What to Expect from Kentucky Football in September

On3 imageby:Freddie Maggard06/03/23
Photo by Dr. Michael Huang | Kentucky Sports Radio

Kickoff times and broadcast information for Kentucky’s first three games of the 2023 season have been set and announced. The Cats will face Ball State in the opener followed by EKU, Akron, and Florida. All four September contests will be played within the friendly confines of Kroger Field. 

It is imperative for Mark Stoops’ team to come out of the gate strong. A perfect 4-0 September is within reach; it needs to be. A daunting slate awaits in October and November. Let’s dig into it. 

September 2: Ball State (Noon, SEC Network)

Hydrate, hydrate, and then hydrate some more. I’m talking about water and Gatorade, not Kentucky windage. An early September noon game means that the Big Blue Nation will melt under the hot sun during the noon kickoff. At least the game is going to be on the regular SEC Network and not on the computer.

Kentucky is a 26.5-point favorite over the visiting Cardinals. The Fighting David Lettermans were 5-7 a year ago and finished MAC play with a 3-5 record. Listen, I’m not going to go all “Lou Holtz” and proclaim that the opening week’s opponent is a national title contender. This is a game that Kentucky should win and do so somewhat easily. 

The opener will also be the first time that the Big Blue faithful will get an opportunity to watch quarterback Devin Leary operate in Liam Coen’s system. The transfer signal-caller will be throwing to an exciting collection of pass catchers and have a transfer All-SEC caliber running back in the backfield. While that all sounds exciting, my focus will be on the big fellas or the offensive line. Starting today and running through a yet-to-be-determined point in the season, I will not use the phrase “Big Blue Wall” when referencing the OL until that unit reclaims that prestigious designation by moving large humans around on the football field.  

September 9: Eastern Kentucky (3:00 PM, SEC Network+)

I’m actually more worried about this one than Ball State. Call me a worrier — which I am in all actuality — but, I’ve seen this play out before. The 2015 Dean Hood-led Colonels pushed the Cats to overtime and should have beaten Kentucky on its home turf. The Wildcats eventually prevailed 34-27 in the extra period. For that night, EKU simply outplayed the home team. The matchup’s give-and-take flow was not the result of a fluky play or a series of random happenings. The visitors were the more physical team and it showed. 

A similar outcome nearly took place again in 2017. EKU jumped out to a 13-3 first-half lead before UK captured the lead late in the game to win 27-16. As I said earlier, I’ve seen this play out before. Yes, I will be nervous for this one. 

Our southern neighbors are located roughly 20 short minutes from Kroger Field. The buses will be loaded with confident and enthusiastic Colonels for the quick drive up I-75 for the 3:00 PM computer game. Expect Walt Wells’ squad to be extremely well coached and prepared to step up in division for the second consecutive week. His Colonels open their season on the road at Cincinnati. 

Find out the news as it happens. Text KSR to 41372 to have Breaking News Alerts sent directly to your phone.

September 16: Akron (7:30 PM, ESPNU)

The Zips aren’t very good at the football game. In my opinion, Akron is the least likely team to present a challenge for the Cats in the first three weeks of the 2023 season. In other words, EKU and Balls State would likely roll the Zips. 

KSR’s Adam Luckett projected the spread in this one to be 36 points in favor of Kentucky. Hey, it’s the first night game of the season which means that Kroger Field should be packed and jumping. 

Akron is led by former Mississippi State head coach Joe Moorhead. His first year produced a lowly 2-10 record. Hopes are for improvement in 2023. Akron is considered to be one of the most challenging coaching jobs in all of college football. 

Akron travels to Temple to open the season prior to hosting Morgan State the following weekend. The Week-3 matchup should be one to enjoy and a stress-free tailgating experience before things get real. The Cats should win big.  

JJ Weaver- Kentucky - Florida
Photo by Dr. Michael Huang | Kentucky Sports Radio

September 30: Florida (TBD) 

Speaking of things getting real, the schedule begins when the Gators come to town. Billy Napier is in year two in Gainesville. His first season was not exactly ideal. Florida finished the 2022 regular season with a disappointing 6-6 record. The Gators went on to get embarrassed 30-3 by Oregon State in the Las Vegas Bowl. Multiple players opted out of the postseason and I can’t say I blame them. Enthusiasm for the three-time national champions was low. The once mighty Gators looked hapless against the Beavers. OSU bullied, pushed around, and straight-up whipped UF in Sin City. 

Things are not exactly looking up for Napier. His team has a projected win total of 5.5 games. He will be without the services of quarterback Anthony Richardson who now calls Indianapolis home. Kentucky won 26-16 in the Swamp a season ago. 

The Cats could be favored here but the gap between the two teams is minimal. UF opens on the road at Utah and hosts Tennessee in week-3. Ouch. Florida will likely be 2-2 at this point in the season. I think Kentucky can win this game. But, there are a bunch of “Ifs” surrounding the Wildcats that still need to be ironed out. 

What Does All This Mean? 

I hate to be Mr. Obvious, but a 4-0 start would be the best-case scenario for the Cats. That outcome is within Stoops’ grasp with three should-be victories prior to hosting the Gators to open up the SEC slate. 

Can’t wait. 

Take advantage of our KSR+ Summer Special and join the conversation on KSBoard, the KSR+ Message Board.

Discuss This Article

Comments have moved.

Join the conversation and talk about this article and all things Kentucky Sports in the new KSR Message Board.