Kentucky Wildcats Football: An early look at the WKU game


Western Kentucky University – September 1, 2011 – Nashville, TN

The start of Kentucky’s 2011 football season will be played outside of the state of Kentucky for only the second time since 1982, when the Wildcats take on the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers in Nashville on September 1. The contest will open the season for both teams as they try to improve on their 2010 campaigns and work their way towards a bowl season.
Kentucky will be returning most of the starters from their defense and offensive line, but will be breaking in new starters at just about every skill position on offense. The Cats will have to replace the production of Randall Cobb, Chris Matthews, Mike Hartline, and Derrick Locke with players that are young or unproven. Junior Morgan Newton may be beginning his first season as the projected starting quarterback, but he’s not exactly green. He along with receiver LaRod King and running back Ray Sanders all have experience on the playing field filling in for injured players over the past two seasons and should be ready to take over the yards that the departed players have left behind.
Western Kentucky will be an extremely young team this year, and have only eight seniors listed on their post-spring depth chart. Kawaun Jakes returns for his junior season, and will be a threat to beat opponents on the ground and through the air. The defense will return standout cornerback Tyree Robinson, who will look to improve on his freshman year.

Why Kentucky will win…
The Cats are better than the Hilltoppers across the board. Western is a team on the rise, and that’s because they really don’t have anywhere to go but up. Tackle Wes Jeffries, tight end Jack Doyle, and running back Bobby Rainey could start for a lot of teams in the SEC, but outside of those guys the offense is going to be extremely untested and unproven. The receivers are small, the offensive line is raw, and the quarterback has struggled in the past. The defense should be stronger than the offense for the Hilltoppers, but the defensive line is undersized and the defensive backs are extremely young. The Wildcats are likely to rely on the run game against Western and The Kentucky offensive line should have no problem overwhelming the WKU defensive line. will probably see at least one UK running back have a career high in rushing yards. Kentucky will probably see at least one of their running backs have a career high in rushing yards. On defense, the Cats are too big and too fast for the Hilltoppers to take them by surprise.

Kentucky will lose if…
They don’t take the Hilltoppers seriously. While they may be new to the FBS level of football, Western Kentucky has seen their recruiting classes improve from guys that Kentucky would have never even considered offering, to last season’s class that had a couple of players with Kentucky offers. The talent level in Bowling Green has been steadily rising and it would be a huge mistake to take this game for granted. The 2008 contest saw a 41-3 drubbing of the Hilltoppers, and the 2010 contest saw Kentucky put on an offensive showcase for a 63-28 win. Two blowouts don’t count for much because this year’s WKU team should be significantly better than last year’s version. One guy that Kentucky absolutely must contain is senior running back Bobby Rainey. He put up 99 rushing yards on the Cats as a true freshman in 2008 and followed that up by putting up a ridiculous 187 yards and 2 touchdowns last year. Stopping the Hilltoppers will start and end with stopping Rainey and if the Cats let him have a big day, they could be upset by WKU.

What I think happens…
The Kentucky defense puts a strangle-hold on Rainey and forces Jakes to beat them through the air. The young and untested receivers drop too many passes and are confused by Kentucky’s complicated defense and the Hilltoppers commit multiple turnovers. Ray Sanders and Brandon Gainer both rush for over 100 yards and Newton attempts fewer than 20 passes in the game due to the Kentucky offensive line’s ability to overpower the Western defensive front. Western scores a touchdown on special teams and adds another late score against Kentucky’s backups.

Final Score: UK 49 – WKU 14

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