SDS Roundtable: Kentucky's over/under is 6.5 wins. How many games will the Cats win in 2020?
Each SDS roundtable discussion involves the SDS staff providing individual answers and comments to questions covering a wide range of sports and non-sports topics. In this discussion, we ask the question: Kentucky has been to a bowl game in 4 consecutive years. The program record is 5. Can the Wildcats match it? The over/under win projection doesn’t leave a lot of room for error, but are you really going to bet against Mark Stoops at this point?
A bit of background …
The chip is still there. Maybe as big as ever.
Kentucky just completed its best 4-year stretch since the Bear Bryant era and some aren’t convinced the program has turned the corner.
The Cats’ over/under win projection is a modest 6.5. That’s a lone bad bounce from missing out on a bowl. Fortunately, Mark Stoops uses disrespect to fuel the program. So how many games will Kentucky win in 2020? That’s something we’ve been discussing for a while.
Jon Cooper, SDS co-founder
I’m done betting against Kentucky and Mark Stoops. The Cats coaching staff has added talent on the roster to the point of competing for the SEC East, and Terry Wilson is coming back. The last time Kentucky didn’t win 7 games in a season? You’d have to go back to 2015. It’s been a remarkable few years for UK football.
Stoops and Co. will find a way to get 7 wins in 2020. Eastern Michigan, Kent State, South Carolina, Eastern Illinois, Vanderbilt, Missouri, Tennessee, Mississippi State and Louisville are all winnable games.
Connor O’Gara, Senior national columnist
Over, over, over. Did I say I liked the “over” enough? No? OK, give me the “over.”
Give me the Cats to rise above expectations yet again. For a team coming off an 8-win season that ranks No. 25 in percentage of returning production (via ESPN’s Bill Connelly), I’m all over the idea of Kentucky getting back to 8 wins. I understand Lynn Bowden is gone. You know who isn’t? Nearly that entire offensive line who blocked for him, as well as a backfield that was all sorts of underrated. And defensively, the Cats return 78% of their production. That’s from a unit that quietly finished No. 14 in scoring in 2019.
The other thing working in Kentucky’s favor is the return of Terry Wilson. He was poised for a major improvement in Year 2 as a starter until he suffered that devastating season-ending injury in September. His breakout year can still happen in 2020.
I look at that schedule and I only see 3 games in which Kentucky will be a somewhat significant underdog: at Florida, at Auburn and vs. Georgia. There’s nobody else who should be able to run right over Mark Stoops’ squad. That includes a Louisville team that I’m high on.
I feel like sooner or later, Vegas has to adjust to Kentucky having a much higher floor than what it once had.
Neil Blackmon, Florida columnist
Mark Stoops is the Rodney Dangerfield of the Power 5. He gets no respect.
What he has built at Kentucky — a more talented roster than they’ve ever had and a team that is physical and doesn’t beat itself — is marvelous. Betting the under here means you are doubting a staff that won 8 games with a single-wing offense and a wide receiver playing quarterback a season ago. That’s a silly bet.
The schedule is menacing, which prevents a real run at 9 wins but there are 7 or 8 Ws on the schedule to be sure, depending on what happens in late October with a tough road trip to Missouri and then a home tilt against Tennessee (the Vols have had Kentucky’s number for a century). As long as they split those, a 6-win season is more or less out of play.
With Terry Wilson back under center, good playmaking talent and an offensive line that returns more starts than any group in the SEC, this is going to be a good offensive football team. Stoops will coax enough out of them on defense to get to at least 7 wins.
Michael Bratton, News editor
This is the easiest pick on the board, pick the over while you can.
Kentucky will have a much-improved defense in 2020 and after having virtually no quarterback depth to speak of last season (and still winning 8 games), the Wildcats will be loaded at the position if Joey Gatewood is eligible after transferring in from Auburn.
The SEC remains a line of scrimmage league and Kentucky should be great on both sides of the ball in the trenches.
I wouldn’t rule out Kentucky hitting the over before November.
Adam Spencer, Newsletter editor
I think 6.5 wins as the over/under is a bit disrespectful to Kentucky. I see 7 wins without much trouble. Then there’s a winnable game at Mizzou and a toss-up game at Tennessee.
This could be a 9-win team, even after losing Lynn Bowden Jr. and some other key pieces. However, a lot will depend on how healthy QB Terry Wilson looks in his return from an ACL injury.
Still, I believe in Mark Stoops, so this seems like a pretty easy over for me.
Chris Wright, Executive editor
I think Kentucky will win 7 games, possibly 8, in the regular season, but I’m not sure it’s as much of a slam dunk as some of my colleagues.
Kentucky’s margin is typically thin and that won’t change in 2020.
Even during its breakthrough, 10-win season in 2018, the Cats were just +14 in point differential against the SEC. Last year, they finished in the red and the only 3 teams they beat went a combined 4-22 in the league.
Most expect the offense to be better in 2020, if for no other reason than Terry Wilson will be back under center. It’ll be different, certainly, but Lynn Bowden led the Cats to 35+ points in each of the final 4 games. The 2018 team with Wilson never did that. Heck, that was the longest such 35-point streak since the 2007 team hit that mark in the first 5 games.
In other words, don’t just automatically assume it will be better. Bowden was spectacular.
As much love as Stoops as received, rightfully so in most cases, the one area the Cats need to improve most is on the road. They still struggle. They are 5-7 in road SEC games the past 3 seasons — and 2 of those victories were at Vanderbilt.
This year, they’re at Florida and Auburn early. But then they travel to Missouri and Tennessee. Can they win in Knoxville? Stoops was in high school the last time Kentucky won at Tennessee (1984).
Ultimately, the rest of the schedule is quite manageable and sets up nicely to make a run at 8 wins. But if Mississippi State’s K.J. Costello goes nuts and throws for 450 yards, or Louisville’s Micale Cunningham atones for last season’s abysmal showing in Lexington, there could be a surprise loss or 2 that could derail the feel-good movement.
- LSU’s over/under is 9.5 wins. How many games will Tigers win?
- Alabama’s over/under is 10.5 wins. How many games will Tide win?
- Auburn’s over/under is 8.5 wins. How many games will Tigers win?
- Texas A&M’s over/under is 9.5 wins. How many games will Aggies win?
- Who wins more games in 2020: Ole Miss or Mississippi State?
- Florida’s over/under is 9.5 wins. How many games will Gators win?
- Georgia’s over/under is 10.5 wins. How many games will Dawgs win?
- Tennessee’s over/under is 7.5 wins. How many games will Vols win?