We're still a few months away from the return of college football, but the anticipation is slowly building across the country with spring practices in the books. There's plenty of optimism surrounding the Kentucky football team as NC State transfer Devin Leary takes the reins from Will Levis. Below, we continue our college football odds series with an over/under win total prediction for the Kentucky Wildcats.
Kentucky got off to a hot start last September, blowing out Miami (OH) and Youngstown State, surviving against Northern Illinois and pulling off a surprising upset win over Florida by double digits. What's more—the Wildcats managed to shut down Anthony Richardson in The Swamp, limiting him to 147 scoreless yards with a 40.0 completion percentage. As a result, Kentucky climbed into the AP Top 10 with playoff aspirations, despite the absence of suspended standout running back Chris Rodriguez Jr.
But those dreams of competing for a national title were quickly dashed in October, as Ole Miss forced two turnovers in the final three minutes of regulation to pull off a 22-19 victory over Kentucky. Insult met injury as well, as Will Levis injured his foot late in the game and missed the next game against South Carolina. The Gamecocks advanced 24-14, with game-altering plays on special teams and consistent pressure on freshman quarterback Kaiya Sheron.
Kentucky briefly got back on track with a 27-17 upset win against 16th-ranked Mississippi State, as Will Levis returned to action with an efficient performance, while Chris Rodriguez Jr. ran wild with a season-high 196 yards and two touchdowns on a career-high 31 carries to halt a two-game losing streak.
But under the national spotlight in a highly anticipated matchup at No. 3 Tennessee, Kentucky fell apart like a two-dollar suitcase. Jalin Hyatt torched the Wildcats' defense with five receptions for 138 yards and two scores, while Will Levis folded under heavy pressure, throwing for a season-low 98 yards with three interceptions.
The Wildcats capped off the final month of the season with wins over Missouri and Louisville, a hard-fought defeat against top-ranked Georgia, and an embarrassing loss to 17-point underdog Vanderbilt that snapped the Commodores' 26-game losing streak within the SEC. And with star players sitting out, the Wildcats were shut out 21-0 by Iowa in the Music City Bowl.
After losing star quarterback Will Levis, running back Chris Rodriguez Jr., and cornerback Carrington Valentine to the 2023 NFL Draft—along with a handful of undrafted free agents—can the Wildcats overcome some obstacles and contend in the SEC? Without further ado, let's take a look at Kentucky's over/under odds.
Here are the latest college football odds, courtesy of FanDuel
College Football Odds: Kentucky Over/Under Win Total
Over 6.5 Wins: -162
Under 6.5 Wins: +132
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Why Kentucky Could Hit The Under
The Wildcats were left off of our list of way-too-early college football playoff rankings heading into the summer and they'll face some daunting tests this season, including four ranked opponents.
While they won't have to deal with LSU, Texas A&M, or Ole Miss—three of the six programs with the best odds to win the SEC, virtually all of the Wildcats' opponents present some legitimate challenges.
Georgia and Alabama are loaded with talent and have realistic playoff aspirations. Tennessee still has high hopes, with prolific weapons on offense, despite the departures of Hendon Hooker, Jalin Hyatt, and Cedric Tillman.
Florida also has some big shoes to fill on offense, but the team seems to be in good hands with Billy Napier. Mississippi State has lost some key pieces on defense, but the offense remains strong. And South Carolina has its sights set on taking a leap after wrapping up last season with back-to-back wins over top 10 contenders in Tennessee and Clemson.
Moreover, only three of Kentucky's opponents have lower implied win totals.
Aside from the tough schedule, the biggest factor in breaking down Kentucky's over/under prediction is determining how well the Wildcats improved their offensive line, which was one of the worst units in all of college football last season.
Kentucky has added seven offensive linemen through the transfer portal. Two of them are projected starters in Northern Illinois transfer Marques Cox at left tackle and USC transfer Courtland Ford at right tackle.
Why Kentucky Could Hit The Over
The Wildcats should be playing with a chip on their shoulders after the way their 2022 season ended. A healthy bulk of their starters are still returning on both sides of the ball. But as indicated above, the biggest factor in evaluating Kentucky's over/under win total hinges on the progress of the offensive line.
Despite the key departures on offense, there's plenty of optimism with the return of offensive coordinator Liam Coen, who led the Wildcats' offense in 2021 before taking on the same role for the Los Angeles Rams last year. Quarterback Devin Leary also inherits one of the SEC's top receiving corps, led by Freshman All-Americans Barion Brown and Dane Key.
The Wildcats also retain most of their standout defenders after finishing last season 11th in total defense, 13th best in points allowed, and seventh against the pass. At 6-6, 348 pounds, Deone Walker should continue to anchor Kentucky's defense, with help from senior linebacker D'Eryk Jackson, edge rusher and team captain J.J. Weaver, and sophomore safety Jordan Lovett.
Final Kentucky Over/Under Pick & Prediction
As the year progresses, health, depth, and leadership will be key factors for Mark Stoops and Kentucky's over/under odds. But based on their history, we like the Wildcats' chances. In 10 seasons under Stoops, Kentucky's 66-59, with seven consecutive bowl appearances. The Wildcats are currently tied for second-to-last in the odds to win the SEC but they're well-equipped to overcome the obstacles on their schedule and it's a seemingly safe bet to take the over on Kentucky's over/under prediction.
Final Kentucky Over/Under Pick & Prediction: Over 6.5 Wins: -162