A bold prediction for the remainder of Kentucky’s football season

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Prediction: Kentucky won’t lose another football game this season.

Yeah, I know, Mark Stoops’ Cats got slapped around by Georgia in Athens on Saturday, losing 30-13 to the No. 1-ranked Bulldogs. They were outgained 416-243. Their bread-and-butter ground attack managed a meager 51 yards on 27 attempts. Their cosmetic touchdown with three seconds remaining riled up the gamblers and flummoxed the media. To be sure, Kentucky failed in its big chance to prove it is on the same level as the elite of college football’s elite.

So what. Simply put, Georgia is a cut above. Everyone. No one is going to beat the Bulldogs this year. Not Florida on Oct. 30, not Alabama in the SEC title game, not whomever Kirby Smart’s team encounters in the College Football Playoff. Since leaving Nick Saban to return to his alma mater, Smart has recruited like a fiend in Athens. We are now witnessing the frightening fruits of his labors.

But back to how Mark Stoops’ Cats are going to run the table, how 6-1 will end up 11-1. Five more games. Five more wins. Crazy, you say? Actually, it’s not so crazy, for two main reasons.

Start with the schedule. After a much-needed off week, Kentucky gets Mississippi State in Starkville (Oct. 30), Tennessee in Lexington (Nov. 6), Vanderbilt in Nashville (Nov. 13), New Mexico State in Lexington (Nov. 20), and Louisville in Louisville (Nov. 27).

What’s that? Stoops has never beaten Hail State in Stark-vegas? Kentucky had not beaten the Florida Gators in Lexington since 1986. Until this year. Kentucky had not beaten the LSU Tigers by three touchdowns since 1999. Until this year. And State’s Air Raid is sputtering in Mike Leach’s second season, just 3-3 after Saturday night’s 49-9 bashing by Alabama.

What’s that? You say Tennessee has been piling up points under new coach Josh Heupel. The Vols scored 62 at Missouri. Everyone scores on Missouri. The Vols scored 45 on South Carolina. That’s the same South Carolina that edged lowly Vanderbilt by a single point on Saturday. Meanwhile, in Knoxville, Tennessee fans pitched a fit — literally — over their 31-26 loss to ex-BFF Lane Kiffin and Ole Miss at Neyland Stadium. And UT has to come to Kroger.

Those are the toughest two of Kentucky’s remaining tests. Says here the Cats win both, then take care of the final three, including the season finale at a Louisville team that possesses the ability to score points but lacks the important ability to keep the other team from scoring. U of L is dangerous — the oft-criticized Scott Satterfield is a better coach than his critics believe — but Kentucky is better.

Time for Reason No. 2: That’s the way Kentucky played Saturday. In a loss. A lopsided loss, to boot. “Losing is not something we are used to now,” said defensive end Josh Paschal, echoing the sentiments of Stoops, who in his postgame press conference said his program is way beyond claiming moral victories.

Still, Saturday contained positives. Kentucky didn’t quit, as proven by the fact that despite being down 30-7, the Cats put together a 22-play drive that consumed 11 minutes and 24 seconds of the final quarter. Question Stoops all you want for calling timeout with seven seconds left in a lost cause for a final crack at the end zone. After 21 plays, however, no way you just give up at the 1-yard line without trying to score. It’s a 60-minute game.

I also liked the way Will Levis played. True, UK’s quarterback averaged just 4.6 yards on his 42 pass attempts. Kentucky could never hit the big one. But Levis completed 32 passes, with a half-dozen other attempts dropped. During the CBS broadcast, analyst Gary Danielson said that with a little more polish, Levis “has a bright future ahead of him.”

And here’s the very best thing about Saturday: Kentucky won’t play Georgia again until 2022.

So, moving forward, the key is to shake off Saturday. Disappointing? Yes. Devastating? Hardly. This is Georgia’s year. But this can still be a special year for Kentucky. Five games left. Five more victories. So it says here.

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