The Kentucky Wildcats just haven’t been able to beat Florida or Tennessee. The Gators have a 30-game winning streak over the Wildcats, while the Volunteers have only lost one of their last 32 meetings against them. They did break through against another rival last season though. Kentucky beat Louisville for the first time since 2010 and ended up going to a bowl for the first time since that year too. That justified some of the price of Mark Stoops’ lofty contract, but until this team can beat Florida or Tennessee they will still be an also-ran in the SEC East.
2016 Record: 7-6 SU, 7-6 ATS, 7-6 O/U
2017 Regular Season Win Total: 7 Under -148
National Championship Odds: +100000
Odds To Win SEC: +13000
The running game was key for Kentucky’s success last year. The Wildcats had two 1000-yard rushers that each averaged at least six yards per carry on the ground. Stanley Williams and Benny Snell Jr. teamed up to give Kentucky its most productive backfield in recent seasons and even had quite a bit of success in SEC play to boot.
Stephen Johnson took over the starting job for Kentucky after Drew Barker was injured. Barker came into the season with plenty of hype, but got pummeled by opposing defenses and was lost after just three games with a back injury that ruined his 2016.
Johnson turned out to be a very pleasant surprise for the Wildcats, who used his mobility to help find room for the running backs to operate. He proved to be an adequate passer as well, saving his best for when it mattered most by tearing up Louisville’s secondary in a win over the Cardinals.
Kentucky’s defense did take a step back last season. The Wildcats allowed 39 points per game in their six losses and that kept the team from finishing better than 7-6.
This defense should be much better in 2017. The Wildcats return nine starters to this side of the ball and most of their playmakers from last season too. Linebacker Jordan Jones won all-SEC honors and finished with 11.5 tackles for loss last season and should be even better as a junior.
Quarterback is what everyone has their eye on with this team. Johnson comes into the year as the assumed starter, but Stoops has flat out stated that there will be a quarterback battle in the run-up to the season. He will be competing against Barker, and a pair of freshmen in Gunnar Hoak and Lynn Bowden.
Having wide receiver Jeff Badet transfer to Oklahoma in the offseason really hurts. He was the team’s leading receiver in 2016 and averaged over 20 yards a reception. Garrett Johnson is the only receiver on the roster who caught more than 20 passes in 2016.
Snell will be the primary running back this season and could have a monster season. He made the Freshman All-American team as a sophomore and should continue to improve as a sophomore. Snell is tough to take down at his size and will wear down lesser foes.
Saturday, September 2: Kentucky at Southern Miss
Saturday, September 9: Kentucky vs. Eastern Kentucky
Saturday, September 16: Kentucky at South Carolina
Saturday, September 23: Kentucky vs. Florida
Saturday, September 30: Kentucky vs. Eastern Michigan
Saturday, October 7: Kentucky vs. Missouri
Saturday, October 21: Kentucky at Mississippi State
Saturday, October 28: Kentucky vs. Tennessee
Saturday, November 4: Kentucky vs. Ole Miss
Saturday, November 11: Kentucky at Vanderbilt
Saturday, November 18: Kentucky at Georgia
Saturday, November 25: Kentucky vs. Louisville
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