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Opponent Breakdown: Kentucky Offense

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NCAA Football: Tennessee-Martin at Kentucky Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports

Kentucky enters this week with their bowl status secured but the rivalry is always worth winning and they will have hopes to keep their makeshift offense going. Kentucky lost their top three quarterbacks this year and since then they have played Lynn Bowden under center and just made it work. Eddie Gran has been a master at just that and this year is maybe his masterpiece. He has essentially rolled back his offense and turned it into a high school system and it’s worked for the most part.

Bowden is a quarterback in name only. He is mostly running option plays or handing the ball off after the snap. He did have a very good game throwing the football against Vanderbilt and he does posses the ability to throw the football but he has been very inaccurate and has seen most of his success on easy throws down the field. He’s not taking a dropback and hitting guys on slants and comebacks. Bowden does have a strong arm with a decent ability to put air under it. He just hasn’t consistently shown the ability to put the right touch on the ball.

As a runner, Bowden is dynamic in tight spaces. He can run the option extremely well because he can cut on a dime. He has an ability that only a handful of option guys possess. He freezes you because he can make you try to tackle air. Lamar Jackson had that ability and we all know how he made defenders look on the edge. Gran runs some inside things with Bowden but I think he’s at his best on the outside. Especially with the stable of running backs he has to pitch to.

Speaking of the running backs, Kentucky has done a good job of utilizing multiple guys to replace Benny Snell this year. Alim Rose, Christopher Rodriguez and Kavosiay Smoke are averaging about 25 carries for about 150 yards per game. That’s essentially a wash from what Snell and Rose averaged last year. All three of these guys have long speed but Rose is the big play threat. He showed that in last year’s game and Bowden’s ability to run the ball so well ends up giving these backs a lot of space to operate. There are a lot of similarities to what we saw when Lamar Jackson was here. UK has just done a better job of spreading the ball between these backs and Bowden.

Kentucky’s receivers were the big question coming into this season to me because they were really inconsistent last year. As of now, they don’t really matter much because of the quarterback situation. Ahmad Wagner got a lot of attention earlier this year because he draws a bunch of pass interference calls but he has 10 whole yards since Bowden became the quarterback. There’s no one out of this group that worries you because of the quarterback. They have some talent though.

The skill guys are getting all of the attention but the offensive line is the reason this offense is working. These guys just move people off the ball and they make it look easy. UK uses a lot of counter draws and other plays that involve pulling a linemen and doubling inside. This line just kills with those types of blocks and they open up holes inside that Bowden can quickly get through. They also do a good job of getting to their second level blocks. That makes it hard for guys to shoot through gaps and slow down plays or get tackles for loss. How Louisville handles this line matters much more to me than how they contain Bowden. If they get pushed around by these guys, UK’s running game will be able to control the ball and get a bunch of short gains even if the defense contains the backs. They have to force the issue and get tackles for loss and no gain stops.