WILL UOFL'S YOUNG PLAYERS BE ABLE TO KEEP THEIR EMOTIONS IN CHECK?
Last year we saw a group of young UK football players get way too hyped up for their first rivalry game and a near brawl ensued. I attributed that stuff to youth, personally. The rivalry hasn't been competitive for a good while now and there's really no reason for either team to really run their mouths. It was weird and after the game we found out that Mark Stoops had at least somewhat directed his players to do so.
So I can't help but wonder if the young guys for Louisville try to reciprocate by running their mouths and whatnot on Saturday? I'm not saying that they should or that they will but 18-19 year old people do things they shouldn't do every day. I don't think that Bobby Petrino will direct his players to do so or that he will condone it, but I wouldn't be surprised if some of these guys step out of line. Skylar Lacy and Lukyius McNeil have already shown that they are hot heads on the field. Josh Harvey-Clemons and Shaq Wiggins are known trash talkers. Throw in a ton of young players that are going to be hyped up and I wouldn't be surprised at all if we see guys try to mimic what UK did last year.
WILL KENTUCKY COMMIT TO RUNNING THE FOOTBALL?
Kentucky is 104th in the country in rushes per game. That includes the 2.46 sacks they're also giving up. It makes no sense at all that UK doesn't run the ball more when their best player is........a running back. Boom Williams is a dynamic player who is averaging 7.2 yards per carry. To put that in context, Lamar Jackson is averaging 7.3 ypc on non-sack runs. We've all seen how explosive Jackson is and for whatever reason UK refuses to make Williams the focal point of the offense.
Then you move onto JoJo Kemp who is averaging 5.8 yards per carry and only has 93 carries on the year. Kemp is similar to Williams as he can hit a big run at any time, but Kemp has more power than Williams. He can be used to wear down a defense over a game. It just seems obvious that you would focus the offense around them.
UK is perfectly balanced, running the ball 34 times a game and passing it 33.7 times. Balance sounds great and all but that's not really the case when you don't have solid quarterback play. Patrick Towles has been well below average this year and the jury is still out on Drew Barker. With so many issues in the passing game, it would make sense to be more run heavy and utilize your big play threats more often.
LAMAR JACKSON AND THE READ OPTION GIVE UOFL THE BEST CHANCE OF WINNING
Kentucky is coming into this Saturday's game having given up positive rushing yards to every quarterback it's faced save Perry Orth of South Carolina. When you look at the true "running" quarterbacks they've faced the numbers look even worse. Dak Prescott had a monster game against UK and I think that Lamar Jackson could do the same. Mississippi State was able to spread the field against UK and put Prescott in favorable position to run the ball. UofL has been able to some things that MSU did but teams haven't respected the pass as much. I think that the emergence of Jamari Staples could change that and leave the middle of the field open for Jackson's legs.
I don't know who will start but I think that using Jackson in a package is a mistake. I think it takes out the element of surprise a bit. I think going with him and sticking with him allows you to run read option on different downs and I think that's the best weapon Louisville has in this game. Bolin and the pro-style offense has worked well against bad defenses and it could do the same this weekend but I think that Jackson and his running ability is a sure thing.
SPECIAL TEAMS COULD PLAY A HUGE ROLE IN THE GAME
It sounds cliche to say that special teams could decide the game or something along those lines but it is very true in this game. Both of these teams have been pretty terrible at covering kicks and both have a dynamic kick returner. Sihiem King and Treveon Samuel are both speedy guys that can take off when they get into the open field. King hasn't broken one for a touchdown yet, but Louisville's 102nd ranked kickoff coverage could easily change that. Louisville has had a ton of trouble tackling guys on kickoffs and King poses a threat because of his small stature. He's tough to find and he's also tough to get a good target on when trying to tackle him.
The Wildcat's kickoff coverage isn't too bad but their punt coverage is about as bad a Louisville's kickoff coverage. UK has given up a return touchdown both ways and their punt team is giving up nearly 10 yards a return which is 82nd in the nation. Kentucky just doesn't have a lot of good athletes on their coverage team. Returners typically have space to make the catch and make a move on the gunners. If Jaire Alexander can pick a lane and stick with it he should have some success this weekend.