Looking ahead to UK Football’s 2018 schedule

(Photo courtesy of UK Athletics)

This year’s schedule provided the University of Kentucky’s football team with the opportunity for a very special season. The schedule provided for the chance to win a minimum of eight games. Two uncovered receivers and an Ole Miss comeback later, the results were a seven win regular season. After Chris Coyte made the worst call in the history of officiating, the Wildcats lost the Music City Bowl to Northwestern by one point. With that in mind, we will review the 2018 schedule and talk what it can bring.

First of all, let’s look at the schedule:

CENTRAL MICHIGAN

at Florida

MURRAY STATE

MISSISSIPPI STATE

SOUTH CAROLINA

at Texas A&M

Open Date

VANDERBILT

at Missouri

GEORGIA

at Tennessee

MIDDLE TENNESSEE

at Louisville

The Wildcats have seven home games, which is a big help. Coach Mark Stoops has not had a losing season at home since his first year in Lexington, going 2-5 in 2013, 5-3 in 2014, 4-4 in 2015, 5-2 in 2016 and 4-3 in 2017, for an overall home record of 20-17. If history holds, Stoops will win at least four home games, likely five, at home. The likely home losses will come to Mississippi State and Georgia. As good as Coach Stoops’ Wildcats have been at home, they have been equally abysmal on the road. His road records have been 0-5, 0-4, 1-3, 2-3 and 3-2. This does show improvement in his ability to win road games, including two wins at Columbia, SC and a win at Louisville. If Coach Stoops can go 3-2 on the road in 2018, then the Wildcats will have improved their win total to eight for the season. In each season, Coach Stoops has maintained or improved his win totals, from 2 to 5 (in back to back seasons) to 7 (in back to back seasons).

Now, let’s look at the opponents:

Central Michigan

2017 Statistics: 8-4 regular season record

Offensive statistics: Passing Yards: 255.7 ypg (Tied-43rd), Rushing Yards 134.1 ypg (103rd), Points For: 28.5, Points Against: 26.8 (68th)

2018 outlook: The Chippewas lose 26 seniors, including many of their starters. This game is in Lexington, which should help the Wildcats open up the season on the right foot.

Prediction: Win

Florida

2017 Statistics: 4-7 regular season record

Offensive statistics: Passing Yards: 179.5 ypg (102nd), Rushing Yards 156.4 ypg (75th), Points For: 22.3, Points Against: 27.3 (72nd)

2018 outlook: Florida had a abnormal season, winning only four games, but were very talented. They lose only 14 to graduation, but Duke Dawson and Brandon Powell are in that group. This game being in “The Swamp”, I can’t see Kentucky pulling it out.

Prediction: Loss

Murray State

2017 Statistics: 4-8 regular season record

Offensive statistics: Passing Yards: 198.6 ypg (N/A), Rushing Yards 65.5 ypg (N/A), Points For: 21.1, Points Against: 29.3 (N/A)

2018 outlook: Murray State is an OVC team and Kentucky is at the point that losing to an OVC team shouldn’t be a consideration.

Prediction: Win

Mississippi State

2017 Statistics: 8-4 regular season record

Offensive statistics: Passing Yards: 166.9 ypg (113th), Rushing Yards 251.7 ypg (11th), Points For: 32, Points Against: 20.4 (24th)

2018 outlook: Coaching changes can be tricky, but Mississippi State downgraded here. Dan Mullen owned Kentucky, so his departure is welcomed. Nick Fitzgerald will be back, but how healthy will he be?

Prediction: Toss-up

South Carolina

2017 Statistics: 8-4 regular season record

Offensive statistics: Passing Yards: 214.9 ypg (77th), Rushing Yards 122.2 ypg (111th), Points For: 24.2, Points Against: 20.8 (Tied-26th)

2018 outlook: Will Muschamp coached well down the stretch, but Mark Stoops owns Muschamp. Losses on the offensive and defensive lines are huge and Skai Moore will be hard to replace.

Prediction: Win

Texas A&M

2017 Statistics: 7-5 regular season record

Offensive statistics: Passing Yards: 251.2 ypg (47th), Rushing Yards 155.6 ypg (78th), Points For: 36.5, Points Against: 28.7 (82nd)

2018 outlook: Again, a coaching change makes for uncertainty, but Jimbo Fisher is a proven head coach. Their talent level is better than Kentucky and Kyle Field is a tough environment.

Prediction: Loss

Vanderbilt

2017 Statistics: 5-7 regular season record

Offensive statistics: Passing Yards: 243.6 ypg (53rd), Rushing Yards 107.2 ypg (121st), Points For: 26.8, Points Against: 31.3 (90th)

2018 outlook: Vandy graduates 20 seniors, including leading rusher Ralph Webb. The game is at home, so this is an easier game than in Nashville.

Prediction: Win

Missouri

2017 Statistics: 7-5 regular season record

Offensive statistics: Passing Yards: 308.6 ypg (14th), Rushing Yards 193.5 ypg (36th), Points For: 37.7, Points Against: 31.8 (Tied-94th)

2018 outlook: Drew Locke returns, but Josh Heupel doesn’t. Derek Dooley has been hired as the offensive coordinator, so that is a plus for Kentucky. Kentucky won its last game in Columbia, MO easily.

Prediction: Win

Georgia

2017 Statistics: 11-1 regular season record

Offensive statistics: Passing Yards: 176.9 ypg (106th), Rushing Yards 258.4 ypg (9th), Points For: 35.4, Points Against: 13.2 (4th)

2018 outlook: Georgia will lose some key contributors, including Nick Chubb and Sony Michel, but have talented depth at every position. Jake Fromm will lead a great offense and Kirby Smart’s defenses are always good.

Prediction: Loss

Tennessee

2017 Statistics: 4-8 regular season record

Offensive statistics: Passing Yards: 173.7 ypg (109th), Rushing Yards 117.4 ypg (113th), Points For: 21.6, Points Against: 29.4 (84th)

2018 outlook: Jeremy Pruitt walks into a dumpster fire of a program on Rocky Top. He has never been a head coach and the expectations are huge. If the game were in Lexington, I would predict a win. It isn’t, so who knows what will happen?

Prediction: Toss-up

Middle Tennessee State

2017 Statistics: 6-6 regular season record

Offensive statistics: Passing Yards: 251.1 ypg (48th), Rushing Yards 142.3 ypg (92nd), Points For: 25.5, Points Against: 24.3 (45th)

2018 outlook: The Blue Raiders graduate 14 seniors and four of them are starters on a defense that was average during 2017.

Prediction: Win

Louisville

2017 Statistics: 8-4 regular season record

Offensive statistics: Passing Yards: 299.8 ypg (15th), Rushing Yards 245.1 ypg (15th), Points For: 38.1, Points Against: 27.1 (71st)

2018 outlook: Lamar Jackson was the Louisville offense the last two years. His departure will make it interesting to see what Bobby Petrino does on offense.

Prediction: Toss-up

That gives us a total of six wins, three losses and three toss-up games. In my opinion, there were three toss-up games last year: South Carolina, Tennessee and Louisville. Stoops went 2-1 in those games. So, if that holds, the Kentucky should go 8-4. For that to happen, the toss-up games we can win are Tennessee and Louisville. This means that, in my opinion, a bad season will be 6-6, a realistic season is 7-5 or 8-4 and a best case scenario season is 9-3. Our other football writers also submitted their predictions:

Braden Nevius: 9-3

Matthew Alexander: 9-3

Rob Taylor: 8-4

Dal the Sweatshirt: 8-4

Janson Hoskins: 9-3

Jaiden Mingus: 11-1

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