Both teams are desperately searching for their first SEC win of the season as the Kentucky Wildcats host the Arkansas Razorbacks. Kickoff is set for 7:30 EST on Saturday, October 12 at Kroger Field in Lexington, Kentucky. Fans can find the game on the SEC Network.
Oddsmakers list the Wildcats as 6.5-point favorites at home. The over/under for the game is set at 53.5 points. Be sure to check out a full list of this week’s college football odds.
Kentucky began this season with high expectations after winning 10 games last year. But things haven’t played out as expected for the Wildcats. They started the season 2-0, but after losing starting quarterback Terry Wilson to a season-ending injury, Kentucky has lost three straight games to Florida, Mississippi State, and South Carolina, making them 2-3 overall and 0-3 in SEC play.
It’d be a shame if the Wildcats didn’t even reach a bowl game after last year’s breakout season. They have plenty of work to do ahead of them to avoid such a fate. The Cats will be home for five of their final seven games, giving them a favorable schedule. But with a trip to Georgia scheduled for next week, the Wildcats can’t afford to lose this week’s game. Otherwise, they’ll have their backs against the wall heading down the stretch.
Expectations were a little more modest for Arkansas, but somehow the Razorbacks have fallen short of those expectations. Arkansas has wins over Portland State and Colorado State, but they’ve also lost to Ole Miss, San Jose State, and Texas A&M. The loss to San Jose State was particularly disappointing and a huge blow to their bowl hopes. Despite a competitive loss to Texas A&M last week, the Razorbacks are in deep trouble approaching the midway point of the season.
Arkansas hasn’t even started the most difficult part of their schedule yet. After this week’s trip to Kentucky, the Hogs will face Auburn and Alabama in consecutive weeks, not to mention a game against LSU in November. Assuming the Razorbacks don’t win any of those games, they have to win every other game on their schedule to make a bowl game. If they don’t, Chad Morris could find himself on the hot seat after just two seasons, making this a must-win game for Arkansas.
Despite being in the same conference, Kentucky and Arkansas have only met four times this century. The last meeting between these teams was in 2012, a 49-7 blowout win for the Razorbacks. The Hogs haven’t traveled to Lexington since 2008 in a 21-20 win for the Wildcats.
There aren’t a lot of good reasons to side with either team in this game. In such instances, I tend to side with the underdog. Arkansas did a nice job of putting their embarrassing loss to San Jose State behind them and playing a close game against Texas A&M last week. They’ll be even more desperate for a win this week. Plus, with Kentucky being favored despite losing three in a row, I’ll side with Arkansas and the points in this game.
As mentioned, Kentucky lost its starting quarterback early in the season and backup Sawyer Smith hasn’t been the answer. Smith is technically questionable after suffering a shoulder injury last week but should be ready to play. The problem is that he’s played so poorly over the past two weeks. Smith has completed just 26 of his 73 passes against South Carolina and Mississippi State while getting sacked seven times and throwing two interceptions. Those are beyond dreadful numbers, regardless of the opponent.
The Wildcats will look to mix things up with wide receiver Lynn Bowden Jr. seeing time at quarterback to give Kentucky a running threat under center. But that’s not necessarily something that Kentucky can do all game. Oddly enough, the Arkansas defense has played well against the run in recent weeks. If the Wildcats can’t get things going on the ground, it’s hard to envision the Kentucky offense scoring many points with Sawyer at quarterback.
To be fair, the Arkansas offense is equally problematic. Quarterback Nick Starkel is just a couple of weeks removed from throwing five interceptions against San Jose State. In his defense, he settled down last week against Texas A&M before leaving with a minor injury. But it’s still tough for the Razorbacks to know what to expect out of him. On the bright side, the Hogs have a decent rushing attack behind Rakeem Boyd.
Meanwhile, I’ve been disappointed in the Kentucky defense the past two weeks. They haven’t exactly been blown away, especially considering the lack of support from the offense. But the Kentucky defense was shredded on the ground against both Mississippi State and South Carolina. If that doesn’t change, winning and covering the spread will be difficult.
All things considered, Kentucky’s quarterback situation is the most concerning aspect of this game for me. The Wildcats stopping the run is a close second. That doesn’t mean Kentucky can’t win this game at home. But I just don’t trust them enough to eat the points. I feel a little safer going with Arkansas as the underdog.