It seems like its been forever since the Kentucky Football team has taken the field. I guess, in a way, it has been forever. A lot has changed for the Wildcats and their opponent, the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers, over the past few months and the two will face off this Saturday at LP Field in Nashville to kick off their seasons.
When Kentucky is on offense:
The Wildcats are transitioning from Joker Phillips’ pro-style offense to Neal Brown’s air raid attack. The switch is unlikely to go without its own hiccups and there will surely be some kinks worked out on Saturday night. The team has yet to name a starting quarterback so it’s still unknown whether Maxwell Smith or Jalen Whitlow will line up under center but the staff has indicated that both players will play in the game. Regardless of who’s taking the snaps, the Wildcats will have a ton of new faces on offense. Look for Kentucky to air the ball out early and often, but don’t be surprised if the running game is heavily featured.
The Hilltoppers defense will look to replace all four starters from last season’s defensive line that played surprisingly well. Andrew Jackson returns to run his mouth at linebacker and Jonathan Dowling will anchor the defensive backfield.
While he may be obnoxious, Jackson could play for a lot of SEC teams and will be tough for the Kentucky offense.
Best bet for success:
The change to the air raid offense will have fans pumped to see a slew of passes thrown, but it’s about winning, not racking up passing yards. The running back position is where the team is most stacked, so a heavy dose of Ray Sanders, Jon George, and JoJo Kemp should expose Western’s lack of depth and allow the Wildcats to coast thought the fourth quarter.
When Kentucky is on defense:
Western’s change in coaching staff and scheme leave a lot of unknowns as to what they’ll do. Their offense is likely to be centered around running back Antonio Andrews and as most Kentucky fans remember, he is very talented. Regardless of what the Hilltoppers’ scheme is, Kentucky’s defense should focus on doing what they are expected to do best and that is to put pressure on the quarterback. A sound pass rush should help mask the deficiencies Kentucky has on the roster at defensive back and linebacker and should allow the team to dictate what Western can do offensively.
Best bet for success:
There’s no need to blitz in this game. The Kentucky defensive line should be able to apply pressure without sending extra rushers and this will in turn allow the team to drop more players in coverage. Getting too blitz happy could expose Kentucky’s raw cornerbacks.