College Football Betting Odds & Prediction for Kentucky UL-Monroe: Under Remains the Top Pick (Sept. 4)
Mark Cornelison/Collegiate Images/Getty Images. Pictured: Chris Rodriguez.
College Football Betting 1 Odds
Kentucky vs. UL-Monroe
Kentucky and Louisiana-Monroe look to improve in 2021 after enduring underwhelming 2020 campaigns. The Warhawks welcome in a new coaching staff, while the Wildcats are planning to implement a new offense.
The weather will be clear for this game, with some stronger crosswinds forecasted for the second half, but it's unlikely to provide much hinderance as both of these teams look to install their respective offseason modifications.
It's hard to imagine new head coach Terry Bowden is happy with the circumstances surrounding his first game with the team. He's taking over a winless team whose state is dealing with a weather emergency, plus his father — legendary Florida State leader Bobby Bowden — recently passed away.
He's gone as far too say he doesn't feel fully prepared in recent interviews. However, he's kicking off his tenure with a new team playing a difficult road matchup against a Southeaster Conference opponent.
The positives are the facts Louisiana-Monroe returns 75% of its offensive production and 55% of its defense.
The UL-M offense averaged 16.3 points per game in 2020, had a success rate of 37.1% and ranked in the bottom 25 in finishing drives. With the addition of offensive coordinator Rich Rodriguez, the pace should improve from its 25.9 seconds per play a season ago.
Arizona transfer quarterback Rhett Rodriguez has been described as the centerpiece of the offense and been the clear leader in practices. The team hopes he'll be able to improve its 37.4% passing success rate and 5.9 yards per attempt. While at Arizona, Rodriguez completed 51% of his passes and averaged 5.8 yards per attempt. And while he was designated a dual threat as a high-school prospect, he has -2 rushing yards in four seasons.
One player specifically mentioned by Bowden was Jeremiah "Boogie" Knight, who transferred from Akron. He's averaged 19.5 yards per reception during his career and could be an explosive piece of the offense.
Running the ball was not a strength for this team in 2020. The Warhawks' 76.7 yards per game ranked 126th in the nation. They had a success rate of 36.5 percent. The line only generated 2.48 line yards per play, which ranked 10th worst in the country and hope the influx of three offensive-line transfers helps.
The UL-M defense allowed 42 points per game and 6.8 yards per play. The team returns nine starters. However, in recent interviews, Bowden has mentioned this unit is still learning to communicate with each other and work together, as they don't have a definitive leader like the offense does.
As a defensive unit, the Warhawks allowed a 49.2% success rate with a particular weakness in slowing the run. They allowed a 50.5% rushing success rate. Ty Shelby is the main focus of this unit, with seven career sacks and 105 career tackles.
During interviews, Bowden singled out the linebacker unit as the most prepared. This group is powered by Traveion Webster, who led the team in tackles and was an honorable mention on all-conference teams.
The only other noteworthy player is safety Austin Hawley, who was second on the team in tackles and tied for the lead in interceptions with one pick.
Mark Stoops, who enters his ninth season as the head coach of the Wildcats, looks bounce back from a 5-6 campaign. Luckily for Stoops, they won't have to face an SEC-only schedule in the regular season this time around.
The Wildcats return just 34% of their offensive production, but have 71% of their defense back this season.
Kentucky brought in Liam Coen from the Los Angeles Rams in an effort to update its offense. Throughout the offseason, an emphasis has been put on improving significantly from their 121.5 passing yards per game in 2020, which ranked sixth worst in the nation.
Incumbent starting quarterback Terry Wilson left the program to play for New Mexico. That led to Penn State transfer Will Levis being named the starter, prompting Joey Gatewood to leave the program. Levis completed 59.8 of his 102 career pass attempts in his backup role for the Nittany Lions.
Levis is known for his athleticism and rushing ability, coming into this game with 473 career rushing yards and six touchdowns. During his explanation regarding his transfer, Levis expressed his desire to throw more frequently as a reason why he left the program. As a high school prospect, Levis tested as one of the strongest throwers in his class. Levis proving to be a capable vertical passer could be key to unlocking Coen's offensive scheme.
One of the keys to a more explosive passing game will be another transfer in Wan’Dale Robinson. He was utilized in both the running and passing game, averaging 5.3 yards per carry and 10 yards a reception.
Rushing leader Chris Rodriguez returns following his 785 yard, 11 touchdown season where he averaged 6.6 yards per carry. During pregame media, Rodriguez has emphasized the offense will still heavily feature the running game. And with four returning starters along the offensive line, Rodriguez should find opportunities to maintain or improve the team's 48.8% rushing success rate from last season.
The offensive line appears to be improved, with the addition of former LSU starter Dare Rosenthal at left tackle. The right guard is the lone first-time starter. As a unit, they created 3.05 yards per play and allowed a stuff rate of just 15.8%.
This wasn't the strongest Wildcats defense in Stoops' tenure. Kentucky allowed a success rate of 47.4%, conceding 25.9 points per game. Most notable in their struggles creating havoc at a rate of just 13.9 percent.
The Wildcats lost six starters from 2020, including five players who were selected in the NFL draft.
The defensive line allowed 3.05 line yards per attempt last season and stuffed 18.2% of attempts. The three listed starters for this unit only managed 54 total tackles, but the group will be led by Josh Paschal, who has played multiple positions. He has nine career sacks in four seasons with the Wildcats.
The linebacker unit is an area of strength for Kentucky, as it returns two players who made starts for the unit and welcome in an Ole Miss transfer.
Bottom line, this matchup against UL-M shouldn't provide a significant threat for any unit of the defense.
Kentucky vs. UL-Monroe Betting Pick
There's no reason to expect UL-M to provide a meaningful threat to Kentucky. Across the board, the Warhawks appear to be outmatched and a disjointed run up to the season won't help them put together their best performance. However, it's also unreasonable to expect the Wildcats' new offensive scheme to be firing on all cylinders in the opener.
With that in mind, I'm avoiding the 31-point spread, because it's my expectation — despite the offseason talk — this offense will still heavily feature Rodriguez in the first game.
If Kentucky isn't able to score in the 40s, this total appears to be several points too high in my opinion.