Kentucky Betting Odds Preview
The Wildcats performed about as expected in their first season under new head coach Mike Stoops last year; they won two games, exactly as many as they did in their last season under Joker Phillips. And they matched 2012's SEC win total – zero.
How much longer will this program exist simply as fodder for everyone else in the Southeastern Conference? This year Kentucky returns 15 starters, and with one season under its belt with Stoops one would think progress would be made. But getting to six wins is still going to take an upgrade in talent, which means it's at least a couple of years away yet.
Kentucky opened last year 1-1, but then lost five in a row, four to ranked teams, the last to Mississippi State. The Wildcats then beat Alabama State, but lost their last four to finish 2-10 SU, 4-7 ATS, 0-8 SU and 2-6 ATS in SEC play.
That makes it two winless SEC campaigns in a row for Kentucky.
This year the 'Cats get back 15 starters; seven are back on offense, including last year's leading rusher, top three receivers and four along the offensive line; and eight are back on defense, including six of the back seven.
The Wildcats averaged 21 points per game last year, and gave up 31 per game; they could improve on both those figures this season.
Kentucky will play what Phil Steele calls the 15th-toughest schedule in the country this season. The Wildcats open with a couple of winnable home games, then visit Florida. From there they host the likes of Vanderbilt, South Carolina, Mississippi State and Georgia, and must play at LSU, Missouri, Tennessee and Louisville. But they miss Alabama and Auburn, which is nice.
The immediate goals for this team are to snap that 16-game SEC losing streak and top last season's win total, and both seem very doable. But bowl-eligibility is most likely at least another season or two away.
SEC Championship Odds at Bovada as of August 5
South Carolina 5/1
Ole Miss 14/1
Texas A&M 25/1
Mississippi State 40/1
Kentucky has never been known for its football program, that's for sure, playing in the shadows of SEC powers Alabama, LSU, Florida, Georgia, and even neighboring Tennessee. However, the Wildcats bottomed out last year by going a perfect 0-8 in SEC play. Now, after a 12-23 “run” under Joker Phillips, UK looks to another new head coach to pull this program out of the doldrums. Good luck, Mr. Stoops.
Kentucky opened last year losing badly to rival Louisville, then after beating Kent State lost in overtime to Western Kentucky. Then SEC play began, and the 'Cats were simply out-matched. They hung fairly tough with a couple of quality opponents in South Carolina and Georgia, but also got blown out on several occasions, losing by 38 points to Florida, 42 to Arkansas (a game mercifully called “final” in the third quarter), 23 to Missouri, 40 to Vanderbilt (!), and 20 to Tennessee.
They canned coach Phillips with two games to go and finished 2-10. Kentucky was lined as an underdog nine times last year, seven times by double-digits, and still could only go 3-7-1 ATS, 1-5-1 ATS in conference. Most of the Wildcats' troubles originated on offense, which managed to score more than 17 points just once in eight SEC contests.
New head coach Mike Stoops, who most recently did some good work as the defensive coordinator at Florida State, inherits a team that returns seven starters on both sides of the ball, including three on each line. But they will have to replace two key people along the offensive line and leading receiver La'Rod King.
The Wildcats open their schedule with homes games against the Hilltoppers, Miami-Ohio, and the 'Ville, but they'll be lucky to win two of those, and might not win any of them. UK then goes through a brutal three-game stretch, taking on Florida, South Carolina, and Alabama on consecutive Saturdays, then later plays at Vandy and at Georgia. And their four home conference home games come against the Gators, the Tide, Mizzou, and Tennessee. The only good news is that they don't have to play LSU or Texas A&M. It's hard to pick out more than four “winnable” games for the 'Cats this season.
SEC Championship Odds at 5Dimes as of July 29
South Carolina +500
Texas A&M +850
Mississippi State +10000