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2019 Season Opponents Preview: Kentucky Wildcats

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Can we please ****ing beat Kentucky this year?

NCAA Football: Citrus Bowl-Kentucky vs Penn State Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Kentucky Wildcats

Last Season: 10-3 (5-3)

NCAA Football: Citrus Bowl-Kentucky vs Penn State
First photographic evidence of a cat enjoying a bath
Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Head Coach: Mark Stoops – 7th year (former Florida State DC)

Overall Record: 36-39 (17-31)

School Record: 36-39 (17-31)

Offensive Coordinator: Eddie Gran – 4th year (former Cincinnati OC)

Defensive Coordinator: Brad White – 1st year (former Indianapolis Colts OLBs coach)

Last Game Against Mizzou: 2018 at Faurot Field, won 15-14

This Year: at Kroger Field – Lexington, KY – October 26th, TBD

Projected Overall S&P+ Rank: 37th

Projected Offensive S&P+ Rank: 63rd

Projected Defensive S&P+ Rank: 27th

Returning Production: 51% – 64% Offense, 39% Defense (114th in the nation)

NCAA Football: Kentucky at Missouri
STOP IT LYNN BOWDEN STOP MAKING ME CRY
Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Offensive Players to Watch

-Terry Wilson – QB – JR: 180-268 (67.2%)/1,889 yards/11 TDs/8 INTs/28 sacks/5.78 ypa

-107 rushes/726 yards/4 TDs/6.79 ypc/58.9% OPP rate/6 fumbles

-Asim Rose – RB – JR: 71 rushes/442 yards/5 TDs/6.23 ypc/57.8% OPP rate/2 fumbles

-10 targets/8 catches (80%)/82 yards/1 TD/10.3 ypc/8.2 ypt/3.6% tr

-Lynn Bowden, Jr. – WR – JR: 83 targets/67 catches (80.7%)/745 yards/5 TDs/11.1 ypc/9 ypt/29.6% tr

NCAA Football: SEC Media Day
The man named Kash gets credit for never making change...are these money puns doing anything for you?
Vasha Hunt-USA TODAY Sports

Defensive Players to Watch

-Calvin Taylor, Jr. – DE – SR: 22.5 tackles/19 solo/6 TFLs/1 sack/0 INTs/1 PBU/0 FFs/31.1% HAVOC

-Kash Daniel – LB – SR: 62 tackles/41 solo/7.5 TFLs/1 sack/0 INTs/1 PBU/0 FFs/13.7% HAVOC

-Jordan Griffin – SS – SR: 7 tackles/5 solo/0 TFLs/0 sacks/0 INTs/3 PBUs/0 FFs/42.9% HAVOC

Preview

Sports are fun. Or at least they’re meant to be fun. A little escape from the banality of day to day life. A place where you can be an absolute nut case in support of a cause that (ideally) does not lead to any long-term ill effects. Some are so obsessed that they devote unhealthy amounts of time consuming every piece of information they can (hi, that’s us!) and some even try to make a career out of it (hi, that’s me!). And all of us, to one degree or another, arrive at conclusions based off of all the historical experiences we’ve had in order to figure out what’s going to happen to our beloved team.

For example! What kind of list of expectations did we have on November 7th, 2011 when we found out our Tigers were going to jump to the SEC? Well, probably something like this:

-Our basketball team is going to D O M I N A T E

-Football will be tough, we’ll have to modify our spread to counter those awesome defenses

-We’ll have to start recruiting the deep south since that’s the only way we can keep up with these guys

-At least we’ll have that SEC money though, whew!

-We’re trading Oklahoma for Alabama but at least Saban is old and won’t last much longer

-There’s not a lot of easy wins there, but at least we can count on beating Kentucky and Vanderbilt

…wait a second….

/enhance

we can count on beating Kentucky

//enhance

count on beating Kentucky

///enhance!

BEATING KENTUCKY

:(

Of all the ways we’ve been wrong about what our new home would provide, anticipating an annual football win against the basketball school of the SEC is the one that stings and confuses the most.

And not only that we lose, but the manner in which we lose that takes it over the top:

In 2015 Maty Mauk threw the ball everywhere but to the guys wearing the same clothes as him as we slowly fell apart in the second half and lost by 8.

The 2016 match-up had Kentucky go up TWENTY-EIGHT TO NOTHING before Missouri tacked on some meaningless touchdowns after the Wildcats had clearly packed it in. Benny Snell and Boom Williams ran for 300 trillion yards. The upside is that this was the game where Barry Odom said, “Um….I’m going back to our old defense.”

In 2017 Missouri was driving in the closing minutes, down by 6, when J’Mon Moore was tackled and, while trying to flip the ball back to the ref, had it knocked away by a Kentucky defender. While “Yakety Sax” blared in everyone’s heads, the refs traipsed around the field trying to corral the ball as 20 seconds ticked off the clock and Mizzou was unable to stop it. Time elapsed before we could get two more plays off.

And in 2018:

You said it, Jim Sterk!

I’m going to do this preview. I’m going to look at what Kentucky has and relay that to you so you know what to look for, and point out possible strengths and weaknesses, but it doesn’t matter. Kentucky will win. We’ve ranked higher in S&P+ every year we’ve been in the SEC. Doesn’t matter. We’ve been favored in almost every match-up. Doesn’t matter. Kentucky is the Hannibal to our Gaius Varro and every game we play is the Battle of Cannae where we think we’ve won the day only to turn around and realize we’ve been surrounded and systematically slaughtered.

…….ahem.

Let’s preview their team, shall we?

Eddie Gran is entering his 4th year as Kentucky’s offensive coordinator and has yet to field an offense that ranks better than 50th in the country. To wit:

Kentucky Offensive S&P+ rankings under Gran…2016 – 57th, 2017 – 52nd, 2018 – 64th

For all the buzz about Benny Snell, it was actually the worst offense they’ve had in three years. They truly were somewhere between mediocre and bad in every category: 60th in success rate (getting half the yardage needed per down), 118th in explosive plays, 85th in points per scoring opportunity, 52nd in rushing, 94th in passing… Really, the one thing that was a strength was field position (3rd), and that’s because they had a squad of golems on the defensive side ruining opposing offenses and forcing 10,000 punts. 63% of that… uh… opportunistic offense returns, starting with quarterback Terry Wilson. I was absolutely floored to see that he completed 67% of his passes, though an absolutely horrid 5.7 yards per attempt made perfect sense to me (as did his 28 sacks). Mobile quarterbacks tend to get sacked more due to their tendency to make things happen with their legs, but WOW! 28 sacks taken is truly awful. Troy transfer Sawyer Smith is also in play, but he’s basically a less sack-prone version of Wilson. Benny Snell is playing in the NFL now and some dude named Asim Rose is the incumbent at running back. Wildcat beat writers have been raving about Rose’s speed, but the junior has not had the opportunity to show that until this year. It’s three freshmen behind him, so depth is perilous unless a youngster steps up. At receiver is the hero of last year’s Missouri-Kentucky debacle, Lynn Bowden, Jr., who was targeted more than the next 3 top receivers combined, and is the sole returner amongst the top 6 targets of last year’s passing game. Career backups Josh Ali and Isaiah Epps will be stepping up unless the bumper crop of 3-star freshmen can make an impact. The line will also be breaking in three new guys after losing All-SEC guard (and “all-name team” candidate) Bunchy Stallings, so there will be a lot of fresh faces scoring a billion points on us this year.

Outside of Snell and his fun kazoo-whirly mouthpiece, though, Kentucky was not known for its offense, unlike its 15th ranked defense. The Cats weren’t given any favors by their offense, with their average starting field position ranking 72nd in the country but thanks to a 40th ranked rushing defense, 19th ranked passing defense, and an outright absurd ability to stuff the run every down while being a top 10 team in sacks, the Wildcat defense denied most opponents from taking advantage of the anemic Wildcat attack. HOWEVER. Only 39% of that production returns this year. THIRTY-NINE. What’s even more inconceivable than that is that they return 6 of their 8-man line rotation and 5 of their 7-man linebacking corps. What that shows you is that: 1) yes, Josh Allen was really THAT good, and 2) having a secondary graduate 5 of 7 rotational players shows how important an experienced secondary is for overall defensive quality. And, on top of those lost five, they also lost starting free safety Davonte Robinson for the year during fall camp, so they will be even further in the hole from an experience standpoint. The guys that do return are okay, but none of them stood out last year. Plus, with essentially a brand new two-deep in the secondary, the d-line and linebackers will have to carry the load on passing downs since there’s no proven talent to cover. That’s going to make it ten times more frustrating when we can’t score on these guys!

Am I really this pessimistic about the game? Am I just being facetious? Reader, even I’m not totally sure, and I’m me. All I know is that Missouri has a Kentucky problem and until Odom actually beats Stoops, I’ll go into every game assuming we’ll lose in the dumbest way possible. It’s at THE VAUNTED KROGER FIELD in Lexington this year, and as much as I’d love to finally pay them back on their home turf I… I just am a broken human being who can’t see any hope against the giant blue and white boulder that befuddles our black and gold Sisyphus.

Indeed, Jim Sterk.