College Football Odds, Picks for Ball State vs. Kentucky

College Football Odds, Picks for Ball State vs. Kentucky article feature image

Photo by Eakin Howard/Getty Images. Pictured: Mark Stoops (Kentucky)

Ball State vs. Kentucky Odds

September. 2
Noon ET
SEC Network
Ball State Odds
-105o / -115u
Kentucky Odds
-105o / -115u
Odds via BetMGM. Get up-to-the-minute NCAAF odds here.

Week 1 is finally upon us, which means it's time for all the offseason speculation and storylines to play out. And Saturday’s matchup between the Ball State Cardinals and Kentucky Wildcats has plenty of both.

So, let’s take a look at the odds and make a pick for Ball State vs. Kentucky.

Check out our NCAAF Betting Hub for more college football previews, predictions, news and analysis.

Ball State Cardinals

Head coach Mike Neu enters his eighth year at the helm for Ball State after coming off a five-win season in 2022 in which the Cardinals largely underperformed. They were able to win five of their last eight, but three of these wins came by four points or fewer.

Offensively, the Cardinals will be led by QB Layne Hatcher, who'll be starting for his third school in just as many seasons after playing for Arkansas State in 2021 and Texas State last season. Hatcher will look to build upon a QBR of just 59.1 with a 4.1% turnover-worthy play percentage during his 2022 season.

The Cardinals' offense will benefit greatly from the addition of WR Malcolm Gillie from the junior college ranks and RB Marquez Cooper (1,331 yards at Kent State in 2022) from the transfer portal. 

However, one of the question marks for this Ball State offense — which ranked 30th nationally in passing play rate — will be the performance of a new-look offense line. The Cardinals return just 67 career starts to an offensive line that ranked 107th in Standard Down Success Rate in 2022. 

These new additions on the offensive line and at quarterback will be tested against a Kentucky defense that's been historically effective under defensive coordinator Brad White. The Wildcats ranked 17th nationally in Success Rate in 2022 and return five key starters. 

The most notable of these defensive returnees are DE Deone Walker and OLB J.J Weaver, who lead a revamped Kentucky front seven that will look to contain Cooper and keep Ball State behind the chains. 

Deone Walker was a beast on the line Saturday night 😤

— (@Cats_Coverage) September 13, 2022

Look for this inability to find consistent success on the ground to force Ball State into more passing-down situations — it ranked 130th in Explosiveness a year ago.

This, combined with the loss of leading receiver Jayshon Jackson, will leave the Ball State offense with plenty of questions in Lexington.

Kentucky Wildcats

The biggest storyline for the Wildcats this offseason has been the addition of QB Devin Leary from NC State and the return of Liam Coen as offensive coordinator after a one-year stint with the Los Angeles Rams in 2022. 

Coen will have plenty to work with, as Kentucky ranks 33rd nationally in net TARP on offense and brings back its top five receivers from a year ago. This new-look, simplified offense will be a breath of fresh air, as Kentucky ranked outside the top 90 in Success Rate, Explosiveness and points per opportunity last season.

Saturday’s matchup with Ball State presents a perfect opportunity for Leary and Coen to get the Kentucky offense on the right track, as the Cardinals are replacing all four starters in the secondary.

Although Ball State’s front seven is the clear strength of its defense, Kentucky is equipped to find success on the ground, as it returns four starters on the offensive line and adds RB Ray Davis, who posted an 82.6 rushing grade at Vanderbilt in 2022.

SEC THOUGHT OF THE DAY: The same OL that Vandy only produced 1.5 yards per carry against Hawaii is the one that Ray Davis ran for over 1000+ yards behind. 1500+ elsewhere. Kentucky got themselves a beast! @unkstreetz@SECbias12@andystowe@14Southeastern

— Blayne Gilmer (@BGilmer18) August 28, 2023

Overall, I expect Kentucky to capitalize on its talented roster and coaching upgrade on offense against a Ball State secondary looking to rebuild.

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Ball State vs Kentucky

Betting Pick & Prediction

Historically, under Mark Stoops, Kentucky has been a team that looks to grind down its opponents on the ground with clock management. However, the addition of Coen and Leary in the offseason will provide a new look for the Wildcats on offense.

In particular, this matchup with an inexperienced Ball State secondary presents an opportunity for Kentucky’s offense to get off to an explosive start. With three manageable games to open the season, I expect Kentucky to make the most of this Week 1 matchup to build confidence on both sides of the ball.

Kentucky is a team that has received a plethora of national praise, but I don’t believe this has been accurately reflected in the market as of yet.

Look for Kentucky to make a statement on both sides of the ball, and for Ball State to continue to struggle against SEC opponents — it's just 4-7 ATS vs. the SEC since 1998.

Pick: Kentucky -26 (Play to -27.5)
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