As everyone knows, the two best teams in SEC football this year have been Alabama and Georgia. What you may not have noticed, based on overall record, is that the third best team in the conference right now is Kentucky. Out to a fast 5-1 start, the Wildcats have been fairly impressive in the young season, led by running back Benny Snell Jr., who’s currently tied for sixth in the SEC in rushing yards with 523. On the whole, they have been one of the more surprising stories in the first half of the college football season.
While it’s hard to knock them for their quality start, it’s not unfair to assess how much we should put into it based on stats and schedule. Let’s start with how their first six games have gone on the season:
Week 1: W @ Southern Mississippi 24-17
Week 2: W vs. Eastern Kentucky 27-16
Week 3: W @ South Carolina 23-13
Week 4: L vs. 20. Florida 28-27
Week 5: W vs. Eastern Michigan 24-20
Week 6: W vs. Missouri 40-34
Looking at it closely, they’ve only played two really quality opponents in those six games: South Carolina and Florida; they went .500 in those games. Missouri has been horrible, and the other three are out-of-conference opponents who any decent SEC team should be able to beat. To sum it up, they’ve won the games they should have won, and split the toss-ups. Their schedule down the stretch will be a big determinant, as they have a few big games including a visit to Mississippi State this week and a trip to Georgia on November 18th.
There’s also their statistical rankings for each unit. Out of 130 teams, they rank 77th in passing yards/ game and 92nd in rushing yards/game; overall, they’re 107th in yards/game. Defensively, they’re 122nd in passing yards/game allowed, 10th in rushing yards/game allowed, and 68th in total yards/game allowed. Outside of the run defense, they really don’t have a dominant unit on either side of the ball on this football team. Additionally, the pass defense is something that may get exposed in the next few weeks, especially in their matchup against Ole Miss and QB Shea Patterson a week from Saturday.
Looking at the big picture, the 5-1 Kentucky Wildcats appear, at least on paper, to be more a product of their opponents than of the talent they have on the roster. The statistics suggest they’re in-line for some serious regression as the season progresses and they face much better competition. Also, they had to grind out a few wins against inferior opponents when most 5-1 teams would have manhandled them. I hope I’m wrong about Kentucky, because everyone loves a good Cinderella story, and they’re only supposed to be good come basketball season. Nevertheless, based on everything I’m seeing, it looks like the Wildcats are heading into murky waters moving ahead this year.
All stats and info courtesy ESPN.
Cover photo courtesy fansided.com.