A humiliating Week One non-conference loss that threatens the entire season? UK has been there. But in 2019, the Wildcats didn’t go there. UK won its opener 38-24 over a solid Toledo team on a week that saw fellow SEC East members South Carolina, Missouri, and Tennessee take embarrassing non-conference losses that threaten the outlook for each team. Kentucky now seeks to continue that path in week two against a solid, but not-entirely-dangerous Eastern Michigan team.
Kentucky played Eastern Michigan once before, in 2017, in a game in which UK was horribly flat from a loss to Florida the previous week. Aided by a fumble and a blocked punt, Kentucky survived, 24-20, but was outgained by EMU, and generally outplayed by the Eagles.
EMU won their 2019 opener over Coastal Carolina, 30-23. The Eagles boast a veteran dual-threat QB in senior Mike Glass, who passed for 1,024 yards (nine touchdowns to one interception) and rushed for 412 yards (and six more scores) last season. The Eagles replace most of their defensive starters and three fifths of their offensive line this season. They won’t beat themselves, but given Kentucky’s status as a 15 ½ point favorite, they shouldn’t provide a massive challenge.
The Wildcats were uneven but solid in their 38-24 Week One win over Toledo. Terry Wilson threw for nearly 200 yards in the second half, drawing on nice catches from a bevy of receivers. The UK running game used a committee approach to replace Benny Snell, with Kavosiey Smoke showing big-play speed on the edge, Chris Rodriguez running hard between the tackles, and A.J. Rose doing some of both. Kentucky’s defense struggled early, but rebounded to sack Toledo’s QBs four times and force a late interception.
Kentucky did struggle with ball security fumbling the ball four times and losing two fumbles. Toledo’s running quarterback gave UK’s front seven fits, and EMU has doubtlessly reviewed that game tape a time or three.
Kentucky’s special teams were superb, with punter Max Duffy picking up where he left off, and kicker Chance Poore making a 46-yard field goal, longer than UK connected on in the entire 2018 season.
Kentucky will benefit from a week to work out the cobwebs, and should come out much stronger in their second game than the first. Again, a running QB presents certain defensive challenges, but expect the Wildcats to overcome them.
UK 41, EMU 20
After last week, maybe we should just predict the bottom half of the league to lose.
Missouri 42, West Virginia 17
South Carolina 42, Charleston Southern 7
Purdue 42, Vanderbilt 35
Clemson 27, Texas A&M 21
Mississippi State 38, Southern Mississippi 24
Alabama 63, New Mexico State 0
Georgia 59, Murray State 7
BYU 22, Tennessee 21
LSU 38, Texas 17
Auburn 42, Tulane 14
Florida 49, Tennessee-Martin 7
Arkansas 21, Mississippi 20
Joe Cox is contributing editor for KySportsStyle.com Magazine. He grew up in Letcher County and Bell County and has written eight books. His most recent, "A Fine Team Man: Jackie Robinson and the Lives He Changed," was released in February 2019 and can be ordered on Amazon or at many local bookstores. Joe is an attorney and lives in Logan County with his wife and children. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.