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Unscientific Preview: MSU

KentuckyHelmetMississippi_St

Kentucky vs. Mississippi State

Time: 7:00 pm
Location: Lexington, KY
Television: ESPN360.com

It is exceptionally rare when a college football team hits a must win in October. And though Halloween month is almost over, and Kentucky sits at 4-3, this game looms large if the Cats are to go Bowling for their 4th consecutive year. Assuming the Eastern Kentucky game on November 7th is a win, the Cats will need one more victory in their remaining 4 games, all SEC contests, to get to that magical Bowl eligible 6 wins. It sure would be nice if we could just go ahead and knock that out now against MSU, allowing the games at Georgia, at Vandy, and against Tennessee to simply be icing on an already baked Bowl cake.

Mississippi State is in much the same boat as UK. The Bulldogs now sit at 3-5, with games ahead of them against Alabama, at Arkansas, and against Ole Miss in the Egg Bowl. A loss to Kentucky on Saturday means the Bulldogs have to win out… a very large improbability. So as large as this looms for Kentucky it is infinitely larger for Mississippi State, and a true “Must Win” for Dan Mullen to lead the Bulldogs to a Bowl in his first season at the helm.

Offense
For Mississippi State, they are a rush-centric team, led primarily by senior tailback Anthony Dixon, the SEC’s 3rd leading rusher this season. Dixon has helped the Bulldogs to a 4th place ranking in rush offense, at a shade under 200 yards per game on the ground. Their 10th in the SEC when it comes to passing and MSU clocks in overall at 8th in the conference for total offense.

Kentucky is similar in terms of their statistical rankings, with the differences negligible between each of the offensive strategies. Each of the major categories in terms of rushing, passing, scoring, and total offense finds Kentucky and MSU neck and neck. The key to the Kentucky offense is Randall Cobb, whose talent, skill, and speed are well utilized in an offense struggling to overcome injuries and find an identity of sorts.
Advantage: Push. Statistically there is virtually no difference between the teams and the star power of Cobb and Dixon cancel each other out.

Defense
Defensively, MSU is quite better than their record would indicate. They are 9th in the SEC in total defense (passing: 10th, rushing: 7th) and have had decent outings and moments of greatness in shutting down or at least significantly impeding major offenses like Florida, LSU, or Georgia Tech. They don’t maintain their intensity all game, and opportunities do exist to take advantage, but Kentucky will need to choose their spots wisely. Hindering the ability of the opposition to find those big plays are two freshman defensive backs in Johnthan Banks and Corey Broomfield who have a combined 7 INTs and 3 TDs. Up front, junior DL Pernell McPhee is 5th in the conference for sacks with 4.0 this season.

For the Cats, they have struggled against the rush this season, so much so that they are last in the SEC in rushing defense, giving up nearly 175 per game. Complicating matters for the Cats are the injuries throughout the defense, like Micah Johnson and Trevard Lindley. Johnson will most likely play but won’t be 100% with a high ankle sprain, and against a showstopper like Dixon, the front unit of Kentucky needs to dominate the line of scrimmage… a tall order.
Advantage: Mississippi_StInjuries make this a small advantage for MSU, in addition to the fact the MSU’s offense is strongest where Kentucky’s defense is weakest.

Coaching
Dan Mullen is in his first season as a head coach, after a successful career at Florida. Offensively, Mullen has worked with the likes of Chris Leak, Alex Smith, and Tim Tebow, and given the opportunity to recruit to MSU over several years, most expect him to be successful. For Kentucky’s Rich Brooks, you’d be hard pressed to find Kentucky football fans who are not remarkably impressed with the successes and achievements that Brooks has been able to accomplish while at UK. Three straight Bowl wins, recruiting classes that get better and better, and winning the right way all make Brooks a great coach.
AdvantageKentuckyHelmet In several years it may be a different story, but for now Brooks has the experience, the results, and the edge.

Googling
Random Page 4 Google Image Result for Mississippi State:
MVU_ft
Camouflage on the shoulders? Interesting.

Random Page 4 Google Image Result for Kentucky:
ashley_judd_kentucky_jersey1
Perfection.

Advantage: KentuckyHelmetWhen it comes to chicks in jerseys, Kentucky has the market cornered. By far.

Overall
For both these programs, this game is one of the remaining chances to get a win. It is one of the last times this season that both teams will line up against a conference opponent with similar talent, depth, and skill. For MSU and Dan Mullen, they must rely on their defense to disrupt a Wildcat offense that at times this season has ranged from stagnant to mediocre. For the Wildcats, they must try and contain the Mississippi State rushing attack while limiting mistakes. The difference, in my mind, may very well come down to a home field advantage in the snake pit known as Commonwealth Stadium. A hyped crowd, a black out, and a team in search of historical and unprecedented success will carry the Cats to win #5 and their 2nd SEC victory this season.

Prediction
Mississippi State 24
Kentucky 35

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Unscientific Preview: Auburn

KentuckyHelmetAuburn helmet

Kentucky vs. Auburn

Gametime: 7:30pm
Location: Auburn, AL
Television: ESPNU

Just a few short weeks ago, Kentucky sat at 2-0, with the fans again bubbling with optimism that perhaps the naysayer amongst us, who thought this would be a down year for Big Blue were members of an unneeded Pessimism Army. That dream of staking a place at the SEC upper echelon was quickly tamped down by the consecutive games against Florida and Alabama, the top two teams in the most recent CBSSports Blogpoll. Today we take a look at Auburn and UK. But admittedly… like most Kentucky fans are a bit distracted today. Continue reading

Unscientific Preview: Alabama

KentuckyHelmet Alabama

Kentucky vs. Alabama

Gametime: 12:21 (Palindrome! BOOYAH!)
Location: Lexington, KY
Television: ESPN360.com, many of the local markets

I know it’s been a while since we’ve rocked out an Unscientific Preview. Frankly, I’m surprised that the football team, the fanbase, and the SEC even carried on without. Blame it on the fact that the first few games this season were far from noteworthy, with the exception of Louisville… who didn’t even deserve this sort of treatment. This week, much like last week, the Cats face a Top 5 opponent who is skilled, talented, and has their eyes on an SEC title and accompanying BCS payday. Getting your teeth kicked in week in and week out is sort of the defining characteristic of the SEC… welcome to the party.

Bama is one of those teams that has tradition and mystique unlike a lot of other programs. But in Notre Dame style fashion, the Tide have had nothing of note to celebrate lately. Their last national championship? 1992. Their last SEC title? 1999. That’s 10 years without a conference title for the program that thinks they, and they alone, are the class of the SEC. Mostly because of their former coach Bear Bryant… who used to coach UK. Small world, Tide fans.

The college football universe has been perpetually gaga over the Tide for the last two seasons, most likely because Nick Saban is the man in charge in Tuscaloosa. His first two seasons led to bowls for the Tide, and recruiting classes universally lauded as some of the best in the nation. More on Satan… I mean Saban in a bit, though. Let’s get it on…

Offense
Alabama comes into Saturday’s contest as the #3 scoring offense in the conference (40.5 ppg) thanks largely to a 234 yard per game average rushing the ball. And these sorts of stats weren’t compiled against tomato can after tomato can from FCS or the Sun Belt. The Tide has played a decent schedule to this point, including their season opener against Virginia Tech. The Hokies were gashed for 268 on the ground, 150 of them coming by way of Mark Ingram. When the Tide decides to pass the ball, QB Greg McElroy is 4th in the conference in yards per game. He’s tops in the conference for passing accuracy at a shade under 70%, and has only 1 INT along with 7 TDs  and 938 yards. More a product of teams loading up to stop the run? Probably. But it works for the Tide and McElroy… and that’s what counts. Most notable for the Crimson Tide passing game is who McElroy throws to. Julio Jones, who generates the most buzz and internet chatter, isn’t their leading receiver. That honor belongs to Marquis Maze, who does have an extra game under his belt this season. Both receivers are threats, and should Kentucky choose to simply stack the box, they will make UK pay.

Offensively for the Cats, it’s a far cry this season from the Woodson years in Lexington, as the Cats are in the bottom third in nearly every offensive category. Scoring? 10th at 26.7 ppg. Passing? 9th at 171 ypg. Rushing? 8th at 166 ypg. Granted, those stats were skewed because 33% of the statistical evidence is being accumulated against a dominating Florida defense. But most fans will tell you outside of hapless Miami to start the season, this team has not looked offensively dominant. That isn’t to say it isn’t possible, though. The running game for Kentucky has the potential to keep the Cats in this game, as Derrick Locke and Alfonso Smith offer a troublesome 1-2 punch capable of breaking out. Randall Cobb also provides a spark and playmaker for the UK offense capable at anytime of making a highlight reel sort of play. Ultimately though, those playmakers aside, the offensive prowess of this team rests squarely on the shoulders of Mike Hartline. Much maligned, but supported by his coaches, Hartline must will this team to win if they are to have a shot on Saturday.

Advantage: AlabamaAs much as it pains me to say this. The rushing game for Alabama is a bit better than UK’s, the passing game more advanced, and the Tide is facing a defense nowhere close to the D that UK is facing.

Defense
Oh defense… how you define teams’ identities. For Alabama, that’s certainly the case. The Crimson Tide come into Saturday’s game the #3 team in the conference for scoring defense (13 ppg), #1 against the rush (47 ypg), and #5 against the pass (155 ypg). Overall, the Tide is allowing just a shade over 202 yards per game… good for #1 overall in the entire SEC. Fabulous. So Kentucky’s potential strength… if you can call it that… is facing the best rushing defense in the conference? AWESOME! Other interesting fun facts… after the Tide’s season opener where they allowed 24 points, they’ve allowed a total of 28 points. In three games. The last two? 7 each. Personnel-wise, the Tide feature Marcell Dareus and Javier Arenas, #3 and #4 respectively in the SEC for sacks (3.5 & 3.0).

For Kentucky, they looked damn good in the season opener, pitching a shutout and allowing 188 total yards. Many fans, myself included, breathed a little easier knowing we had a defense capable of shutting a team down. Then Louisville happened… 27 points allowed and 378 yards surrendered to a team that many thought couldn’t fight their way out of a piss soaked paper sack. Let’s not even talk about the Florida game. The only defensive highlight was one particular hit. It certainly wasnt the nearly 500 yards surrendered or the 41 points… 31 of which came in quarter #1. Overall, the Cats are far from dominant, 10th in the conference in total defense (353.7 ypg), 6th against the pass (168 ypg), and 12th against the run (185 ypg). Yes, that’s right, dead last against the area of the game Alabama that excels the most. Stupendous.

Advantage: AlabamaAgain, this is more about who they are facing than the talent on the roster. While Alabama has standout defensive players, Kentucky has a few themselves, in Trevard Lindley, Micah Johnson, and DeQuin Evans. Can this Kentucky team play above what they’ve done so far this season? Of course. Will they? Doubtful, considering who they’re going up against.

Coaching
Should you ask an Alabama fan, Nick Saban is the greatest thing since sliced bread. He has a 114–50–1 record in his NCAA career, has a national championship, and 2 SEC titles. Since coming to Bama, Saban has compiled a 23-8 record and one Sugar Bowl trip last year after losing the SEC Championship game. Saban was also the coach of LSU when they beat Kentucky in the “Bluegrass Miracle”. I contemplated embedding that video, but would rather jam bamboo toothpicks under my fingernails. For Coach Rich Brooks, his career at Kentucky has been slow moving but progress nonetheless. The Cats may still finish no better than 5th, but at least they don’t get beat by 70 anymore. Huzzah!

Advantage: AlabamaNational titles trump Bourbon bottles and F150 Signature Series trucks. Barely.

Famous Fanatic:
Alabama:
bear tattoo Crazy Bear Bryant tatoo guy. Classy.

Kentucky:
ashleyjudd Beautiful, southern accent, and a Kentucky fan. Meet perfection.

Advantage: KentuckyHelmetAs if this even needed to be said. Though bonus points for the white face paint and the houndstooth hat for the tattoo guy.

Overall
Last season’s Alabama-Kentucky contest was a bit of a surprise to not only Alabama fans but the nation, as Kentucky hung with the Crimson Tide much longer than expected. The 17-14 margin was a jaw dropper, and most Kentucky fans felt that was a game Kentucky could have won despite the Tide’s high ranking and considerable talent gap. The last Wildcat win against Alabama came in 1997, in Lexington. The lone victory before then? 1922. Despite the 2-34-1 series record, despite the statistical dominance, despite the advantages Bama has on the roster, I fully expect UK to keep this one closer than many expect, and considering the way Florida handled the Cats last weekend, a close game, in my mind, is a great success.

Prediction:
Alabama 31
Kentucky 27

Unscientific Preview: Kentucky vs. Vanderbilt

vs.

Kentucky vs. Vanderbilt
Gametime: 8:00pm
Location: Lexington, KY
Television: ESPN 2

Why, hello there Vanderbilt! It’s been what, about a year? You look great. I mean, sure, you sort of need this game to get to Bowl eligibility. And yes, you’ve lost 4 straight. And sure, just a month or so ago you were hosting college gameday. The world of college football may have forgotten you like a random bus station skank, but you’re important to us as a Kentucky fanbase, Vandy. Hell, you might be one of the more important games of the year for us. Mostly because you’re winnable and get us to 7. Which gets us fairly close to a major bowl. So for your suckery and your ability to be beat, we love you. And we’ll call you the day after. Far from a bus station skank are you… you’re more of a mid-level sports bar skank. And for that, we love you even more.

Offense: Will the real Kentucky please stand up? We’ve seen this team struggle to move the ball against the Florida and put up 5. We’ve seen this team explode for 38 against Georgia. We’ve seen brilliance, we’ve seen ineptitude. So really, most times when Kentucky has the ball I simply focus on happier things… like bears falling out of trees onto trampolines…

For Vandy, their highest offensive output this season was 38, against Rice on September 13. The ‘Dores haven’t put up more than 14 since September 20. There was a QB controversy midseason as starer Chris Nickson was benched in favor of Mackenzi Adams, and neither have really flourished. Vandy is last in the conference in total offense, and last in total passing, due in no small part to their QB “situation”. Pacing the Dores on the ground is RB Jared Hawkins who isn’t all that bad.
Advantage: Randall Cobb is an explosive player and capable of igniting this offense. That, plus Vandy’s inability to look even remotely decent gives the nod to UK.

Defense: Vandy comes into this showdown currently ranked 10th in the conference in total defense. They are most susceptible to the rush, giving up 140 per game on the ground. This bodes well for Kentucky. Vandy is surprisingly adept at defending the pass.

For the Cats, again, my answer is, “Who knows?”. This defensive unit has played every game imaginable this season. Close wins, blow out losses, gashed through the air, gashed through the ground, etc. To put it mildly this is either a crappy defense capable of great play or a great defense capable of crappy play. We shall see on Saturday, as this truly is a great opportunity for the Wildcats to show who they really are.
Advantage:

Coaching: Bobby Johnson and Rich Brooks are miracle workers at their respective schools. They play in arguably the toughest division in all of college football and they have made their teams competitive. The difference? The post-season. Brooks is looking for his third-straight Bowl… Johnson is first. But both guys do it well, and most importantly, do it clean.
Advantage:

Random Page 2 Google Image Search for Wildcat:

Random Page 2 Google Image Search for Commodore:

Advantage: So in an effort to be funny with your play on words, you make me feel bad that a Cheetah’s home got destroyed? Oh boo hoo. That Cheetah should do what any rational person would do if their home was being destroyed… get in his Lexus and drive off. This is why cats, by sheer Darwinian nature, suck. Well, that and the fact they shit in a little box.

Overall: The Commodores are 0-17 since 1982 in games where they could become bowl eligible. Additionally, they’ve lost 10 of the last 12 against Kentucky. The Cats have reason to be confident about their offense and performance last week, despite a loss, while the Vanderbilt failtrain continues to click clack along. It’s a win for Kentucky, going away, and the Cats get to that important 7th win.

Prediction
:
Kentucky 35
Vandy 17

Unscientific Preview: Kentucky vs. Mississippi State

vs.

Kentucky @ Mississippi State
Game Time: 2:30
Location: Starkville, MS
TV: ESPN Gameplan

The SEC. Impressive in nearly every aspect of the game of football. Speed. Power. Talent. It’s the kind of teams and games where people across the country, nay… the globe, stand up and take notice in a collective jaw dropping “Wow”. It’s the definition of good football. Oh look… there’s Florida winning another national championship. Hey… isn’t that Les Miles putting on another gleaming white championship hat? Wait a second… I think Phil Fulmer just stole my lunch. Any way you slice it the SEC is full of teams, players, and coaches that are the pinnacle of pigskin.

Then you have Kentucky and Mississippi State locking up this weekend. Color me unexcited. Cripple Fight 2008!!! Engage…
In case you missed it last week, and I hope to God you did, Kentucky took an unmerciless asspounding at the hands of Florida. At the same time, Mississippi State got the win against Middle Tennessee State… yes… that Middle Tennessee State who came within one yard of beating the Wildcats. Kentucky checks in at 5-3 with a lone SEC victory against Arkansas, Mississippi State at 3-5 with a lone SEC victory against Vanderbilt. Neither of these teams are very good, and this game could, and should, come down to which team sucks the least.

Offense: To call Kentucky offensively challenged would be an understatement. Challenged isn’t the word I would use. A myriad of words come to mind, most beginning with shi and ending with tty. Here’s the good news… the Kentucky offense will be very different come Saturday. The offensive line is finally healthy and all starters return for the first time since the Western Kentucky game and Rich Brooks has announced that Randall Cobb will be the starting QB. The bad news is the running game is still decimated by injuries, the wide receivers still can’t hang onto the ball, and oh by the way, Mike Hartline made some waves this week by tossing his offense under the bus and blaming them for poor production rather than his lack of talent. Fabulous!

For MSU, the 9th ranked team in the SEC for total offense, they’re balanced on rushing and passing, and not exceptional at either. Junior QB Tyson Lee averages just a smidgen over 120 ypg passing and RB Anthony Dixon is 5th in conference at around 74 ypg on the ground but did ring up 126 and 3 scores on MTSU last week. The similarities in their ineptitude are eery.
Advantage: Push

Defense: For MSU, they rank 7th in the conference in total defense, are 2nd against the pass and 11th against the rush. Despite their impressive stats, the Bulldogs are beatable through the air though, as evidenced by MTSU’s 268 yards last week. Giving up 144 on the ground per game is atrocious, but the Bulldogs have decreased that average to 127 against SEC opponents. The MSU D is giving up 22 points per game, good for 9th best in the conference. Pacing the Bulldogs are linebackers KJ Wright and Dominic Douglas.

When MSU has the ball, they’ll face a Kentucky defense coming off a bloodletting to the tune of 63 points in The Swamp. That’s worse than it looks considering the Florida offense often worked with extremely short fields and the piss poor special teams play gave Florida 14 points giftwrapped inside the 5 twice in the first quarter. This is a Kentucky defense capable of great play, and having Micah Johnson, Myron Pryor, and Marcus McClinton back will make a tremendous difference… talent-wise and emotionally.
Advantage:

Coaching: On one hand you have Rich Brooks. Stodgy. Old school. Perpetually pissed off. On the other, it’s Sylvester Croom. The man who has wrecked more coaching careers than blue label Johnny Walker. Plus, he is a dead ringer for Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. Pubic hair and soda can not included.
Advantage: Sheer x’s and o’s as well as recent results give Brooks the edge.

Celebrity Fan:
Kentucky:

Ashley Judd

Mississippi State:

John Grisham
Advantage: I love books. But I really love boobs.

Overall: Kentucky is coming off an emotional couple weeks. A thrilling win against Arkansas, and an implosion against Florida. MSU is simply MSU. The Croomster and company lose games they should win and win games they shouldn’t, sending Vanderbilt from Gameday to 3 consecutive losses. This game comes down to special teams play and turnovers. Neither team moves the ball exceptionally well, and it is one of the classic Who-Screws-Up-The-Least-Gets-The-Win sort of affairs. It’s a road game, which gives me pause, but the Cats D, finally healthy holds down MSU.

Prediciton:
Kentucky 21
MSU 17

Unscientific Preview: Kentucky vs. Florida

vs.

1986. It was a happier time. Designated the International Year of Peace by the United Nations. Falco was getting rocked by Amadeus. Top Gun was blasting off nationwide and giving us valuable insight through thinly veiled beach volleyball scenes that Tom Cruise may have his zipper in the back of his Levi’s. Ronald Reagan was sitting at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, and just up the road in College Park, MD Len Bias was celebrating being picked by the Boston Celtics by overdosing on Bolivian dancing dust. My, my, how times change. 1986 was also the last time Kentucky was able to put a W up against the Florida Gators. Before that epic 10-3 shootout, the Cats last beat Florida in 1979. But hey… that was in Gainesville!

This year, Rich Brooks rolls into The Swamp with arguably the most unknown quantity on the planet. Kentucky sits at 5-2, and after 7 games in, I know less about this team now than I did 7 weeks ago. Can Hartline perform at a decent level in the SEC? 75% of the season says no. The last 6 minutes of the Arkansas game screams, “Yes! Yes! A thousand times, yes!”. Unknown quantities litter the field, thanks largely in part to injuries. Dicky Lyons? Out. Derrick Locke? Out. Myron Pryor? Out. Doubtful are linebacker and defensive captain Braxton Kelly, linebacker Johnny Williams, safety Marcus McClinton and cornerback David Jones. Suffice to say, this isn’t a Kentucky team at full strength.

As for Florida, they are the walking wounded as well, because, you know, playing in the proverbial meat grinder of the SEC means all your ligaments belong to the the angry football Gods who demand athlete sacrifice to feed their bloodlust. Lineman Jim Tartt is out and Emmanuel Moody doubtful for the Gators as they attempt to do what every Gator team in 21 years has done… beat the Cats. Let that sink in. A senior on that team in 1986 could very well have had a son on this year’s team. That’s generational ass whoopings and what does that make me want to do?

This…

Puke-tastic.

Offense: The bad part is that Kentucky’s weakness this year is clearly the offensive side of the football. The worse part is that everyone knows it. If a horrific movie monster walked into the living room of a secluded cabin full of co-eds and announced, “Hey everyone… I’m going to be murdering you all after dark tonight. And by the way… I’m defeated by table salt”, suddenly it doesn’t really strike fear into the hearts of opposing defenses.

For Florida, it’s simply business as usual in Gator Nation. The two-deep is loaded with talent, there’s more speed than in Jesse Spano’s locker, and Tim Tebow is back. It’s running back by committee in Gainesville, but their committee is better than most anyone else’s. Simply put, as we said in July when we named Florida our preseason #1, it’s a great time to be a Florida Gator.
Advantage:

Defense: It’s hard to really evaluate this Kentucky defense. On one hand, they’re statistically daunting, or at least they had been until South Carolina and Arkansas. Then you factor in the injuries. And it’s anyone’s guess as to what defensive team shows up. They are just as likely to hold Florida under 20 as they are to give up 40.

For the Gators, they’re 5th to Kentucky’s 7th in total defense in the SEC, 4th against the run and 6th against the pass (Kentucky is 3rd versus the pass and 9th against the rush). What does that mean for Florida? It means where they are weakest defensively, Kentucky is weakest offensively. Assuming the end of Arkansas was the anomaly and not the norm. The problem is just that even when saying the defense is Florida’s problem, Kentucky isn’t talented enough for it to really make much of a difference.
Advantage:

Coaching: Rich Brooks? 0-5 against the Gators. Urban Meyer? 3-0 against the Cats. Pretty much sums it up. I love Papaw and am thankful that he saved this program, but if I had the chance to get Urban Meyer, I would toss Brooks out on his wrinkled ass in a heartbeat.
Advantage:

Random Page 1 Google Image Search for “Gator”:

Random Page 1 Google Image Search for “Wildcat”:

Advantage: Despite the manliness that is a Burt Reynolds movie promo poster, Wildcats is the best football movie released in the 80’s starring Goldie Hawn. Ever.

Overall: This Kentucky team at full strength would be hard pressed to walk into Gainesville and get a win. As for this current walking wounded team of Kentucky Wildcats, it will be next to impossible. The game itself will tell us all virtually nothing about the team, as even a blow out loss would be mitigated by the injuries, offensive stagnation, etc. Having said that, this Kentucky team has everything in the making for a ridiculous blow out. Emotional win last week against Arkansas, laden with injuries, subpar offensive unit. Florida just got done spanking LSU, they need large margins to gain votes in the polls, and they have young talent on the roster looking for big plays to get big playing time. When considering all that, I expect nothing from this Kentucky team and hope at the end of the day I’m pleasantly surprised.

Prediction:
Kentucky 10
Florida 35

Unscientific Preview: Kentucky vs. Arkansas

vs.

I remember Arkansas games of the past… overtime thrillers… shootouts… so much offense you’d think you were watching Arena Ball. Gone are the ghosts of Houston Nutt and Darren McFadden. Andre Woodson isn’t walking through the door, either. What you have is two teams, neither of which have a losing record, but both of which might be playing some of the most uninspired, inept football this side of Washington State.

For Kentucky it’s been a season of defensive intensity, offensive frustration, and injuries like I cannot remember. I’m just waiting for the headline that says someone spontaneously combusted at practice.

For Arkansas, it’s just been a season to forget. They did just defeat Auburn… but is that really worth bragging about? I will say this now, and get it out of the way… I hate Bobby Petrino. Hate. Hate. Hatehatehate. I think the man is the lowest douchebag on the entire spectrum of douchebags. I am a firm believer that Petrino was a habitual line stepper in terms of the rules at Louisville, as evidenced by the sheer amount of thugs that played there. Hate. With. A. Passion.

Having said that, the SEC best get its licks in now on Bobby P. while they can. Within 5 years he’ll have either left for a new job, gotten busted by the NCAA for cheating, or have a consistent winner. It’s the Petrino way. On to the game…

Offense: Yes, Kentucky has problems on the offensive side of the ball. The offensive line has looked porous at times. The run game has been questionably called and executed. The Cats haven’t averaged more than 6 yards per pass in a game all season. Mike Hartline makes me want to punt kittens. Lather, rinse, repeat. Arkansas is more of the same, really. It’s the first year in a new system, a horrible rush game, and no real vertical threat to speak of. Casey Dick is still Casey Dick, only this year doesn’t have the luxury of teams putting 9 in the box to stop Felix Jones or McFadden. Dick and company will struggle against Kentucky’s defense. Mightily. Epically. And I will laugh in Petrino’s general direction.
Advantage: If only for the defense they’re going against.

Defense: Arkansas has given up 212 points through 6 games. Kentucky has given up 63. The good news for Akransas is they aren’t facing a Texas or Alabama. Still, though, the defenses are not close, and they won’t be for several years. Defense was never really Petrino’s thing at Louisville, and it certainly wasn’t his bag with the Falcons. Unless you count defending himself for sucking.
Advantage:

Coaching: Brooks versus Petrino. The guy who gave Spurrier an “Aw… bullshit” versus the guy who wants so badly to be Spurrier he can’t stand it. Petrino is a poor man’s version of Spurrier… no-class, arrogant, douchey, and universally hated by most not in the fanbase or his immediate family. The difference is Spurrier is a winner, and Petrino has won nothing, save for a Big East title. Oooooooo. Color me unimpressed, Bob.
Advantage: Push. If it were personality, it’s no contest, but Petrino knows x’s and o’s offensive football. Still, the guy is a turd.

Random Page 1 Google Image search for Razorback:

Random Page 1 Google Image search for Wildcat:

Advantage: Let’s take a look at these pictures… For Kentucky, there’s a nice little kitten. Hopping through a field of wildflowers. Awww. For Arkansas, HOLY SHIT!!! What the hell is that thing?! Is it a hog? A cow? Ralph Friedgen? And more importantly, sweet cowboy hat.

Overall: If you’re looking for exciting football, I’d stay away from this one. This looks to be one of those 10 point or so games, not very exciting, probably a lot of punts. Boredom. Yawns. Left tackle, right tackle, incomplete pass, punt. But this game is epic for the Wildcats, as a loss means you can go ahead and call it basketball season. A win leaves them in the hunt for a Bowl Game, and gives this team some needed momentum for the upcoming games against the meat of the SEC.

Prediction:
Kentucky: 21
Arkansas: 10

Unscientific Preview: Kentucky vs. MTSU

vs

Normally, I would write up a pithy little post insulting Middle Tennessee’s manhood, calling them a joke, and predicting a large UK win. Granted, I’m sure that will be included, but to the victor goes the spoils, and with MTSU’s victory against Maryland, they get the actual team treatment here at OTP.

This Kentucky team is coming off a win over Norfolk State, another payday game for the Wildcats, who check in at 2-0. The defense, through two games, has yet to give up a touchdown, and has yielded only 3 points, a field goal that came after the offense turned the ball over deep in their own territory. It remains to be seen if the defensive prowess is because of the opponents played or if they really are that good, but MTSU won’t provide enough talent or firepower to truly find out.

Offensively the Cats have struggled, and have created a de facto QB controversy amidst the fans, causing starter Mike Hartline to be on the receiving end of some boo’s at Commonwealth Stadium last week as the fans voiced their support for Randall Cobb. The messageboards exploded, with fans saying they were booing the coaches, not the players, but no matter the reasons, it was a low-class thing to do for all involved. A new QB under center needs confidence and support, much like the new girlfriend with body issues. Support her and laud her and the benefits will come back to you tenfold.

Overall, on a look to Saturday, Kentucky lines up at home against a team that is reduced to just 74 scholarship players. They aren’t deep, they’re of average talent, and saying you’re a favorite in the Sun Belt conference is sort of like winning a gold medal at the Special Olympics. Kentucky isn’t Maryland, because, you know, Kentucky doesn’t suck, and quite frankly, this one shouldn’t even be a contest by halftime. But on to the cold hard facts…

Offense: MTSU is paced by QB Joe Craddock, who hung 256 yards and 2 TDs on the Terrapins last week. Phillip Tanner will get the carries out of the backfield, and their receiving corps is led by Malcolm Beyah, a 5-11 freshman who put up 94 yards on 4 catches with a TD against the Terps. The Blue Raiders focused their recruiting last year on recruiting speedy wide outs and they are quick, but we’re talking Sun Belt speed not SEC speed.

For the Cats, this is another opportunity for Joker Phillips to get his offense going under Mike Hartline. Will Randall Cobb play? Sure. Will he be the starter? No. The bottom line on the Kentucky offense is that we all expected this to happen. We have a first-year starter, all the receivers graduated save for Dicky Lyons, and Rafael Little left as well. Cobb gives the offense a nice breath of fresh air and opens up some things in the playbook a la Tebow/Leak in years past at Florida.
Advantage: Even with the sputtering productivity, talent always wins out.

Defense: MTSU’s defensive unit is severely undersized, though quick. But again, perspective. MTSU’s speedy is not SEC speedy. Though the defense got a boost emotionally by beating Maryland and shutting down the Terps, Maryland’s offense is worse than Kentucky’s.

When MTSU has the ball, they’ll be facing the best defense they’ll face all year. Kentucky’s defense has kept better offenses at bay the entire season, and are looking to make a statement that they are, indeed, for real. The front seven for UK is big AND quick, and the secondary is aware, talented, and athletic. When you combine good coverage with a front seven matched up against an inexperienced offensive line, MTSU QB Joe Craddock is in for a very, very, very long day.
Advantage: This one isn’t close. A great defense meeting a mediocre offense.

Coaching: Rick Stockstill is in his third year at MTSU and shares a lot with Kentucky head man Rich Brooks. Both came into a program reeling with sanctions. Brooks with NCAA recruiting violations hanging over the program and Stockstill with sanctions because of academic progress before his arrival. Both men are turning the corner, and Stockstill will be successful in Murfreesboro eventually, but he is not there yet, and has yet to turn as much of the corner as Brooks has. Stockstill won’t be at MTSU for long if he can continue to recruit, take advantage of a conference that he can compete in, and continue to beat teams from BCS conferences.

Brooks comes into this game fired up and feisty, as evidenced by his post-practice rant on Wednesday about a lack of effort, focus, and intensity. Some teams would overlook the Blue Raiders (paging Maryland… Maryland your upset is ready) but Papaw won’t let that happen. Brooks thinks practices without intensity are bullshit.
Advantage:

Intangibles: MTSU does have confidence coming off an upset, and this is the last opportunity they’ll have before conference play to make an announcement on a national level that they’re for real. This is the biggest game of the year for them in terms of quality of opponent, and if Stockstill and company want to continue to build the program this will go a long way. The pressure is alleviated to a certain extent since no one (including me) is giving them much of a chance.

The Cats come in looking to make a statement as well. Brooks was a bit peeved that his team wasn’t ranked this week. A stalwart defense and two wins without a ranking in the polls has left Brooks with a bit of a bitter taste. And no one, I repeat, no one, wants to run into an angry bitter old man. Trust me.
Advantage:

Random Page 1 Google Image Search for Blue Raiders:

Random Page 1 Google Image Search for Wildcats:

Advantage: Kentucky could play the girls in their photo against MTSU and still have a shot.

Overall: The bottom line in this game is that Kentucky is simply the better team on both sides of the ball. Most of MTSU’s starters wouldn’t start at Kentucky and nearly all the defensive starters for the Blue Raiders would struggle to make the two-deep in Lexington. This game is a great opportunity for the Cats to open up their playbook and let Hartline get some experience and confidence against a lesser opponent before opening up conference play in the next several weeks.

Prediction:
Kentucky: 44
MTSU: 6

Unscientific Preview: Kentucky vs. Louisville

vs.

Sunday evening the lights will be aligned on Louisville, KY as the Governor’s Cup renews its rivalry between Louisville and Kentucky. Last year’s thrilling game was loaded with star power, excitement, and celebration. None of that is the case this year, as both teams enter sort of a rebuilding stage when compared to years past.

Gone are Brian Brohm and Andre Woodson. Taking snaps now are two fellas named Hartline and Cantwell. Both programs have been far worse in recent memory, but both are probably looking at baby steps backwards. For Brooks and Kentucky, it’s seeing if sustaining the success of the last two years can be built upon, most notably in terms of offensive prowess and defensive stoutness, two things that usually do not go hand in hand with “Kentucky” and “Football”. For Kragthorpe and the Cards, the offseason was far from kind, as players were embroiled in offseason turmoil, team injuries, and just a rather bucket of yuck type year. Coming off the heels of Kragthorpe’s mediocre season, Cards fans are worried. And rightly so.

So OverThePylon presents to you our first installment of Unscientific Preview 2008.

The Basics:
University of Kentucky Wildcats
Location: Lexington, KY
Record: 0-0 (0-0)
Conference: SEC
University of Louisville Cardinals
Location: Louisville, KY
Record: 0-0 (0-0)
Conference: Big East

Offense: To call either of these teams offensive juggernauts would be a misnomer. This game may very well come down to which offense sucks the least. Yes, Louisville has experience, but Hunter Cantwell’s experience is a moot point. Playing in games with Michael Bush and Harry Douglas takes some of the pressure off the job. Cantwell will be playing a challenging fast defense with receivers less than exceptional, assuming his line holds up well enough to even allow him to throw the ball.

On the UK side of things, we have an even greater unknown than Cantwell. Mike Hartline, who fell ass backwards into the Kentucky job thanks to Curtis Pulley’s inability to be a law abiding citizen suits up for game 1 of the Hartline experience. What will help him is a stable of running backs that are quick, tough, and experienced. When he throws the ball it’s anyone’s guess, as no one really knows what he’s capable of. Advantage: Based solely on the defense they’re playing against….

Defense: Kentucky’s unit is strong. Louisville’s unit isn’t. The defense got shredded by the offense in the scrimmage a few weeks ago for Louisville, which isn’t a huge shock since pretty much every team they played last year did as well. Kentucky’s unit looked staunch in their scrimmage, telling us either the defense is tremendous and the offense isn’t that bad, or the unit isn’t that good and the offense is just ghastly shit-tacular. I’ll go with the former. Advantage:

Coaching: Rich Brooks. Steve Kragthorpe. One was nearly burned out of town by an angry mob last year. One was nearly burned out of town by an angry mob several years ago. Records are inconsequential because Kragthorpe is relatively new to the game as well as big time football, and Brooks spent his younger days coaching Lazarus at Bethlehem Prep. Based solely on the sheer love affair this blog has for him, this is an easy choice. Advantage:

Intangibles: It’s a rivalry game. It’s a home game for Louisville, though there will be plenty of blue in the stands. It’s being billed as a redemption game for the Cardinals. Questions swirl around the program like Rick Bozich on a free lunch. It’s big for Louisville… yes… we get it.

For Kentucky it very well could be the start of a season which will go a long way in determining how the Brooks era is remembered. Whether the two year stretch we’re in was the fluke or the norm. A win means UK will most likely win all their non-conference games and get them 67% of the way to a .500 season at least. That’s big as well.
Advantage: Push

Random Page 1 Google Image Search Result for Louisville Cardinals:

Random Page 1 Google Image Search Result for Kentucky Wildcats:

Advantage: Slutty cheerleaders make me smile.

Overall: Expect an ugly ugly game. Last year’s game, punctuated by dramatics, fireworks, and star power will be the Cinderella to this year’s ugly stepsister. Kentucky plays a grind it out, run first offense over Louisville’s porous defense with the score appropriately reflecting the change in style. If the Kentucky defense gets to Cantwell and forces any sort of turnovers it will be a long day for the Cards in the pizza pit.
Prediction: Kentucky 28 Louisville 17