Opponent Breakdown: Eastern Kentucky Colonels

Jamie Rhodes-USA TODAY Sports

EKU comes into Papa Johns Cardinal Stadium Saturday hoping to continue the trend of FCS schools knocking off major FBS competition.

With all of the Kentucky Universities beating up on each other in the first few weeks of the season, EKU and its top-25 ranking have been somewhat overlooked. The Colonels looked very impressive in their opening week win against Robert Morris last week and hope to at the very least hold their own against Louisville this weekend.

OFFENSE:

EKU lost a lot of experienced talent from an offense that might have been the most statistically balanced attack I've seen. The goal of their offensive system is to make sure that you can't key on one thing. They like to run the ball until you have to respect it, then they use play action and run formations to create favorable matchups for the passing game. Its how they won the OVC two years ago, and its why they are a popular choice to win it this year even though they only returned 4 starters.

Quarterback Jared McClain played in 6 games last year and his experience showed last weekend as he led the offense flawlessly. He is a perfect fit for an offense that likes to get the ball down the field with play-action bootlegs and deep drop backs. He has a big arm and he can make a defense pay with his legs in the open field. McClain has big shoes to fill with the departure of T.J. Pryor, but he looked the part last week.

McClain should expect decent protection with two of the best guards in the OVC in Justin Meredith and Travon Carter. The offensive line is the only group on the offensive line with any real experience and they will need it against a defense that looks to confuse and overpower with blitzes. The skill position players are all new and will have to take advantage of the opportunities that Louisville's aggression creates. Ohio had three big plays last week and I'm sure EKU's offensive coordinator noticed that Louisville only had one safety deep on each play. McClain has the arm to get the ball there and his line might be able to get him enough time to get the ball outside to outside to a playmaker.

KEY PLAYERS: QB Jared McClain, LG Travon Carter, RG Justin Meredith, RB Caleb Watkins

DEFENSE:

Louisville will face its second straight basic 4-3 defense. EKU returned a lot of experience on defense and they all but shutdown Robert Morris' offense last week. They aren't a pressure based defense persay, but they do make a good amount of plays behind the line with different blitzes and packages. The immediate thing that stood out to me was the size of the defense. They have the perfect blend of size inside with speed on the edges. They start two 300-pounders at tackle with two quick defensive ends that get up the field well. Their linebackers all held their ground well last week and can all run pretty well, also.

Louisville's passing game lit up Ohio's secondary from the word go last week and it will be up to the Colonels undersized corners to stay with their man to curb that this week. Both starters are 5-8 which is shorter than any receiver they will line up against Saturday. The pass defense was the weak spot of the defense at times last year, giving up 21 touchdown passes. However, it also had 16 interceptions and the defense as a whole pretty much shutdown everyone it faced outside of Purdue. The defensive system works really well with the offensive concept. They like to grind the ball on offense and sustain drives, while stifling people on defense by making you one dimensional.

KEY PLAYERS: OLB Anthony Brown, DE Shawn Shepard, MLB Ichiro Vance

Notes:

  • They have a player named Ichiro.
  • I'll go ahead and bet my ridiculous CC salary (don't tell Cardsfan922) that this is the only matchup this year with two opposing players with the last name De La Cruz (Ben/EKU, Kai/UofL).
  • Former UK defensive tackle Patrick Graffree transferred to EKU just prior to the start of the season. I honestly can't find any info on whether or not he could play this week.
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