BRIDWELL: UK scratches out 7 wins and bowl

Ahhh, summer football predictions, you have arrived again. It happens at every school from Honolulu to Happy Valley, and at every level from NFL to flag. Any coach, player, or fan, is more than willing to tell you his or her season prediction. They vary from building towards next season, or competing for the title.

All fans love to point out their view of how they foresee the season will unfold, and then hope that it pans out in the manner in which they described, so that they can brag to their friends how "John Madden has nothing on me." The problem is pre-season predictions are just that, a prediction. And while I myself have never been able to forecast the future quite accurately, I will roll my dice on just how UK is going to check the win column in 06.

Game 1-@Louisville September 3 Kentucky will strut into the Derby City having lost six of the last seven match ups in the series, as well as three in a row. Even though the Cats will be much improved, Louisville will be returning their strongest team in school history. Coming off a 35-24 loss to Virginia Tech in the Gator Bowl, the Cards have two legitimate Heisman candidates in junior Quarterback Brian Brohm, and senior running back Michael Bush. Kentucky should make it a very good game, but in the end, Louisville just has too many horses. Add that Petrino has only lost one game at Papa John's Cardinal Stadium in three years, and UK faces a major uphill battle.

Louisville 41 Kentucky 28(0-1, 0-0)

Game 2-Texas State September 9

The Bobcats had a magical season in 2005, winning 11 games on their way to claiming the Southland Conference Championship. Even though State supplies some talent on both sides of the ball, UK should take care of business rather easily if it comes to play. The Bobcats will likely struggle offensively this season while trying to replace most of their back field and offensive line. Cats' pick up first win in blow out fashion.

Kentucky 49 Texas State 14(1-1, 0-0)

Game 3-Ole Miss September 16

The Rebels lose six starters on both sides of the ball from a three win team in 2005. Patrick Willis, an outstanding linebacker, will return to anchor the defense. On offense, Ole Miss failed to score more than 25 points in nine games last season. Help is on the way in former Tennessee Vol QB Brent Schaeffer, who transferred in from Junior College. However don't expect a major turn around. It will take some time before Schaeffer can settle in and feel comfortable in the offensive scheme. This is a must win for UK. At home, against a winnable opponent, Cats get it done.

Kentucky 24 Ole Miss 20(2-1, 1-0)

Game 4-@ Florida September 23

Year two of the Urban Meyer era will kick off with huge expectations. The Gators will field freak athletes at almost every position on both sides of the ball. Senior quarterback Chris Leak will return with Heisman hype, and a desire to prove he can lead his team to a magical season. Meyer has brought together two extraordinary recruiting classes and is ready for a run at the title in only year two. Kentucky has played Florida decent in the swamp in recent meetings, however this brand of Gators pack too much bite for Cats to claw out victory.

Florida 45 Kentucky 13 (2-2, 1-1)

Game 5- Central Michigan September 30

The Chippewas return 16 starters from 2005, a season which saw CMU finish strong with an overtime win over Ball State to end the season with a winning record. The Chippewas pack a serious punch to come in and steal a victory. A member of the MAC conference, CMU looks to carrying on the tradition of small MAC schools breaking through into the national limelight. Kentucky must play mistake free and solid for four quarters, or CMU will find a way to pull out a win.

Kentucky 27 Central Michigan 21(3-2, 1-1)

Game 6- South Carolina October 7

Kentucky headed to Columbia desperate for a win last season after starting 1-3 in the first four games. The Cats looked as if they were going to hang tough and have a shot to pull it out in the fourth quarter. Then the bottom fell through. Trailing 17-10, UK had an impressive four play 64 yard drive to score. The ensuing extra point was missed, and that was all she wrote. Three straight fumbles and the inability to stop the pass doomed the Cats as USC cruised to a 44-16 win. UK is due for a marquee victory under Brooks, and this is their best chance to pick up a nice win. USC loses three starters off the offensive line as well as two on defense. I like the Cats to pick up BIG W.

Kentucky 23 South Carolina 20(4-2, 2-1)

Game 7-@ LSU October 14

There isn't much hope for UK to win in Death Valley in '06. The Tigers pummeled Miami in the Peach Bowl to finish the season off strong. LSU returns only 11 starters, however they are in constant reload mode in Baton Rouge. UK will be confident coming off an upset of USC, but have slim chance of shocking the world in this one.

LSU 48 Kentucky 10(4-3, 2-2)

Game 8-@Miss State October 28

The Cats picked up an ugly, but big win over State last year, which propelled UK to play well the next few games against Auburn and winning @ Vanderbilt. State should be improved, yet they still do not have a proven quarterback on their roster. The Bulldogs will have a stout defense, but will struggle to put points on the scoreboard for most of the season. Kentucky should be clicking by this time if it stays healthy. Cats win what most thought would be a tough game, rather easily.

Kentucky 28 Miss. State 10(5-3, 3-2)

Game 9- Georgia November 4

The Bulldogs are looking at life after playmaking quarterback D.J. Shockley. It will take UGA a few games to break in new faces at several positions, and could struggle early on. Or on the other hand, RB Thomas Brown could have a big season and take the pressure off the new starting QB. The defense will be powerful as always with future NFL picks in DE Quentin Moses and LB Jarvis Jackson. Cats still don't have enough to beat the big boys of the east.

Georgia 34 Kentucky 17(5-4, 3-3)

Game 10- Vanderbilt November 11

Vanderbilt had a very up and down season in 2005. They opened winning their first four games, and then followed it up with six straight loses. However, a closing victory @ Tennessee helped Vandy finish with a good feeling. Jay Cutler is gone, and Coach Bobby Johnson will break in a new starter to replace a first round draft pick. Offense will struggle most of the season, yet defense will be strong point. Playing at home and for their sixth victory of the season, UK plays its best game of the season.

Kentucky 38 Vanderbilt 12(6-4, 4-3)

Game 11- La.-Monroe November 18

Another addition to the friendlier schedule in 2006, the Warhawks should be an easy victory on paper. Look for the Cats to have somewhat of a let down after a solid performance against Vanderbilt. The game will be too close for comfort for the first three quarters, but the Cats will pull away with a late Rafael Little touchdown.

Kentucky 28 La.-Monroe 17(7-4, 4-3)

Game 12-@Tennessee November 25

One of these days Kentucky Football is going to break through and beat one of the big dogs of the SEC East, but its not going to be this day. UT will be much improved and this game could be crucial to their bowl positioning. After picking up win number seven the week before, UK will not have enough in the tank to pull the upset.

Tennessee 27 Kentucky 7(7-5, 4-4)

So there you have it. Look for Rich Brooks to prove the doubters wrong and have a special season. Kentucky will claim seven victories and be a candidate for a Peach Bowl berth. Just remember, I never said I was good at predicting the future, I am just one of many who knows everything when the record is still 0-0.

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