Will the Kentucky Wildcats win double-digit games in 2022? Or will they have a down year in an already tough SEC conference?
The Mark Stoops era is finally turning into something productive. The Wildcats are coming off yet another ten win season aftering finishing 10-3 overall in 2021. Stoops is entering his tenth season as head coach and is on the cusp of passing a football titan’s win mark at Kentucky. Stoops is 59-53 in his nine seasons as head coach and will easily pass Bear Bryant’s 60-win mark.
2021 was the first time the Wildcats won ten games since 2018. Before the 2018 season, the Wildcats had not won double digit games since 1977. To say Stoops has turned this Kentucky program around is an understatement. With four consecutive bowl wins, Kentucky is heading in the right direction in the toughest conference in college football. With a veteran QB in Will Levis returning, the Wildcats are ready to make another run in 2022. That being said, let’s predict how Stoops and company perform in their 2022 schedule.
Week One, Home Game vs Miami University (OH)
Kentucky kicks off the 2022 season with a non-conference game against Miami University (OH). ESPN FPI has the Wildcats at a 93 percent chance to win this game. There is zero reason to disagree here as this is a tune up game for an SEC school. Will Levis will be looking to start the year off right for the Wildcats and put up big numbers by halftime and be done for the day.
Kentucky has some questions on the offensive line that will need to be sorted out but this game will help them at least begin to solve that issue. Do not be surprised if this veteran led Wildcats team puts up a 60-piece in this ball game.
Score Prediction: Kentucky 62, Miami University (OH) 14
Week Two, Away Game vs Florida
After an easy week one game, Kentucky wastes no time beginning conference play with a week two trip to Florida. The Gators might not be as elite as they once were but going into Gainesville and winning is no easy task. ESPN FPI has the Wildcats at a 48 percent chance of winning and those are good odds for a difficult road game. Kentucky is on the cusp of being a legitimate contender to play for a conference title and winning these toss-up games will be key.
Kentucky’s big key to winning these toss up games will be there defense. Sure they lost their star defensive end, Josh Paschal, to the NFL Draft but they have plenty left over with leading sacker JJ Weaver back in the rotation. However, the offensive line problems I mentioned earlier will be their achilles heel in week two. I like the Gators to win a close one here and show that Kentucky is still no Alabama or Georgia.
Score Prediction: Florida 28, Kentucky 24
Week Three, Home Game vs Youngstown State
The Wildcats then come home for another easy non-conference game. I won’t waste your time predicting what will happen here. Kentucky will be ready to put a loss behind them and lock up those roster spots. This game will be over by halftime and we will see what could be the final version of the roster for the remainder of the season. Wildcats win this one by halftime and we see the backups get some reps in the second half.
Score Prediction: Kentucky 56, Youngstown State 7
Week Four, Home Game vs Northern Illinois
Coming off a rebound win over Youngstown, another home non-conference game is next. With Northern Illinois coming to town, the Wildcats will want to continue to win these easy games. This will be another chance for the backups to get in reps and show they are ready when needed. The offensive line will be locked in and steady by this point and the defense will shine. Creating turnovers is something Kentucky struggled with last year but here is a chance for this defense to turn that narrative around.
Score Prediction: Kentucky 48, Northern Illinois 10
Week Five, Away Game vs Ole Miss
Conference play picks back up in week five and again, it is a tough one. A trip to take on the Rebels of Ole Miss in their house is another reason the SEC is so tough. Despite losing Matt Corral, head coach Lane Kiffin can make any offense great. That being said, with Kentucky needing these big games, they will have to rely on the offense to not turn the ball over as much as they did in 2021. Their first five weeks this season is much tougher so being turnover happy will not win the big games.
That being said, Ole Miss is still going to be a problem in the SEC West and Kentucky will struggle in this one. I think it will be another close game but once again, the tougher versions of SEC teams will win this game. Turnovers will be killer and Stoop will have to address that after this one.
Score Prediction: Ole Miss 31, Kentucky 28
Week Six, Home Game vs South Carolina
The Wildcats then return home to host the Gamecocks to continue conference play. South Carolina had one hell of an offseason. They added Spencer Rattler, kept their veteran offensive lineman and receivers, and revamped the number one pass defense from 2021. South Carolina will not be an easy win now but here is where Kentucky has the upper hand.
The Wildcats went 6-1 at home last year while the Gamecocks went 1-4 on the road. With this Kentucky team being essentially the same as last year, home-field advantage will be big. This will be a game where we see the turnover issue all but disappear and the offense shines. Will Levis will once show how comfortable he is at the helm of the offense. Give me the Wildcats to win comfortably late in the game.
Score Prediction: Kentucky 38, South Carolina 24
Week Seven, Home Game vs Mississippi State
After a convincing win in week six, the Bulldogs of Mississippi State come to town. This will be a tougher matchup for the Wildcats despite it being a home game. However, ESPN FPI has the Wildcats at a 63 percent chance to win this game. That is enough to convince me that Kentucky is the better squad in 2022. The Bulldogs will bring an air-raid offense that will make this a fast-paced game and likely a high-scoring game.
However, the Wildcat’s secondary has a playmaking corner in Carrington Valentine. Losing Cedric Dort to Wisconsin isn’t a plus but the safeties will be solid, especially with Tyrell Ajian leading the pack. Look for this group to make big plays late and seal the deal on this game for a big Kentucky win.
Score Prediction: Kentucky 48, Mississippi State 41
Week Eight, Away Game vs Tennessee
After a big win at home, a two-game road trip begins for the Wildcats with the first game in Tennessee against the Volunteers. The Volunteers are going to be a problematic team to play against in 2022. The Volunteers are heading in the right direction as far as winning more games. They won seven games last year and have a shot to contend in the SEC East this year.
This will be another toss-up game that will be key for Kentucky to win in order to keep their SEC hopes alive. ESPN FPI has the Wildcats as the favorites to win but only at 52 percent. This will be another grind-it-out type game that sees the defensive side of the ball being the better performer. However, I still think Kentucky has the pieces to win on the road and prove they are legit still at least in 2022.
Score Prediction: Kentucky 24, Tennessee 17
Week Nine, Away Game vs Missouri
The final game of the road trip is a trip north to Columbia MO to take on the Tigers. A few years ago Mizzou would dominate this matchup. However, Mizzou has fallen into a bit of a decline and that is something Kentucky will feed off of. The Wildcats are the better team by leaps and bounds at this point and I like Kentucky to get another big win on the road. I still think Mizzou can hang around and make Kentucky uncomfortable but in the end, the Wildcats will prevail.
Score Prediction: Kentucky 28, Missouri 14
Week Ten, Home Game vs Vanderbilt
The Wildcats then return home to host the Commodores of Vanderbilt in week ten. I talked about home-field advantage being huge for Kentucky and here is where it will be a factor again. Vanderbilt is a struggling program in a tough conference and Kentucky will want any and every win in conference play. I like the Wildcats to defend their home field and win this game comfortably by the third quarter.
Score Prediction: Kentucky 34, Vanderbilt 17
Week Eleven, Home Game vs Georgia
The final conference game of the 2022 season is the worst possible opponent, the defending champion Georgia Bulldogs. Georgia is going to be the best team in the SEC East by far, sorry Kentucky fans. I have the Bulldogs running the table in the regular season and not losing so I won’t waste your time here and make you think the Wildcats win this game.
Bulldogs head coach Kirby Smart is 6-0 against Kentucky and Georgia has won 12 in a row against the Wildcats. The last time Georgia lost to Kentucky was in 2009 when the Bulldogs lost to the Wildcats in Sanford Stadium for the first time since 1977. That win streak continues here in a closer than they’d like game. The Bulldogs are the better team despite Kentucky returning 11 starters from their double-digit win team from 2021. Give me Kirby Smarts squad to win this one and continue their dominance over the Wildcats.
Score Prediction: Georgia 28, Kentucky 17
Week Twelve, Home Game vs Louisville
The final game of the 2022 regular season is a surprising non-conference game. The Louisville Cardinals come to town for a big in-state rivalry game. Louisville was an inconsistent team in 2021 but they do have starting QB, Malik Cunningham, back for another year. Kentucky won this matchup easily in 2021 by a score of 52-21 on the Cardinals’ home turf. With this year’s matchup being in Lexington, Kentucky walks away with another easy win and keeps the Governor’s Cup but certainly not in another 30-point blowout.
Score Prediction: Kentucky 35, Louisville 21
Final Record For Kentucky Football In 2022-23: 9-3 (5-3)
I completely agree with the narrative that Kentucky is nowhere near competing for a national title like Alabama and Georgia. However, another winning season and easily playing in a bowl game still means success. Giving the SEC East problems and possibly playing Georgia for the division title, could be a huge boost for the team. A 9-3 season overall with losses against tough opponents means this team is still heading in the right direction.
Which SEC team will improve the most in 2022? Comment below and join the discussion!
Check back for the rest of the conference’s predictions here!
Follow us on Twitter here for more sports news and all things Stadium Rant and check out our website here!