SHANE SHACKLEFORD: A Fearless Game-by-Game Forecast for 2017 Football Wildcats
Fall is in the air. That means it’s time for this writer to humbly offer his predictions on how the Kentucky Wildcats will fare on the gridiron this season.
Last year, I saw the Cats in my crystal ball finish 7-5, right on the nickel. Can it be done again? Here’s what I think.
Game 1: @ Southern Miss -- Tough environment in Hattiesburg, but the Golden Eagles are replacing several starters including their leading passer and rusher. Cats come ready to play. Prediction: UK by 14. (1-0)
Game 2: Eastern Kentucky -- Colonels come ready to play, but too much UK. Prediction: UK by 20. (2-0)
Game 3: @ South Carolina -- Gamecocks are vastly improved from last year and Columbia is a very tough place to play in the SEC. Very physical game for both teams. Cats make the plays late and find a way.
Prediction: UK by 3. (3-0)
Game 4: Florida -- Can the Cats exorcise the demons of years past and defeat the Gators? UK has gained ground on Florida, but Florida is still Florida unfortunately. Prediction: Florida by 10. (3-1)
Game 5: Eastern Michigan -- Kentucky has too much firepower for the Eagles. Prediction: UK by 24. (4-1)
Game 6: Missouri -- In my opinion, this game can turn the season either way. Mizzou will be improved, but so will Kentucky, especially on defense and special teams. Here’s saying the Cats find a way again. Prediction: UK by 6. (5-1)
Game 7: @ Mississippi State -- The Bulldogs are the thorn in the Cats SEC West side. Starkville is a tough place to play historically for the Cats. And I hate cowbells. Prediction: MSU by 8. (5-2)
Game 8: Tennessee -- Vols are rebuilding in the skill positions. Cats are playing to get to six wins early and bowl eligibility taken care of. Tight game in the Big Supermarket in Lexington. Prediction: UK by 7. (6-2)
Game 9: Ole Miss -- NCAA problems abound in Oxford. Rebels will probably lack focus. Cats won’t. Prediction: UK by 10. (7-2)
Game 10: @ Vanderbilt -- As usual, very tough and sloppy game in Nashville. Commodores won’t lie down, but neither will UK.
Prediction: UK by 3. (8-2)
Game 11: @ Georgia -- The Cats dream season hits a snag in Athens. My pick to win the SEC East is too much at home. Prediction: UGA by 13. (8-3)
Game 12: Louisville -- The Cards show up with vengeance on their minds. Cats are playing for a New Year's Day bowl. Once again, kicker Austin MacGinnis decides it late for the Cats. Prediction: UK by 1. (9-3)
So there you have it. The Cats finish at 9-3, 5-3 in SEC play. If this happens, prepare for the Cats to be bowling somewhere awesome and on New Year's Day!
Shane Shackleford is a retired teacher and coach residing in Speedwell, TN. You can reach him by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Facebook @shaneshackleford or Twitter @shack_daddy_1.