matter where it’s played (as long as you don’t have an angry Lamar Jackson).  Tennessee might be the worst team in the East, but Neyland Stadium hasn’t been a fun place for UK fans since the 1984 season.

If you take the logos off the helmets and put history aside, it’s easy to see how Kentucky can win two of these three games to get to six regular season wins.

One of Two Tough Home Games: Miss. State and South Carolina

There are so many uncertainties in the two home games that close out September.  Kentucky could win or lose both, but if they win just one there will still be plenty of optimism for the rest of the year.

You’ll call me crazy when I say Miss. State might be the UK opponent with the most NFL talent on its roster.  Montez Sweat and Jeffrey Simmons give the Bulldogs the best defensive line in the league, Aeris Williams is a powerful runner that’s hard to tackle, but not as tough to bring down as quarterback Nick Fitzgerald.  Miss. State has won eight out of the last nine against UK, but Kentucky won the last game at Kroger Field and Dan Mullen has departed, leaving a little uncertainty on the shoulders of Joe Moorhead.

There are two reasons why beating South Carolina is uncertain:

  • Beating a team five times in a row is tough.
  • Deebo Samuel is arguably the SEC’s best playmaker.

Jake Bentley isn’t scary (I might take injured Stephen Johnson over Bentley).  Some may cringe at South Carolina’s nine-win season, but you shouldn’t.  Their ninth win came against a Michigan team that had no business being in the Outback Bowl (it should’ve been Northwestern, but name recognition).  The defense that carried the Gamecocks (SEC’s No. 2 in turnover margin and No. 5 scoring defense) lost its entire secondary and Skai Moore, USC’s team captain that led them in tackles for four years.

UK will not be favored in either, but if they play clean football and control the clock with Benny Snell, the Cats have enough talent to pull off at least one upset to get to seven wins.

Massive Upsets: Georgia, at A&M and at Florida

Nobody expects Kentucky to win any of these games, but it is possible.

The Texas A&M and Florida logos are scary, but each have brand new coaches who are looking for a quarterback.  Playing Florida in the second game of the year actually plays into UK’s favor as Dan Mullen tries to figure out his team.  The timing also helps when A&M plays Clemson and Alabama in the weeks leading into the UK game.  However, both games are on the road.  The Swamp and Kyle Field are two of the most difficult venues in the SEC and each opponent will consider the UK game as a must-win.

Beating Georgia isn’t impossible.  Near the end of the season, if Kentucky remains healthy and has developed a deep passing threat to stretch out the opponent’s defense, they can do what the 2007 Wildcats did against LSU: shock the world.


Article written by Nick Roush

"Look upon the doughnut, and not upon the hole." @RoushKSR

26 Comments for Kentucky’s Path to Seven Regular Season Wins is Simple

  1. bradinmississippi
    6:46 pm August 18, 2018 Permalink

    Kentucky will not beat Mississippi St. MSU will be a top 10 team when they roll in. I cannot fathom why everyone seems to think we will win that game.

  2. CatManDo
    7:43 pm August 18, 2018 Permalink

    Only 3 teams will have somewhat better to significantly better talent on the field (Georgia, Mississippi State, A&M). All other games we should have better to comparable talent. It’s up to our coaches and players to prepare and perform and prove the percentages wrong.

    • mashburnfan1
      8:03 pm August 18, 2018 Permalink

      UGA was way better than us 2 years ago and had to kick a FG as time expired to beat us at CWS. Is why they play the games every week instead of just giving teams that should win the win. And that same season we beat MSU on a FG as time ran out.

  3. herm89
    7:46 pm August 18, 2018 Permalink

    It’s so simple!

    7:59 pm August 18, 2018 Permalink

    …not when Mark Stoops is your coach.

  5. Catlogic15
    8:26 pm August 18, 2018 Permalink

    Isn’t this supposed to be our best defense under Stoops and we still pray for 7? Hope for six? Smh.

    • UK Big Board Update
      9:03 pm August 18, 2018 Permalink

      I know, right? If only we played in the AAC or ACC.

  6. Cincy Cayt
    8:43 pm August 18, 2018 Permalink

    The IDEA is simple. The execution is not.

    This is cliche but we just need to stay in these games and we’ll get some breaks. I don’t want to see us only show up for a few of the big games.

  7. Catcasey1
    9:14 pm August 18, 2018 Permalink

    People don’t expect to much under stoop.

  8. bigblue98
    9:29 pm August 18, 2018 Permalink

    We need to play with discipline. Stupid mental mistakes have cost us in the past. If we can line up right and guard receivers we might have a chance.

    • Cincy Cayt
      10:35 pm August 18, 2018 Permalink

      Bingo! Completely agree.

  9. Jimi40
    9:29 pm August 18, 2018 Permalink

    I think this team is going to surprise us. We got the depth for 8, so im calling it now…..

    8 Wins!


  10. pkwi222
    12:33 am August 19, 2018 Permalink

    Wow. Real insightful. Win the games you’re suppose to win and then win some other games. Then hopefully win another one. Great stuff

    • UK Big Board Update
      9:03 am August 19, 2018 Permalink

      *supposed to

    • pkwi222
      11:56 am August 19, 2018 Permalink

      Did someone’s feelings get hurt?

    • UK Big Board Update
      2:35 pm August 19, 2018 Permalink

      Feelings hurt? LOL

      Its tough to take anyone seriously when they can’t spell past a 7th grade level. Just trying to help you out.

  11. FakeMikePence
    10:31 am August 19, 2018 Permalink

    This stuff is not rocket science. Crunching the numbers suggests the following three most likely scenarios for the UK Football 2018 Season:
    5-7 (no bowl game) Likelihood: 50%
    6-6 (make a bowl game) Likelihood: 45%
    7-5 (make a bowl game) Likelihood: 5%

    WINS (2 games) – UK Favored by 8+ points
    Central Michigan (16.1)
    Murray State (43.8)

    LOSSES (6 games) – UK Underdog by 8+ points
    at Florida (-8.9)
    Mississippi State (-11.4)
    at Texas A&M (-11.7)
    at Missouri (-9.6)
    at Georgia (-17.8)
    at Louisville (-10)

    SEASON BREAKERS (4 games) – Line < 8 points (e.g., less than a touchdown)
    South Caroline (-2.9)
    Vanderbilt (5.3)
    at Tennessee (0.9)
    Middle Tennessee (7.2)

    (1) WINS: UK wins all the games they are favored.
    LOSSES: UK loses all the games they are underdogs.
    RECORD: 5-7 (no bowl game) Likelihood: 50%

    (2) WINS: UK wins all games they are favored *AND* all the games they are 8-points-or-less underdogs.
    LOSSES: UK loses ALL the games they are 8-points-or-more underdogs.
    RECORD: 6-6 (make a bowl game) Likelihood: 45%

    (3) WINS: UK wins all games they are favored *AND* all the games they are 8-points-or-less underdogs *AND* one additional game they are a more-than-a-touchdown underdog
    LOSSES: UK loses MOST games they are 8-points-or-more underdogs but not all of those games
    RECORD: 7-5 (make a bowl game) Likelihood: 5%

    Sincerely, Your President

    • Cincy Cayt
      9:58 pm August 19, 2018 Permalink

      Nice breakdown. Gotta give 4-8 at least some chance, unfortunately. 8-4 probably also deserves some chance, though not as much. We could lose to MTSU and/or Vandy, but we could also pull off multiple upsets.

    • CombatMedic_98
      10:15 am August 20, 2018 Permalink

      Yep we hear it all the time and your stats look cool on paper and makes you feel good about yourself…however people like yourself are educated beyond your intelligence and often times “guess” correctly based on statistical data…but NEVER predict a schedule accurately.

    • CombatMedic_98
      1:10 pm August 20, 2018 Permalink

      My numbers have us beating every team we play this year…if the refs will call a fair and “hands-off” game and the coach’s and players are synced! If not, we could get embarrassed this year!

    • Cincy Cayt
      10:39 pm August 20, 2018 Permalink

      Oh definitely 12-0 if the refs weren’t always out to get us

  12. DelrayCat
    10:49 am August 19, 2018 Permalink

    We are dreaming if we think we will beat Tennessee that easily.
    They have a 5th year Stanford transfer also who was 11-2 as a starter in the PAC-10.
    They will be out for blood. Worst loss of the year for the cats.
    However, I am more optimistic about the Florida game. New coach, new QB, early in the year. A chance.

  13. Jiminy Crickets
    11:05 am August 19, 2018 Permalink

    Mullen is a last second 50+ FG away from a total sweep over stoops. That’s with miss st talent, no way we beat him at Florida. If don’t beat him this year, with this being a new team and a new quarterback, and our team having the most experience and best defense of the stoops era , it may be 10 or more years before we have a chance to beat them again

  14. KYjellyRoll
    11:43 am August 19, 2018 Permalink

    It’s why they play the games right? It’s not decided until the final whistle

    • unbiasedfan
      12:43 am August 20, 2018 Permalink

      Amen!!!! Let’s at least let them play before we have the funeral. I’m not going to say who, what, when or where, but I don’t care a bit to go out in a limb and say 9-3. I’m a glass half full fan myself. I’ve watched KY football optimistically for the last 45 years and 100% can say KY has never been as talented from top to bottom as they are at this time. Actually proud of where we’re at at this point. Let’s get behind our team and give them the support they need from us fans and have a record breaking year. To many prognosticators on here anyway. Always looking to down someone. If Stoops were to go 11-1 or 10-2 the same ones that said he can’t coach will be the very ones saying I knew he could do it. To many bandwagon guys on here. All they’re looking forward to is basketball anyways.

    • CombatMedic_98
      1:11 pm August 20, 2018 Permalink