Keys to Victory: Kentucky

Here are some takes from HI.com Publisher Clay Henry on what needs to happen for Arkansas to defeat Kentucky.

This might be a shocker to some because when most think about Kentucky, they probably think about stopping the pass. With this Kentucky team, you must stop the running game first and concentrate on it for four quarters. And, on the other side of the ball, you must establish the run against a good interior defense.

In summary, this is not the same old Kentucky team that most Arkansas fans remember from several years back. They can and will hurt you with the forward pass, but it's done mainly out of traditional sets with play-action fakes. And, they aren't so porous up front on defense. Only teams with solid rushing attacks will move the ball on the ground against these Wildcats.

Arkansas may be the league's best running team, and usually does well at stopping the run out of a solid eight-man front. How they do in those two areas on Saturday will be a big key.

The weather could be a factor, too. Forecasts call for a strong chance of rain. Arkansas has done a good job of holding onto the ball and preventing turnovers while forcing turnovers on defense. How they do at maintaining a postive turnover ratio in what could be sloppy conditions will be another big key.

Arkansas has some injuries in its defensive front. The Hogs have looked at several possibilities at end where Keith Turner has been lost for the season because of a dislocated hip. Brandon Holmes, Wes Murphy and Jason Peters will have to provide some depth at that spot where the Hogs still have Gavin Walls, Elliott Harris and Justin Scott to fill two slots. Nose tackle Raymond House practiced on a limited basis Wednesday and Thursday after sustaining a high ankle sprain at Auburn. It is believed he will try to play some against UK, but he won't be at full speed. Scott Summers will be asked to help out more this week at nose tackle and got a lot more snaps in practice. Pervis Osborne has been a solid backup for Jermaine Brooks at one tackle slot. It could be that they ask Osborne to slide over to nose tackle in relief of nose tackle Arrion Dixon.

Another key will be how well the interior of the Hogs' offensive line does against UK's standout defensive tackles. The Hogs dominated Auburn, but the Wildcats may be better than the Tigers up front. That may surprise some, but that is the evaluation from the UA's defensive coaches in midweek, and they expect a tough challenge from the Wildcats.

If Kentucky has a weak spot, it is probably at cornerback. Arkansas has not hurt anyone with its passing game, but this may be the week it comes up with some big plays from its outside receivers. Kentucky likes to force the run with its safeties and if the Wildcats gamble too much, the Hogs might take advantage with some big plays out of play action. With the way the Hogs have run the ball the last two weeks, it would make sense that the play-action fakes should begin to pay dividends in the UA offense.

Special teams will be a key area. Both teams have solid special teams and have produced big plays in almost every game this season. Kentucky's return game may be the SEC's best. The verdict may still be out on David Carlton, who got his first start last week, as the Hogs' new placekicker. Both teams have outstanding punters.

The Hogs have had solid practices all week, and seem anxious to prove that last week's impressive performance at Auburn was not a fluke. The atmosphere at all three workouts in midweek was outstanding and the effort impressive. So, it appears the Hogs have maintained an excellent mental approach in the last three weeks after a depressing loss to Alabama.


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