Kentucky's football season started off extremely well with a 4-1 record that included a road win against South Carolina. That start turned out to be fool's gold as UK absolutely collapsed after a close loss to Auburn. The Wildcats went on to be blown out in three straight games and followed those up with a loss to Vanderbilt. The offense has been unimpressive all year but they have some playmakers that can do some serious damage when they get the ball.
Patrick Towles was (finally?) benched last week in favor of redshirt freshman Drew Barker. I'll be honest, there isn't a lot to go off of with Barker. For whatever reason, Mark Stoops chose to sit Barker for the vast majority of this season even when Towles was struggling. It begged the question of how bad Barker must be if he can't play ahead of Towles. Barker showed some flashes of his potential this past weekend against Charlotte. He has a powerful arm and the ball gets on the receiver very quickly. However, his issues start with his arm strength. He tends to throw high when he misses and at times it seems like he might trust his arm strength too much and deliver a little late. That's a normal thing for a young guy to wait that extra second to make sure that the receiver is open but it could lead to a turnover or two this weekend.
The strength of the entire Kentucky football team is their group of running backs. Boom Williams and JoJo Kemp provide the big play ability and Mikel Horton brings the power. All three running backs have made an impact at some point this year and all three can hit a big play at any given time. Yet, for some reason, UK only runs the ball with those three players 27 times a game. I feel like I'm saying the same thing I said last year when Boom Williams entered the game averaging 7 touches a game. Well, that number has doubled and it's still not enough. Williams is the most dynamic player on this offense and he should get the ball more.
In general UK needs to run the ball more than they are. They are coming into this game ranked 104th in the country in rushes per game with 34. With all of the issues they've had trying to find consistency in the passing game, you would think they would rely on the one area that they have been consistent. You have to wonder if UK puts the game into the hands of it's running backs in hopes that the play action game opens up fo Barker and his big arm.
UK, again, has a very solid group of wide receivers. It seems like every year they have a group of guys that have good size and speed with one player being more of a focal point. This year Dorian Baker and Garrett Johnson are sharing that distinction. Baker leads the team in targets and catches while Johnson leads in yards. Baker is a big, physical possession guy who is averaging under 10 yards per catch. Baker poses a big concern as he is the type of player that matches up well with Louisville's smaller corners. Johnson, like Tyler Boyd, will be matched up with safeties a few times and we all know how much of an issue that can cause. Johnson is also the big play threat in the passing game. Boyd is a great receiver, but he's not a big play guy. Kermit Whitfield is a big play guy and I would compare Johnson's potential impact to Whitfield's more than Boyd. If Louisville lets guys like Jeff Badet and Blake Bone make plays on the outside it likely means that UK's offense is playing very well. That has to be avoided.
The Wildcat's offensive line hasn't been a strong group for the offense this year. Like last year, a veteran starts at left tackle in Jordan Swindle. Swindle is a good player but the rest of the line hasn't fared so well. Patrick Towles had a big issue with holding the ball too long but there were also plenty of times where he was under siege much too quickly. Right tackle has been a big issue all year for UK but they've settled on Kyle Meadows as the starter for Saturday. Meadows has done well against power but he has been a complete liability when facing speed rushers. UofL's outside linebackers could be in for a big game Saturday.
KEY PLAYERS: RB Boom Williams, RB JoJo Kemp, WR Dorian Baker, WR Garret "Juice" Johsnon, LT Jordan Swindle