John Clay

The annual summer search for six Kentucky football victories

University of Kentucky head football coach Mark Stoops met with the media on Friday at Kroger Field for UK’s annual football Media Day.
University of Kentucky head football coach Mark Stoops met with the media on Friday at Kroger Field for UK’s annual football Media Day. cbertram@herald-leader.com

It's a rite of summer for any Kentucky football fan.

Pull out schedule for the upcoming season.

Search for six victories.

After all, six is the required number for the program to reach its third consecutive bowl game under head coach Mark Stoops.

We're here to help. What follows is a foe-by-foe rundown, complete with a UK Win Probability Ranking (WPR) for each game, ranging from No. 1 (most likely a win) to 12 (least likely).

Sept 1, Central Michigan: The Chippewas took heavy graduation losses from an 8-5 team that went bowling a year ago. The starting quarterback, four of the top five receivers and top pass rusher are gone. That should set UK up nicely for a successful opener. WPR No. 2.

Sept. 8, at Florida: The Cats haven't beaten the Gators since 1986. (We know.) Failing to cover receivers on two different plays kept the Cats from snapping the streak last year. (We know.) Dan Mullen, 8-1 vs. UK as Mississippi State coach, is the new Florida coach. (We know.) Not that the Gators have set up shop inside Kentucky's head, or anything. WPR No. 11.

Sept. 15, Murray State: Fourth-year head coach Mitch Stewart is looking for his first winning season at MSU. That could be tough, considering preseason polls once again place the Racers near the OVC cellar. WPR No. 1.

Sept. 22, Mississippi State: The Cats were steamrolled 45-7 last year in Starkville. There's a new coach in charge of the Maroon, however. Former Penn State offensive coordinator Joe Moorhead (@BallCoachJoeMo) inherits a 9-4 team that returns quarterback Nick Fitzgerald. WPR No. 8.



Kentucky Coach Mark Stoops talks to the media after his team’s spring game on Friday night.



Sept. 29, South Carolina: Can Stoops continue his dominance of the Gamecocks? UK is on a four-game roll. South Carolina is expecting its best team in Will Muschamp's three years as head coach. WPR No. 9.

Oct. 6, at Texas A&M: UK football's first trip to College Station features Stoops facing his old FSU boss, Jimbo Fisher. A&M's 7-6 record brought Kevin Sumlin's pink slip, but Jimbo needs more top-tier talent. Still, this will be a tough game in a tough place to play. WPR No. 10.

Oct. 20, Vanderbilt: Vandy fell a win short of back-to-back bowls under now fifth-year coach Derek Mason. Quarterback Kyle Shurmur's return helps the Commodore cause. Kroger Field as this year's site tips the scale in Kentucky's favor, however. WPR No. 3.

Oct. 27, at Missouri: Head coach Barry Odom was all but fired before Mizzou ripped off six straight wins to end the regular season. Strong-armed quarterback Drew Lock returns. Missouri's second-half rally near capsized the Cats last year in Lexington. This year's game is in Columbia. WPR No. 7.

Nov. 3, Georgia: Never mind that heartbreaking overtime loss to Alabama, reaching last year's national championship game was a frightening peek into the future. Third-year coach Kirby Smart is building a monster. It was UGA 42, UK 13 last season. That the Bulldogs must visit Kroger Field this year won't make much difference. WPR No. 12.

Nov. 10, at Tennessee: Butch Jones is out, Jeremy Pruitt is in as UT head coach. The former Alabama defensive coordinator succeeded Stoops at Florida State before hop-scotching to Georgia (DC), Alabama (DC) and now Knoxville (HC). Resurrecting the Big Orange requires a lengthy to-do list. Kentucky hasn't won at Neyland Stadium since 1984, however. WPR No. 6.

Nov. 17, Middle Tennessee: Remember Tony Franklin? The former UK assistant is in his third year as MTSU's offensive coordinator. He'd love a win in Lexington. Senior quarterback Brent Stockstill, son of head coach Rick Stockstill, could pull it off. WPR No. 5.

Nov. 24, at Louisville: Word from the 'Ville says this could be Bobby Petrino's toughest year since returning to U of L. No more Lamar Jackson. Kentucky did win on its last visit to Papa John's. The guess is both teams will be hoping for that sixth win this Thanksgiving. WPR No. 4.

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