FB: Coach Stoops – Pre-Youngstown State from UK Sports Video on Vimeo.
LEXINGTON — Some folks call them guarantee games But they’re not necessarily guaranteed wins.
When the Kentucky football team hosts Youngstown State on Saturday, the guarantee is UK’s opponent will get a nice payday for its time — $550,000, to be precise. And the all-but-assured outcome is a Wildcat win — likely of the blowout variety — over an FCS foe. Everybody gets what they came for.
But here’s the thing.
No. 9 Kentucky has plenty of veterans who remember getting a scare just last season from FCS opponent Chattanooga, which lost 28-23 at Kroger Field but led the Cats 16-14 early in the fourth quarter.
Quarterback Will Levis is one of them. The goal this week, he said, will be “bringing the energy” against the Penguins, the implication being that it was lacking last season against the Mocs.
“Again, noon game,” Levis said. “That can kind of get in the way of guys’ juice. We’re getting up early, getting over there expecting another great crowd from the fans. But sometimes in situations like that, you got to rely on your own energy and your own juice. And the second you’re behind, it might be too late.”
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Levis’s prediction: “I think we should be good.”
The odds are in UK’s favor. So is the betting line. In a big way.
If you’re picking the game, you’re probably picking Kentucky. But if you want to know where to look to learn something about the Wildcats this weekend, here are notable storylines:
Containing an ex-Cat
Youngstown State (2-0) has shown offensive balance, averaging 252 rushing yards and 201 passing yards per game.
And when the Penguins go to the air, they’ll look to a face familiar to Mark Stoops and his team.
Bryce Oliver, Youngstown State’s leading receiver, played two seasons at Kentucky. With 10 catches this season, he’s already surpassed his UK career total (eight). And his two touchdowns are double the number he scored in seven games as a Wildcat.
Slowing down the 6-foot-1, 212-pound junior will be a priority for UK.
“Bryce is a good football player, just like we thought when we recruited him.” Stoops said. “Sometimes those guys just need that opportunity and reps and (to) get playing. A lot of time as you play, you get better.”
Widening the wide receiver rotation
Kentucky expects to roll out some fresh faces — and fleet feet — at wideout against the Penguins.
Neither Brandon White nor Jordan Anthony has seen action in the Wildcats’ first two games, but offensive coordinator Rich Scangarello and tight ends coach Vince Marrow strongly suggested the freshmen receivers will see the field Saturday.
White was a football and track standout at Archbishop Moeller in Cincinnati, where he once ran the 100 meters in 10.3 seconds in a regional championship.
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And Anthony is even faster. He was considered the fastest high schooler in the world for his track exploits at Tylertown (Miss.) High, where he once ran the 100 in 10.21 seconds.
The effort to get the fleet freshmen on the field comes after an unexpected early impact from receiver Chauncey Magwood, who “was probably stacked at the bottom of the depth chart going into the summer,” Scangarello said, but has three catches for 55 yards and a touchdown so far
“I think we’ve got a lot of guys like that. We’re about to unleash two young dudes that can run as fast as anyone in the country,” Scangarello said. “And I can’t wait to put them on the field against Youngstown. Wait until we see these two guys run. It just gets better and better.”
Ironing out some wrinkles
The Penguins have beaten Dayton and Duquesne by a combined 50 points. It’s not a CV that screams “SEC upset threat,” but YSU — coming off a 3-7 season in 2021 — has a proud football past, albeit at a lower level.
And Stoops, who grew up in Youngstown, Ohio, isn’t taking anything for granted.
“I know how tough they are, what type of program (they are) and the history they have,” Stoops said. “They’re not going to be intimidated.”
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Chattanooga was proof that a bold team can put some fear into the Cats.
Still, the reasonable expectation is a comfortable Kentucky win. As such, the focus will be on execution, particularly on cleaning up some of the messes from last week’s win at Florida.
Yes, the Wildcats won at The Swamp, rallying to beat then-No. 12 Florida 26-16 by scoring 19 unanswered points after a second-quarter deficit.
But UK “left 200 yards of offense on the field,” Scangarello said, a combination of what he called a “couple bad breaks and mental mistakes.”
So the focus will be on attention to detail. On blocking assignments and timing. With a date at No. 20 Ole Miss on Oct. 1, UK has two weeks — and games against Youngstown State and Northern Illinois — to tweak its offensive issues.
With Florida aggressively attacking at the line, Scangarello said, UK had plays over the top to receivers and on QB keepers that could have been big gains against the Gators.
“If we clean that stuff up, I think we’re gonna be a much more powerful and efficient offense,” Scangarello said.
What is the betting line on the Kentucky-Youngstown State game?
Kentucky is favored by 25.5 points, according to the VegasInsider consensus line.
Prediction: Kentucky 48, Youngstown State 10
The Cats are two weeks away from welcoming back Chris Rodriguez, but the running game started to find something in the second half against Florida even without him. That trend should continue this week, and that figures to open up some play-action possibilities for Levis. Expect the UK offense to be relatively conservative — no reason for Scangarello to show his hand for Ole Miss, if he can avoid it — but that should still produce some powerful numbers.
Reach Louisville men’s basketball reporter Brett Dawson at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter at @BDawsonWrites.
This article originally appeared on Louisville Courier Journal: Kentucky football Youngstown State betting line odds