After sweating through a 24-17 win over Southern Miss in Week 1, the Kentucky Wildcats can rest easier as they host Eastern Kentucky in Week 2.
Of course, if recent FBS vs. FCS games show, a win is no longer guaranteed (looking squarely at you, Baylor).
KENTUCKY PREDICTIONS: Southern Miss |
The SEC Country Kentucky team of Joe Mussatto and Kyle Tucker will fearlessly give their game predictions each week, putting their confidence and reputation to the test to see who is the sharpest of the sharps. Before we get into the Kentucky-Eastern Kentucky predictions, let’s see how Joe and Kyle performed with their Week 1 predictions.
Joe Mussatto (3-2)
Last week: Joe hit on Stephen Johnson rushing yards (O/U 100, taking the under), Drew Barker passing yards (O/U 75, taking the under) and forced turnovers (O/U 1.5, taking the over). Joe missed on Benny Snell rushing touchdowns (O/U 2.5, taking the over) and the game prediction itself. The spread was Kentucky -10, and Joe picked a push. Kentucky didn’t cover in a 7-point win.
Kyle Tucker (2-3)
Last week: Kyle correctly took the under on Stephen Johnson rushing yards and the over Kentucky forced turnovers, but was incorrect on everything else. Tough week, Kyle. We’ll see if you can rebound.
Kentucky-Eastern Kentucky predictions, spread
Benny Snell rushing yards: Over/under 125.5 yards
Kyle: Over. He surpassed that total four times in 2016: against New Mexico State (136), Mississippi State (128), Missouri (192) and Austin Peay (152) despite sharing carries with Boom Williams. Now he’ll be angry about rushing for just 67 yards against Southern Miss in his sophomore season opener. And he’ll be facing an FCS defense that allowed 118 rushing yards and 3 touchdowns against Western Kentucky’s running backs last week.
Joe: Under. For a couple of reasons. First, I think offensive coordinator Eddie Gran is going to open up the offense a little bit more than he did in Week 1. Stephen Johnson only threw 20 passes against Southern Miss and wasn’t able to get into a rhythm with his receivers. The Cats might not want to show their hand before facing South Carolina, but at the same time, I don’t think they want to go into that game without having a sense of what the offense can handle. Second, there won’t be a need to burn Snell with a big workload against an FCS opponent. Sihiem King should see more carries and I’d be surprise if redshirt freshman back A.J. Rose stayed on the sidelines in this one. Snell might not have trouble rushing for more than 125 yards, I just don’t think UK will need him to.
Stephen Johnson passing yards: Over/under 200.5 yards
Kyle: Over. He averaged 199.2 passing yards over the last 10 games of 2016, including four games over that number: New Mexico State (310), Mississippi State (292), Missouri (208) and Louisville (338). On a bum knee, attempting 9 passes, he threw for 101 yards and 2 TD against the Cats’ only FCS opponent last year, Austin Peay.
Joe: Over. For all of the reasons listed above. Johnson was 11 of 20 for 176 passing yards in the opener. He missed a few deep balls last week, but I think he’ll connect with Garrett Johnson or freshman Isaiah Epps on a couple this week. Kentucky’s offensive line and running back depth, at least through Week 1, isn’t as good as it was last year. The run game will likely have a strong return against a lesser opponent this week, but why not let Johnson air it out to build his confidence?
Denzil Ware sacks: Over/under 1.5
Kyle: Under. He has 7 ½ sacks in 26 career games and has recorded more than 1 just twice in that span. Ware had a monster game last week against Southern Miss: a sack, forced fumble, 2 fumble recoveries and a touchdown return. The odds are still against him recording multiple sacks. Eastern Kentucky only gave up one sack last week against Western Kentucky.
Joe: Under. There’s really no basis for this other than it’s hard to get more than 1 sack per game. Ware couldn’t be blocked last week, and that’s why he was named SEC Defensive Lineman of the Week (even though he’s more of a linebacker). And even in that performance he had just 1 sack. But no matter what the stats look like, I’d expect him to be disruptive once again.
C.J. Conrad receiving touchdowns: Over/under 0.5
Kyle: Over. The junior now has 6 career touchdowns and is coming off his best game as a Wildcat: 3 catches, 97 yards and a score last week against Southern Miss. While he and Johnson struggled to connect last fall, it looks like the 6-foot-5, 245-pound tight end might become the QB’s favorite target this season.
Joe: Over. The stars have finally aligned in the Johnson to Conrad connection. Maybe one game doesn’t wipe out out last season when Johnson struggled to get Conrad the ball, but both said they worked on the connection all summer. Conrad could become Johnson’s go-to target in the passing game. He found the end zone once, almost twice last week. Look for him to find it again Saturday .
Kentucky (OFF) vs. Eastern Kentucky (OFF)
(According to MyBookie.AG, the game Saturday does not have a line. Kyle and Joe will get points for simply picking the winner correctly.)
Kyle: Kentucky 48, Eastern Kentucky 10 — This one feels like it’ll be a lot closer to the first meeting in this series (a 52-7 Kentucky win in 1998) than the last (a 34-27 Cats victory in overtime after trailing by 14 with 7 minutes, 39 seconds to go in 2015). Kentucky has won 8 of 11 regular-season games going back to last year, while Eastern Kentucky has lost 9 of 12.
Joe: Kentucky 45, Eastern Kentucky 13 — Gran went with the cliche that Kentucky is only worried about itself and not its opponent on Saturday . It makes sense. Kentucky could play sloppy and get the win, but the Cats have a lot to clean up before their SEC schedule starts. Look for more cohesion on the offensive line and for the offense to experiment with its skill players (Lynn Bowden?). The defense should have no trouble holding Eastern Kentucky to less than 20 points.
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