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What To Watch For: Kentucky

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Can UK’s offense have a game like they did last year? The #W2W4 asks that and a few more questions.

NCAA Football: Mississippi at Kentucky Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports

KENTUCKY HAS TO FIND WAYS TO GET LYNN BOWDEN THE BALL

UK was able to get big plays in the game last season because they had two dynamic running backs and two receivers that could hit big plays. That’s been cut in half with Jeff Badet and Boom Williams leaving UK early. Benny Snell is still a load at running back and Garrett Johnson is his same consistent self. UK still hasn’t found that next option to force the defense to account for. Lynn Bowden should be that guy but they haven’t used him nearly as much as they should.

Bowden is one of the biggest recruits that UK has landed in the Stoops era. He is a legit four star talent that they pulled out of Ohio and away from schools like Penn State and Michigan. He’s the type of athlete that makes “WOW” plays look easy and he’s at his best with the ball in his hands. Kentucky has tried to get the ball in his hands by using him in the Wildcat as well as on quick screens but the Wildcat stuff hasn’t worked at all.

What they should be doing is using him as an option guy on the Wildcat plays they have for Snell. They should have also added in a triple option play at some point with Snell as the dive guy and Bowden as the option back. At the very least, use Bowden as an option quarterback instead of just having him run it. Everyone knows what’s coming and the few passes he’s thrown out of the Wildcat won’t stop teams from run blitzing. Bowden is the best option they have outside of Snell and they absolutely have to use him if they want to win this game.

WE SHOULD FIND OUT QUICKLY IF LOUISVILLE’S DEFENSE HAS BEEN FOOL’S GOLD RECENTLY

Peter Sirmon has rightfully drawn the ire of the Louisville fan base this year. The way that his defense has played the last two weeks should garner him some praise. The vast majority of the issues that have plagued this group have been gone over the last two games and Sirmon’s game plan has helped to shut down some of the top individual players in the conference.

Now we will get an opportunity to see if Sirmon’s defense has actually improved or if going against an overachieving UVA team and a backup quarterback-led Syracuse has made this group look better than they are. Has Jaire Alexander’s energy been the difference? Maybe Drew Bailey has brought some vocal leadership? It might just be that Sirmon’s system and scheme are finally working.

I believe that UK is the type of team that can test whatever theory you could come up with. Benny Snell will run through you if you don’t bring your pads and desire. Stephen Johnson isn’t a world beater but we all saw that he can make plays with his arm and his legs if you allow him to. I also think that Eddie Gran is an underrated offensive coordinator that does a good job game planning.

LOUISVILLE NEEDS TO GET OFF TO A FAST START TO FORCE UK TO PASS

One of things we heard a lot earlier this year from Bobby Petrino was that they weren’t running the ball much because of the score. Even though it didn’t really make sense there was truth to his logic. Kentucky is a team that wants to run the ball down your throat and then hit big plays down the field off of that running. They won’t be able to run the ball as much as they want if they get down early in the game. Louisville could put them in a spot where they have to be a pass-first offense and that’s not where they win.

If Louisville could force Kentucky to pass they would also be able to hide the one area of the defense that hasn’t been much improved over these last two games. The run defense has been a little suspect with Moe Neal running for 98 yards last week and Jordan Ellis averaging 4.6 yards per carry for Virginia. Snell would make those numbers look like nothing if Kentucky can keep this game close.

LAMAR JACKSON CAN’T COME OUT OVER-HYPED LIKE THE CLEMSON GAME

The Clemson game was the first “marquee” game that Louisville had on the schedule this season. For whatever reason, Lamar Jackson came out in that game way too fired up and he made some early mistakes. He pointed out after the game that he shouldn’t have been so hyped up but the way that he has talked so far this week I don’t know that the same thing won’t happen this weekend.

Jackson is a high energy player that plays best when he can completely get into the game. That’s also why he struggles when things aren’t going completely smoothly. Once things started to go a little off in the Clemson game he got a little frustrated and he stopped doing all of the things that he had improved on during the spring and summer. His eyes dropped into the rush and he panicked at the first sign of pressure. While that might not happen against UK, he could have some issues with his accuracy because he’s to fired up. Kentucky is one of the more opportunistic defenses and they can pick off an errant pass and give their defense a short field.