For the second straight week, the Kentucky Wildcats will play host to a MAC team. This week, it’ll be the Eastern Michigan Eagles paying a visit to the Bluegrass State. Kickoff is scheduled for 7:30 EST on Saturday, September 7 at Kroger Field in Lexington, Kentucky. The game is available on the SEC Network.
According to oddsmakers, Kentucky is a 14-point favorite at home with an over/under of 52 points. Be sure to check out a full list of this week’s college football odds.
The Wildcats passed their first MAC test of the season, knocking off conference heavyweight Toledo 38-24 last week. It was a struggle at times for Kentucky, who was tied with the Rockets at halftime. But the Wildcats managed to pull away in the second half, ultimately covering the 10-point spread. Now the goal for Mark Stoops’ team is to keep it going and avoid a letdown ahead of next week’s showdown at home against the Florida Gators.
Eastern Michigan, meanwhile, will make the trip to Lexington at 1-0. The Eagles also had a sluggish first half in their season opener against Coastal Carolina. They trailed at the half until scoring 16 unanswered points in the third quarter, ultimately winning 30-23 to cover the 5-point spread. It wasn’t the most convincing win, but it was a step in the right direction for Chris Creighton’s team, which is hoping to go to a bowl game for the second straight season.
The only other meeting between these two schools came two years ago when the Eagles played in Lexington. The Wildcats escaped with a slim 24-20 win. The Eastern Michigan players who were around for that game will surely remember it and see it as evidence that they have a chance to pull off the upset on Saturday.
I don’t think Eastern Michigan will get run out of the building. In fact, I can see the Eagles putting up a fight and keeping the game close for a half like Toledo did against Kentucky last week. But I don’t think they can hang around for 60 minutes. I look for the Wildcats to once again pull away in the second half and do just enough to cover the 14-point spread.
Eastern Michigan just wasn’t convincing enough in their win over Coastal Carolina. It’s just too big of a step up in competition from the Chanticleers to an SEC opponent. To be fair, quarterback Mike Glass was outstanding last week, connecting on 20 of his 22 passes and tossing three touchdowns. But I don’t see him getting enough help. If the Eagles averaged less than three yards per carry running the ball against Coastal Carolina, they aren’t going to do much better against the Kentucky defense. Glass by himself isn’t going to keep EMU in the game for 60 minutes.
It’s worth mentioning that this isn’t the 2018 Kentucky defense. The Wildcats lost a lot from last season. However, they still have enough to hold a MAC team in check. At times, they gave up some big plays against Toledo, but they buckled down and got stops when they needed them. Also, the Toledo is a little more dangerous than the EMU offense. Glass doesn’t have top-notch playmakers around him, nor does he have that much experience, throwing just 139 career passes. I can see the speed of an SEC defense coming as a shock to him and requiring some time to get used to.
On the other side of the ball, I was pleasantly surprised by the Kentucky offense. Obviously, the Toledo defense is far from the best one they’ll face this year. But the Wildcats were efficient both running and passing. Quarterback Terry Wilson looked much-improved from last season throwing the ball. He also didn’t have to rely too much on his legs to make plays, leaving running backs Asim Rose and Kavosiey Smoke to carry the ball. To be fair, the Kentucky defense contributed a touchdown, but scoring over 30 points is still a nice step in the right direction.
Perhaps more importantly, I don’t think the Eastern Michigan defense has the athletes to keep the Wildcats under wraps. The front-7, in particular, is a concern for the Eagles. They had just one sack against Coastal Carolina, and their lack of consistent pass rush left the secondary a little vulnerable. I can see the EMU defense struggling to slow down the Kentucky running game and then having holes in the back end in case Wilson wants to take a shot deep.
Again, I’d be a little surprised if Kentucky blows Eastern Michigan out of the water early. I’m also a little worried that the Wildcats will be looking ahead to Florida next week. But the spread is reasonable for an SEC-MAC game. Kentucky should have enough of a talent advantage to cover the 14-point spread, even if they don’t pull away until late.