Season Outlook: UK 2011

Joker Phillips kicks off his second season on Thursday against the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers at Nashville, Tennessee's LP Field – home of the Tennessee Titans.

Joker Phillips kicks off his second season on Thursday against the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers at Nashville, Tennessee's LP Field – home of the Tennessee Titans.

It's hard to say what Kentucky's record will be this year. Anything and everything at this point is speculation. I will say this – Kentucky can conceivably win every game on their schedule this season except the LSU game. If I were betting, I'd give UK the least chance to win that game.

Kentucky has also fallen more than two dozen times, in a row, to both Tennessee and Florida. As much progress as the Wildcats have made in the last half decade, those are two streaks that have to be broken in order to legitimize the Kentucky program, nationally.

Florida's talent level can rarely be questioned. And while they have had their share of offensive struggles since Tim Tebow moved on to the next level, their defense has remained top quality. Florida will be in Lexington this season, with a new coach – can the Cats make a move?

Tennessee is down and has been for the last few years, but Kentucky has yet to capitalize on the Volunteers' struggles. Tennessee in Lexington is yet another key game for the Wildcats. Can Kentucky take advantage? It could mean the difference between "bowling" or not.

My picks have been consistent for the last few years, 7-5 regular seasons over and over. I'm leaning towards saying that again, but let's take a look at each game for a moment.

September 1st, 2011 – vs. Western Kentucky

When Kentucky travels to Nashville to take on Western Kentucky, they'll likely be a heavy favorite. Kentucky should win this game by three touchdowns. Stopping running back Bobby Rainey will be no easy task, but I expect the Wildcats to win this one 41-21.

September 10th, 2011 – vs. Central Michigan

Kentucky opens up the home portion of their schedule against Central Michigan. Kentucky has done a good job in recent years winning games like this against MAC programs, though Central Michigan took them to the limits a few years back. Still, this is a more talented program now than then and the Wildcats should have no problem overpowering the Chippewas. UK wins 38-20.

September 17th, 2011 – vs. Louisville

Kentucky's biggest rival will invade Commonwealth Stadium with hopes of ending a four game losing streak to the Wildcats. Louisville, under Charlie Strong, believes they are back on the upswing and beating Kentucky will go a long way in getting the Cards back on the map. Kentucky should defeat Louisville, but it won't be a drubbing. Kentucky wins 31-26.

September 24th, 2011 – vs. Florida

Will Muschamp brings the rowdy reptiles to Lexington for his first road game as head coach. Despite him being inexperienced as a head coach, the Gators will be favored to win this game and carry the streak forward into another year. As much as I'd like to see Kentucky break this ridiculous string of defeats, I think Florida wins by two scores or better. Florida is victorious 35-17.

October 1st, 2011 – at LSU

Kentucky will head down to LSU to take on the Bayou Bengals. Les Miles's team will be one of the top squads in the country all season. And they'll look to pounce on the young Wildcat team early on. If they are successful, this could be a long day for the Kentucky team, in their first road game of the season. LSU wins 42 to 24.

October 8th, 2011 – at South Carolina

The Wildcats broke one of the more unexplainable losing streaks in their history last year when they beat the Gamecocks. Things will be a little different this time, though. South Carolina will still be a force on the offensive side of the ball with running back Marcus Lattimore and receiver Alshon Jeffery. The Gamecocks are also always tough on the defensive side of the ball. This will likely be a close game, like history says, and it should be a toss up until late. South Carolina wins 24-20.

October 22nd, 2011 – vs. Jacksonville State

If I'm correct in my predictions, Kentucky will be coming into a bye-week with three straight SEC losses. The team could be reeling and tempted to pack it in, but the toughest part of the schedule will now be behind the young Wildcats. Jacksonville State, even as an up-and-coming small program, won't be a pushover, but Kentucky should take out some frustration on the Gamecocks. Kentucky wins 37-17.

October 29th, 2011 – vs. Mississippi State

The spread offense has been a thorn in the Kentucky defense's side the last few years and Mississippi State has used it effectively since Dan Mullen came onto the scene as coach. Kentucky needs to consistently beat the Bulldogs to move up the rung in the SEC. But winning this game has been difficult in recent years. The Bulldogs have been so much more physical and pounded UK. This season, Kentucky should pull off the win, though. Wildcats win 27-21.

November 5th, 2011 – vs. Ole Miss

Ole Miss is on a downward swing the last couple of seasons, but regardless of that reputation, they managed to defeat Kentucky last season in a close contest in Oxford. Kentucky should be able to knock off their second Mississippi school in as many weeks, but Kentucky continues to live on the edge, winning another close one. Kentucky wins 27-24.

November 12th, 2011 – at Vanderbilt

Kentucky is on a nice streak of wins over the Commodores during recent seasons. Rarely have they been easy wins, but Kentucky has pulled them off nonetheless. New coach James Franklin looks to breath life into a Vandy program that has sputtered and crashed in recent years. I wouldn't expect that the Dores will lay down for Kentucky, but I think the Wildcats will pull this one out in a big way. Kentucky 45-17 over Vandy.

November 19th, 2011 – at Georgia

Kentucky will head down to Athens to face a talented Georgia team. Kentucky has beat the Bulldogs a couple of times in the last few years and the Bulldogs want to make sure Kentucky knows that won't happen this year. Expect Georgia to come out firing on all cylinders. And depending on how this season turns out, Mark Richt could be coaching for his job. Dawgs win 34-21.

November 26th, 2011 – vs. Tennessee

This is by far the biggest game of the season for Kentucky. The Wildcats have a fairly favorable schedule after the early SEC season gauntlet. But slipping up to one of the Mississippis or Vandy could make this a must win. But really, it's a must win game for Kentucky anyway. If the Wildcats want the program to step out of the doldrums, a victory over their neighbors to the south will go a long way. Will it happen this year? Kentucky falls to Tennessee 21-17. 27 straight losses.

Predicted Regular Season Record: 7-5

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