Kentucky will head down to Baton Rouge to ..."/>

Kentucky will head down to Baton Rouge to ..."/>

Kentucky Wildcats Football: Gameplan and execution for LSU


Kentucky will head down to Baton Rouge to take on the Louisiana State Tigers this Saturday in what is sure to be their toughest test yet. The first four games have opened some eyes (including mine) to offensive inadequacies that were not supposed to exist this season, and the LSU defense is going to be yet another mountain for a struggling UK team to climb. As Morgan Newton and company continue to find their rhythm, Louisiana State has made quick work of opponents this season. The Tigers have outscored opponents 157-55 through four games and have only allowed 53.2 yards rushing per game. To make things even more impressive, the Tigers have only played one home game thus far (Northwestern St.) and have travelled to Starkville to take down the #25 Mississippi State Bulldogs 19-6, to Morgantown to dismantle the #16 West Virginia Mountaineers 47-21, and to Arlington (in the Cowboy’s stadium) to knock off the #3 Oregon Ducks 40-27. LSU has excelled against one of the toughest schedules in the country and is clearly on the top tier of college football teams.

What You Really Need to Know About LSU:
The Tigers are an old-school type of team that beats opponents with a stifling defense and a bruising rushing attack. The defense is one of if not the best, units in the country. LSU has forced a ridiculous 12 fumbles and recovered 5 in addition to picking off six interceptions in only four games. That’s a total of 11 turnovers (just under three per game) and four forced fumbles per contest. Basically, holding onto the ball is borderline impossible against this defense. The offseason turmoil that the team went through has also apparently only served to strengthen the Tigers. After projected starting quarterback Jordan Jefferson was kicked off of the team, senior Jarrett Lee has taken ownership of the offense and completed 64% of his passes for 624 yards for six touchdowns and only one interception. The Stable of Tiger running backs led by Spencer Ware and Michael Ford have combined for 684 yards and are averaging 171 yards and 2.75 rushing touchdowns per game.

Players You Need to Know for the Tigers:
#7 – Tyrann Mathieu – After the departure of Patrick Peterson, Mathieu stepped right into the #7 jersey and has quickly emerged as one of the favorites for the Thorpe award this year. He’s a dynamic playmaker on the defensive side of the ball and has a knack for causing turnovers.
#90 – Michael Brockers – At 6’6 and 300+ pounds, Brockers is a load at defensive tackle. He has been a constant disruption in opponents’ backfields and will look to wreak havoc on a struggling Kentucky offense.
#18 – Brandon Taylor – Taylor is a sideline-to-sideline safety that is just as comfortable at the line of scrimmage blitzing the passer as he is dropping into deep coverage. He is big enough to cover a tight end on passing routes, and fast enough to man the slot receiver when necessary.
#10 – Russell Shepard – Shepard was suspended for the first three games of the year and has been passed on the depth chart by other wide receivers during his time off. Regardless, the former quarterback and five-star prospect has an abundance of natural talent and athleticism and can hurt defenses split out as a receiver, coming out of the backfield as a runner, or lining up as the team’s ‘Wildcat’ QB.
#2 – Rueben Randle – Randle is an accomplished receiver and has been torching defenses for 15+ yards per catch. He’ll cause a matchup problem for any corner charged with covering him this season, and his combination of size and speed is sure to land him in the NFL in the not too distant future.

Top 3 Matchups to Watch
LSU’s Rueben Randle VS. UK’s Randall Burden
The Kentucky defensive backfield has been susceptible to giving up the big play thus far and Rueben Randle is a big play specialist. Burden is Kentucky’s most accomplished cornerback, and he will have to balance coming up to support the run with staying true to his coverage of one of the SEC’s best pass catchers.
LSU’s Tyrann Mathieu VS. UK’s Morgan Newton
It may seem funny to see a quarterback matched up with a defensive back, but Morgan Newton is going to have a chess match ahead of him this week. He will need to utilize his eyes to look off Mathieu and keep him from jumping passes in addition to being accurate, or Mathieu will surely add to his interception totals for this season.
LSU’s Bennie Logan VS. UK’s Matt Smith
Smith will be projected to start at center again this week after sitting out much of the first three contests of the season with injury. For the sake of the Kentucky offense, he needs to be as close to 100% as possible. The Tigers have a rotation along the interior defensive line that would be tough for anyone to deal with, and Logan is a defensive tackle that could give Smith and the Wildcats fits. If Newton is going to have enough time to throw and the backs are going to have holes to run through, Smith will have to keep Logan out of the backfield.

Potential Breakout Players
#98 – Mark Crawford – Crawford is finally off of suspension and should provide immediate depth at defensive tackle for the Cats. With fresh legs and a sizeable frame, Crawford should not only have the opportunity to get some snaps, but his presence should help keep the other defensive tackles fresh as well.
#5 – Ashely Lowery – After setting the tone last week against Florida with the big hit on the opening kickoff, Lowery might be called upon again this week as starting safety Martavius Neloms is dinged up. While Neloms is expected to play, Lowery could be called upon and he’s proven he has big play potential.
#89 – Tyler Robinson – The LSU defensive backfield is one of the best in the entire country. With Kentucky’s receivers likely to be locked up in tight coverage, the typically sure-handed Robinson could be Newton’s safety valve on passing plays.
#29 – Brandon Gainer – With starter Raymond Sanders out for the LSU game and primary backup Josh Clemons slowed by a hamstring injury, there are plenty of reps at running back available. While CoShik Williams didn’t have a terrible game against Florida, the door is now open for Brandon Gainer to step up and show what he can do after being a highly rated prep player. That’s assuming he gets the carries necessary to do so though, as Jonathan George was impressive in the loss to the Gators.

Keys for a Kentucky Win:
Let’s be realistic here. LSU is one of the most elite teams in the country and has dominated against one of the toughest early schedules in college football. The Wildcats are not going to be given much of a chance in this game and rightfully so. Kentucky has struggled with subpar opponents and was embarrassed by a rebuilding Florida team in Commonwealth, so anyone expecting a win in Death Valley is likely in the minority. That being said, they actually play the games for a reason, and Kentucky has a shot to pull of the victory if everything goes right for them. If the offense can get a consistent rushing attack behind one of the most veteran offensive lines in the conference, they can use the running game to set up the
pass and catch the LSU defensive backs sleeping. If the defense can shut down LSU’s big plays, it will help keep the cats in the game as well. Kentucky’s chances in this contest though, will hinge on turnovers, penalties, and completions. If the Cats can play a clean game without penalties or negative plays, the offense can keep out of long down-and-distances that have plagued them early in the year. Catching the ball always helps too. And most importantly, the turnovers the Cats have committed so far this season have not only given the ball away, but have put the defense on the field with a short field to defend and have given the opposition all of the momentum Kentucky has built up. Like any other football game, you can’t turn the ball over and expect to win… but against LSU, turning the ball over will likely lead to a blow out. The Wildcats can’t shoot themselves in the foot if they hope to pull off the upset.

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