Mark Stoops has Scott Satterfield’s number over the last few years, mostly due to his offense performing at an insane level. The Cats haven’t had an overly-impressive offensive system compared to other opponents on the Cards’ schedule but when this game arrives, they look like Steve Spurrier is calling the shots. The Cats have been inconsistent on offense this year and flat-out bad at times but all of that goes out of the window with the rivalry.
We’re going to hear about Will Levis all week so I guess I should just get it started. Levis is an NFL talent with prototype build and arm talent. He also has the type of athleticism that teams are looking for as he can extend plays and pick up first downs with his legs when needed. Levis has been talked about as the potential top pick in the draft this spring and his tools are why that hype hasn’t gone away. However, he hasn’t had the season most expected.
Levis has had issues with turnovers this season and his accuracy has been an issue in key moments. Levis has also battled injuries which we will hear about nonstop on Saturday and those injuries have been a factor in his play. He hadn’t been able to run the ball much before the Georgia game last week but Mark Stoops confirmed that they are back to calling designed runs for him. Levis is also playing behind a poor offensive line which has made it hard to take advantage of his big arm.
The expectations are high for Levis but just because he hasn’t met them doesn’t mean he can’t have a big game this weekend.
Kentucky had some sort of NCAA issue this summer and Chris Rodriguez was at the center of it after his DUI arrest in the spring. Even though he had these off-the-field issues, there was no question that he would be a part of the team this year. He came back after a suspension and he has picked up where he left off last season. Rodriguez is averaging just over seven missed tackles forced per game per PFF. He is the best power back in the country and he makes it very hard to contain him because he can break tackles and take off for big gains.
The UK running game struggled without Rodriguez but they do have serviceable backups. Kavosiey Smoke is a veteran option and JuTahn McClain has good speed and they can do enough to spell the starter in their backup roles.
Kentucky has been very good at the wide receiver position over the last few years with at least one NFL-level talent to rely on. That hasn’t been the case this year, but the group as a whole has been very effective and they are very fast and explosive. Barion Brown is the top threat in the group and he has legit track speed that he has shown off plenty of times this year. He is fifth in the country in all-purpose yards per play and a lot of that comes from his skills as a kick returner. UofL should literally kick it out of bounds instead of kicking to him if needed.
Dane Key and Tayvion Robinson round out the group and both can take the top off of a defense. Key is the big outside threat and he has made a handful of contested catches this year. Robinson has stepped into the slot role that has been so productive and he has been solid. Any of these guys can go off for a big game so UofL will have to continue to contain the big plays in the passing game.
The UK offensive line has been known for great play for years now but they have struggled after losing their coach to a head coaching position. Having to replace their starters with a new coach coming in seems to have caused an issue as the Cats haven’t blocked the run extremely well. They are also pretty abysmal when it comes to pass blocking as they have given up 40 sacks o the season. This group has had flashes of being able to help the offense move the ball but the bad moments have been quite bad. UofL should have an advantage here but the rivalry makes this game unpredictable.