College Football Odds, Picks, Futures: Will Kentucky Hit Its Win Total?
Joe Robbins/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images. Pictured: The Kentucky Wildcats.
Another Friday, another future.
While we are still a ways away from the start of the college football season, it’s never too early to add futures to the portfolio as the calendar moves closer to the start of the season with each passing day.
I’ll be releasing a breakdown of my favorite futures every Friday leading up to the season. I will also be tweeting them out as I add them @kmalstrom, as well as putting them in my Action App profile.
So far this season, I’ve highlighted my favorite teams' season win totals, divisions and conference futures and Heisman pieces.
The last time we saw the Kentucky Wildcats, they were losing to 15-seed St. Peter’s in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. I’m here to instill hope into the Wildcat fanbase as they gear up to prove that last year’s football season was no fluke.
While Kentucky’s second-place finish in the SEC East was one of the bigger surprises of last season, it looks poised to repeat its success with continuity on both sides of the ball.
On the offensive side, Kentucky brings back an Offensive TARP of 71% after finishing last season seventh in Offensive Success Rate, 59th in Finishing Drives, and 40th in Havoc Allowed.
Will Levis will look to take the next step as one of the SEC’s best quarterbacks. Levis finished last season with 2,826 passing yards, 24 touchdowns and 13 interceptions with a 66% completion percentage while also adding 376 yards and nine touchdowns on the ground.
— CFBTalkDaily (@CFBTalkDaily) June 21, 2022
Gone is star receive Wan’Dale Robinson, who is now a member of the New York Giants. While replacing a No. 1 target is never easy, Kentucky will look to fill the void with Virginia Tech transfer Tayvion Robinson and a highly-touted freshmen tandem of Barion Brown and Dane Key.
Tight end Keaton Upshaw will also look to get into the mix after missing all of 2021 due to injury.
If It Isn’t Broke, Still Fix It?
While Kentucky’s offense proved to be above average in most metrics, prepare to watch a new scheme as head coach Mark Stoops brings in a new offensive coordinator in former San Francisco 49ers quarterback coach Rich Scangarello.
Coming from the sought-after Sean McVay/Kyle Shanahan coaching tree, Scangarello will focus on the run to open the field for Levis to punish condensed defenses.
This turns the focus to returning running back Chris Rodriguez Jr., who comes into the season 1,134 yards away from breaking Benny Snell Jr.’s Kentucky career rushing record. A physical back, Rodriguez ran over opposing defenses to the tune of 1,379 yards and nine touchdowns last season.
While the offense was the highlight of Kentucky’s season last year, the defense kept pace with top-50 ranks in Success Rate, Havoc and Finishing Drives.
Bringing back an astonishing TARP number of 82%, we can expect Kentucky’s defensive success to continue.
While Josh Paschal and Marquan McCall moved on to the NFL, they will be replaced by former five-star Justin Rogers at nose guard with four-star prospects Octavious Oxendine, Josaih Hayes and Tre’vonn Rybka joining up front.
Kentucky’s deep at the linebacker position, so it will be able to rotate players in and out and allow them to stay fresh throughout the game in its 3-4 defense.
While the defensive line and linebacker groups will see some continuity, the secondary is a key focus. The cornerback position, in particular, brings some cause for concern.
Suffering from a lack of depth, junior Carrington Valentine will be paired with transfers Keidron Smith from Ole Miss and Zion Childress from Texas State in a critical position. Pressure up front will be more important than ever to limit secondary exposure.
Verdict on Wildcats
While Georgia is still in a class of its own in the SEC East, Kentucky is knocking on the door with experience on both sides of the ball and a revamped offense to give elite defenses fits.
Instead, I will be on their season win total over.
While juiced to the over of 7.5 and climbing up to 8.5 at some books, I’m fine with tying my money up over the course of the season, as Kentucky has a legitimate shot of repeating a nine-win regular season.
If it can down a rebuilding Florida after the Gators take on Utah, Kentucky can start 4-0 before a date with Ole Miss.
There’s a chance Kentucky’s first loss comes on the road against Tennessee. Assuming Georgia takes care of business, this gives room for two more losses against any of Ole Miss, South Carolina, Mississippi State, Missouri, Vanderbilt and Louisville.
Pick: Kentucky Over 7.5 Wins (-160)