For Coach Mark Stoops and the Kentucky Wildcats you couldn’t have scripted a worse start to the 2016 season than what happened last Saturday. Ever since the end of the 2015, the coaching staff has preached one word, “FINISH”, in regards to fixing late game collapses.
Unfortunately, this looked like the same old Kentucky as the Cats built a 35-10 lead over Southern Mississippi late in the second quarter, only to be outscored 34-0 the rest of the way and were upset by the Golden Eagles 44-35.
Kentucky Wildcats at Florida Gators Preview and SEC Predictions
Adding insult to injury was the fact the Cats were out-gained 520-409 overall and 261-22 by USM in the second half under the direction of offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson, the same Dawson who Stoops fired after the end of the 2015 season.
Running an amazing 96 plays to only 50 for Kentucky, the Cats defense wore down and had no answer for quarterback Nick Mullens and running back Ito Smith. The Wildcats have been outscored 58-0 in the second half of their last two games, that will not cut it when you are trying to get six wins and a bowl game for the first time since 2010.
Quarterback Drew Barker did some nice things under new offensive coordinators Eddie Gran and Darrin Hinshaw, throwing for 313 yards and four touchdowns. However, Barker only had 36 yards in the second half and was sacked four times.
Kentucky at Florida- (3:30 CBS)
The Wildcats’ reward after blowing the game against Southern Miss is a trip to “The Swamp” and a chance to end the longest successive losing streak in college football which currently stands at 29. The last time Kentucky beat Florida was November 15, 1986 when the Cats won 10-3. To put it in perspective Ronald Reagan was President and “Crocodile Dundee” was the number one movie at the box office.
Going back even further, the last time Kentucky won in Gainesville was November 17, 1979, winning 31-3. Only eight of those 29 losses have been by single digits with results of 65-0 and 73-7 littering the series history.
The last two seasons have been a different story. In 2014, the Cats were a missed delay of game call and a blown coverage from finally ending the streak, but ultimately losing 36-30 in triple overtime. Last season, the Gators won a defensive struggle 14-9 in which Kentucky had numerous chances but could never get the ball in the end zone.
Like most of the SEC, Jim McElwain’s club did not play well in beating Massachusetts 24-7 in a game that was only a three-point spread after three quarters.
Quarterback Luke Del Rio threw for 256 yards and two touchdowns in his debut and should get better with more playing time.
If Kentucky plays like they did in the first half against Southern Miss, then this could be the year the streak is broken. They need to control the ball with the running game behind Boom Williams and Jo Jo Kemp. Kentucky has come so close in recent seasons to ending the streak, but in the end it will stretch to its third decade as UK will start a season 0-2 for the first time since 1996.
Last week the old Krystal Ball went 8-5, and much like the SEC will hope for better things in week two.
Nicholls State at Georgia- (NOON- SEC Network)
The Bulldogs welcomed back Nick Chubb who ran for 222 yards in their big win over North Carolina.
The hope here is to get a lot of snaps for quarterbacks Jacob Eason and Greyson Lambert and no one gets hurt. Kirby Smart will start 2-0 down in Athens.
Prairie View at Texas A&M- (NOON SEC Network)
The Aggies blew a 15-point lead and then held on to beat UCLA in overtime 31-24. This will be the first ever meeting with the Panthers who are only 50 miles away from College Station.
Texas A&M 48-13
Western Kentucky at Alabama- (3:30 ESPN2)
For those who thought the defending National Champions would have a down year in 2016, Nick Saban’s club answered with an emphatic no. A 52-6 demolition over a good USC club has put the nation on notice that the road to the championship will once again run through Tuscaloosa.
They will face a very good Hilltopper squad who is the favorite to win Conference USA. Jeff Brohm’s club easily handled Rice 46-14, as new quarterback Mike White threw for 517 yards and three touchdowns.
This could be a lot closer than most people thing, especially if the Crimson Tide are looking ahead to Ole Miss next week.
Wofford at Mississippi- (4:00 SEC Network)
The Rebels nearly pulled off a shocker against Florida State on Monday night racing out to a 28-6 lead before faltering in the second half losing 45-34.The Terriers kicked off the season by rushing for 346 yards in beating Tennessee Tech 21-7.
Hugh Freeze’s club could have a let down after the FSU game and looking ahead to Alabama but should still win easily.
Ole Miss 45-17
Middle Tennessee at Vanderbilt- (4:00 SEC Network)
The Commodores let one slip away, losing 13-10 to South Carolina on a last second field goal. The Blue Raiders crushed Alabama A&M 55-0 behind quarterback Brent Stockstill. These two teams played last season in Murphreesboro with Vandy pulling out a 17-13 win. Expect a similar game this time around with the same result.
South Carolina at Mississippi State- (7:00 ESPN2)
The schedule makers were not kind to Will Muschamp’s club in his first season in Columbia sending the Gamecocks on the road for their first two games, both in the SEC.
USC came from behind to beat Vandy and faces a Bulldog club, who had as bad a week as Kentucky blowing a 17-point lead in losing to South Alabama 21-20. Playing at home Dan Mullen’s club should get back on track.
Mississippi State 24-14
Arkansas at TCU- (7:00 ESPN)
The Razorbacks rallied to beat Louisiana Tech 21-20 last week while the Horned Frogs beat South Dakota State 59-41. This has the makings of a high scoring affair, but in the end Gary Patterson’s team has more weapons.
Arkansas State at Auburn- (7:30 SEC Network)
The Tigers played Clemson much tougher than anyone thought possible and had a chance to win the game late. Guz Malzahn went through four quarterbacks in week one, and a game against an over-matched Red Wolves squad may help to pick a starter.
Jacksonville State at LSU- (7:30 ESPNU)
It is a new season but the same problems for Les Miles’ club, not being able to move the football or score points. Leonard Fournette ran for 138 yards, but quarterback Brandon Harris struggled in a 16-14 loss to Wisconsin. The game on Saturday against the Gamecocks will not be easy as this squad made it to the FCS Championship game last season.
If the Tigers can’t find some offense, this will be a tough game but LSU rarely loses in Death Valley.
Eastern Michigan at Missouri- (7:30 SEC Network)
As expected, the Tigers got off to a rough start losing to West Virginia 26-11 in Barry Odom’s first game as coach. While questions remain about the offense, there is little doubt the Tiger defense will be able to stop the Eagles.
Virginia Tech vs. Tennessee- (8:00 ABC- Game played in Bristol, Tennessee)
For pure spectacle, this game played at the Bristol Motor Speedway will be one of the most unique in history. With an expected crowd of over 150,000 it would set the attendance record for a college football game.
The Volunteers barely resembled the SEC East favorites last week having to rally to send the game against Appalachian State into overtime before winning 20-13. Butch Jones’ club must get more consistent performances from Joshua Dobbs and Jalen Hurd.
New Hokies coach Justin Fuente was successful in his debut beating Liberty 36-13 but was far from convincing. When it is all over the atmosphere maybe more of what is remembered than the actual game. Tennessee is the better team and they will win.
That is it for this week thanks for reading, see you next time.