Kernel staff predictions for second half of football season


Kentucky Wildcats Stanley ‘Boom” Williams runs during the first half against the Vanderbilt University Commodores at Commonwealth Stadium on Saturday, September 27, 2014 in Lexington, Ky. Kentucky defeated Vanderbilt 17-7. Photo by Michael Reaves | Staff 

By Kernel Sports Staff

Despite ending the first half of the season with a loss, Kentucky football is off to one of its best starts in recent memory, and has a chance to keep the momentum going in the second half.

Before the second half of the season begins with a home game against Vanderbilt, the Kernel sports staff sat down to talk about some headlines heading into the finishing stretch of football season.

Here’s what they had to say.

Will Benny Snell end up being a Heisman finalist?

Erika Bonner (Sports Editor): I don’t think “finalist” is in the cards for Benny, as incredible as he is. I think by the end of the season he will have made a fantastic campaign for himself, as he has already, but we probably won’t see him as a finalist.

Chase Campbell (Assistant Sports Editor): After his halt against Texas A&M, I doubt he’ll make it to New York. A chink in the armor makes it hard to catch up to someone like Kyler Murray for OU, who shined even in a loss.

Chris Leach (Sports Features Editor): Benny Snell will continue to be mentioned in the Heisman race throughout the season, but he won’t be a finalist. There are plenty of other good players in the country, and Snell still has to go against Georgia’s defense.

What will Kentucky’s record be in its final six games?

EB: 5-1. That loss will be to Georgia at home. Other than the Bulldogs, none of the remaining teams on the schedule should give UK too many problems.

CC: 5-1. This is actually the much easier part of their schedule, after taking on quickly improving Florida and Mississippi State, as well as taking Texas A&M to overtime. No real speed bumps in non-conference, but they’ll lose to Georgia.

CL: I’ll also say 5-1, but I don’t think Kentucky’s game at Missouri is a gimme. Quarterback Drew Lock is the real deal, and Kentucky’s offense didn’t look too good at Texas A&M. They’ll need to make improvements before then to keep up offensively, but Kentucky’s defense should do a good job slowing down the Tigers’ offense.

The game a lot of people have circled on the calendar is the game against Georgia. Realistically, what are Kentucky’s chances of winning?

EB: I’ll go 40 percent. I’m looking forward to this game and seeing how Kentucky responds to a team like Georgia, but as we saw against A&M, they have some things on offense that need to be fixed before they can be sure about beating a No. 2 type team.

CC: 30 percent. The offense has to show up, and Eddie Gran has to make better decisions than he did in College Station. If the Cats play defense like they did against A&M, they can hang with anybody.

CL: 40 percent. Georgia is good, but so is Kentucky, and the Bulldogs don’t really have an enormous advantage at any position. This is Kentucky’s best chance to beat Georgia in a while, and they’ll know that heading into the game.

Over the summer and through the beginning of the season, it was nearly unanimously agreed on that Mike Edwards was the best defensive back on the team. Has Darius West taken that title?

EB: This is tough, because both guys have been playing outstanding football. It’s hard to call one of them better than the other, but as Chris showed, the numbers don’t lie when you compare the two. I’ll say West overall.

CC: Yes, I think so. Darius West is phenomenal, and were it not for his injury history, I wouldn’t be surprised if his draft stock was astronomically high right now. Here’s how I see it: Darius West and Mike Edwards are equally good tacklers, but West has been creating more turnovers. Advantage West.

CL: Darius West has 14 more tackles, two more interceptions and four more pass breakups than Mike Edwards, so I’d say yeah. Mike Edwards is better at rushing the quarterback, and a better overall leader, but you can’t argue against West’s production.

What’s the highest score someone will hang on Kentucky’s uncharacteristically stout defense, and which game will it happen in?

EB: Definitely Missouri. Other than Georgia, it’s Kentucky’s toughest game left on the schedule, but I won’t predict it being any higher than 27 points.

CC: I’m going against the grain here, and I’ll say Georgia. I know Missouri’s offense is strong, but they’re fast. They don’t play like an SEC offense, and I won’t be surprised if they stagger with turnovers and incomplete passes. Georgia’s offense will keep UK’s defense on the field a lot longer. 24 points.

CL: I bet Missouri puts around 24 to 30 points on Kentucky. Missouri’s offense is good, and they’ll be fired up to beat a ranked team at home. The Tigers’ offense should be comfortable at their own stadium, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see them produce as normal.