By KEITH TAYLOR, Kentucky Today
What must Kentucky do for an encore?
The Wildcats are coming off their most successful seasons in more than four decades and a favorable schedule pinpoints to eight, possibly nine wins depending on how the football bounces in a couple of marginal games.
The good news is that fact that eight of the team’s 12 games will be at Kroger Field this season, including home encounters against league foes Florida, Tennessee and instate rival Louisville. The road encounters are at Mississippi State, South Carolina, Georgia and Vanderbilt.
At first glance, seven wins are very attainable and eight are equally possible. I’m going to go with a 9-3 finish this year and the following is a breakdown of what the crystal ball forecasts during the upcoming season.
Toledo at Kentucky
Teams from the Mid-American Conference have traditionally fared well against the Wildcats, but this time things are much different. Look for the Wildcats to open strong and start building on last year’s success. Kentucky 34, Toledo 17
Eastern Michigan at Kentucky
The Eagles made things interesting in a 24-20 loss to the Wildcats in 2017 and are hungry after dropping a close loss to Georgia Southern in the Camellia Bowl. Like Toledo, the Eagles will provide somewhat of a challenge, but the Wildcats will prevail.
Kentucky 42, Eastern Michigan 21
Florida at Kentucky
This won has revenge written all over it after the Wildcats defeated the Gators last season in Gainesville to break a 31-game losing streak. The routs of the past are over, but can the Wildcats do it again? It will be hard in the team’s Southeastern Conference opener.
Florida 24, Kentucky 21
Kentucky at Mississippi State
The Bulldogs will be without Nick Fitzgerald, but beating Mississippi State in Starkville won’t be easy. The Wildcats have proven they can win close games as of late and they should prevail in this one.
Kentucky 28, Mississippi State 21.
Kentucky at South Carolina
The Wildcats have dominated the series between the two SEC East rivals and won the past two meetings in Columbia. A third time won’t be as easy as Will Muschamp has his system installed and Jake Bentley returns at quarterback.
South Carolina 27, Kentucky 24.
Arkansas at Kentucky
The Razorbacks are in full blown rebuilding mode and still trying to find their way back to the upper echelon in the SEC West. Kentucky should dominate this one in convincing fashion.
Kentucky 41, Arkansas 20
Kentucky at Georgia
The Bulldogs are the cream of the crop in the SEC East and until someone can prove otherwise, Georgia is hard to beat, especially at home. Kirby Smart has the Bulldogs primed to make a run at the SEC title. Georgia 32, Kentucky 17
Missouri at Kentucky
No Drew Lock at quarterback could be good news for opponents, but the Tigers wasted no time finding a replacement and former Clemson signal caller Kelly Bryant could keep Missouri flying high but Cats have the home field advantage in this one.
Kentucky 24, Missouri 21
Tennessee at Kentucky
In a rebuilding campaign, the Volunteers defeated the Wildcats last year in Knoxville and are equally capable this season. It will be close again, but the Wildcats could have the edge playing at home.
Kentucky 21, Tennessee 17
Kentucky at Vanderbilt
The Commodores are good enough to beat Kentucky but haven’t been able to do so much lately, even though the two teams are evenly matched. Kentucky will need this one to stay in the conversation for a major bowl berth.
Kentucky 28, Vandy 13
Tennessee-Martin at Kentucky
The Wildcats shouldn’t have a hard time with the Ohio Valley Conference program that is seeking a return to upper echelon of the league following a down season a year ago. Kentucky’s path to a major bowl is well established after this win.
Kentucky 42, UT-Martin 10
Louisville at Kentucky
The Cardinals fell apart at the seams last year and are rebuilding under Scott Satterfield, who has revamped the program from top to bottom following Bobby Petrino’s disastrous second stint.
Kentucky 38, Louisville 14
Final record: 9-3.
Keith Taylor is sports editor for Kentucky Today. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or twitter @keithtaylor21.