Series record: 24-6-1 in favor of Auburn
2010 National Rankings:
Rush Offense: 8th/Rush Offense: 35th
Pass Offense: 72nd/Pass Offense: 27th
Total Offense: 11th/Total Offense: 55th
Score Offense: 20th/Score Offense: 21st
Rush Defense: 12th/Rush Defense: 83rd
Pass Defense: 89th/Pass Defense: 8th
Total Defense: 45th/Total Defense: 29th
Score Defense: 37th/Score Defense: 87th
After starting the season with three consecutive victories, the Wildcats find themselves in a two-game losing streak in conference play. The Wildcats have allowed over 40 points on defense in losses to Florida (48) and Ole Miss (42). Most of the damage has come on the ground where the Wildcats have allowed an average of 193 yards during the two losses and a total of eight rushing touchdowns.
First year head coach Joker Phillips hopes to regroup his team this week as the No. 8 Auburn Tigers come to Lexington looking to extend their six-game winning streak.
Senior running back Derrick Locke is off to a tremendous start this season with 543 yards rushing at 5.3 yards per carry. The strength of the Kentucky offense has been its running attack, which has averaged nearly 190 yards per game.
Striving for balance, quarterback Mike Hartline enters the game with a solid passer rating of 140.7, which includes eight touchdown passes and just two interceptions. When Kentucky goes to the air Randall Cobb is their primary playmaker, a do-it-all star who has 25 receptions this season for 335 yards. Cobb has also thrown two touchdown passes while rushing for 121 yards and an additional score. Despite replacing three starters on the offensive line, Kentucky is currently averaging better than 450 yards per game.
The Wildcats return nine of their top 11 tacklers from 2009, a group which includes seven starters. The defense has been solid in 2010 with the exception of the Florida game when the Cats gave up 466 yards. The Wildcats have allowed only 268 yards per game in their four other contests.
Linebacker Danny Trevathan leads UK's defense with 42 tackles, which includes eight tackles for lost yardage. Winston Guy (6-1, 215) is a very physical safety who is second on the team with 30 tackles. Though he is undersized for a defensive tackle, Luke McDermott (6-1, 265) leads the Wildcats in sacks with three this season. Kentucky is currently No. 8 nationally in pass defense and No. 31 in pass efficiency defense.
Inside the Numbers...
•In the last 20 meetings between the schools, Auburn has averaged 231 yards rushing per game and Kentucky has averaged 114 yards. The Wildcats rushed for 282 yards during last year's upset win over Auburn.
•During the last 20 meetings between the two schools, Auburn has passed for only 21 touchdowns while being intercepted 26 times.
•The average score in the series over the past 20 meetings is 29-13 in favor of Auburn, which has won 17 of the 20 matchups.
•Patrick Nix holds the record for the best passing performance by an Auburn quarterback against Kentucky when he threw for 262 yards and three touchdowns in 1995. Nix finished the game with a passer rating of 177.4.
•Wallace Clark had the best rushing performance against Kentucky, netting 167 yards on 13 carries in 1970. Tristan Davis came close with 162 yards on just eight carries in 2005.
•Terry Beasley has the best receiving performance against the Wildcats with nine receptions for 194 yards in 1971. Beasley racked up three consecutive 100-yard performances against Kentucky from 1969-1971, which included five touchdown receptions.
•In the last four meetings with Auburn, Kentucky's leading rusher has averaged 116.3 yards per game on 6.1 yards per rush. Derrick Locke rushed for 129 yards on 19 carries last season against Auburn. Auburn's leading rusher has averaged 131.8 yards per game on 7.5 yards per rush. Ben Tate ran for 132 yards on 31 carries in last year's meeting.
•Under Gus Malzahn the Auburn running attack has averaged 215.3 yards per game at 4.8 yards per rush against conference opponents.
•Cameron Newton enters the game as the nation's second leading passer along with the highest pass per attempt average of 10.7 yards.
Cameron Newton has the Tigers off to a 5-0 start in his first season as Auburn's quarterback.
Why Auburn should win...
•Auburn enters the game averaging 269 yards rushing and Kentucky has allowed 166 yards on run defense. The Wildcats average 190 yards rushing offensively and Auburn allows 93 yards per game on the ground. Always go with the team that is more efficient at running and stopping the run.
•The Wildcat defense has surrendered seven plays of 30 yards or more while the Auburn offense has generated 14. Kentucky has 11 big plays on offense, but the Auburn defense has only surrendered three such plays this season. Auburn holds the edge in "big play" ability.
•In terms of scoring margins, the Auburn offense is scoring 32 percent more than what their opponent has allowed this season. Kentucky has scored 13 percent more than their opponent's average.
On defense the Tigers have held their opponents to 30 percent below their scoring average and the Wildcat defense has allowed their opponent to score 11 percent more than their season average. Advantage to Auburn in both offensive and defensive scoring margins.
•If you take Auburn's scoring average vs. Kentucky's scoring margins, the Tigers win 41-22. If you take Kentucky's scoring average vs. Auburn's scoring margins, the Tigers win, 38-25. Average the two scores and Auburn wins, 39-24.
•During their three non-conference games the Kentucky offense averaged 10 impact plays per game or plays of 15 yards or more. In their two conference games (losses), the Wildcat offense has averaged only six impact plays per game.
Why Kentucky should win...
•Auburn has faced two balanced offenses this season in Clemson and South Carolina. In those two games, the Tiger defense allowed an average of 396 yards and 26 points per game. If Kentucky can establish its running game, it could keep this game within reach late into the fourth period.
•The Wildcats have a fundamentally sound defense, which was key in their victory over Auburn last season. The Wildcats held the Auburn offense to a season-low five impact plays and did so with sound tackling and position play. They will scheme to make the Auburn offense work for everything the Tigers get.
•Derrick Locke might be the best running back Auburn has faced this season. Last year Locke's 126-yards rushing was instrumental in Kentucky's victory. The Tigers are currently 6-14 in the last 20 games when the opposing running back rushed for more than 100 yards.
•Over the past five years Kentucky has lost 14 conference games at home, but eight of those losses were by seven points or less. The Wildcat program has been competitive and UK has pulled upsets over Auburn, Georgia, Arkansas and LSU over the past five years.
•The Kentucky offense has compiled a pass rating of 164.2 on third down, converting 44.7 percent of its "passing" third down situations. The Wildcats are completing 64 percent of their third down passes with no interceptions on those third downs.
Here we are again with the Auburn Tigers off to a 5-0 start for the second consecutive year. This marks the 15th time Auburn has begun a season with five consecutive victories since 1951. Last season Auburn made it to No. 17 in the AP Poll with a 5-0 record before going on the road and being stuffed by the Arkansas Razorbacks. It would be the start of a three-game losing streak which included a 21-14 loss to the Kentucky Wildcats.
The Auburn coaches and players have talked about improving and becoming more consistent in 2010 and we are about to see just how much they have improved as Auburn begins a four-game stretch of conference tests. Last year this was the point in the season in which the season turned upside down for the Tigers, something they are trying to avoid in 2010.
It's important to remember what went wrong during last year's losing streak. The running game averaged 191 yards during the three losses, but it was the pass offense that just about vanished. During the losing streak Auburn completed only 50 percent of its passes for 103 yards per game on 4.2 yards per attempt. Chris Todd totaled a combined six yards passing on first down (three games) during the losing streak and completed only 31 percent of his passes on 3rd down for 3.7 yards per attempt.
In total Todd had a combined passing rating of 50.4 on first and third downs during the most critical passing downs. The Auburn pass offense went from seven impact pass plays per game during the first five games to just two during the three-game losing streak. With the lack of a passing attack, Malzahn's offense became much easier to defend scoring only five offensive touchdowns in three games.
Though Kentucky is talented enough to pull the upset this Saturday, the likelihood of Auburn going into an offensive slump is not high. If anything this offense as well as the 2010 Auburn team has shown improvement every week.
During the first two games this season, Auburn averaged 35 points, converted 46 percent of its third downs and scored on 42 percent of its possessions. In the last three games, the Tigers have averaged 38 points per game, converted 48 percent of their third downs while scoring on 49 percent of their possessions.
More importantly, Cameron Newton has become comfortable in the short passing-game, completing 19 of his 22 short passes in the last two games compared to the 10 of 16 during the first two games.
The Auburn offense has been extremely balanced, when it comes to "impact" plays, generating 26 by run and 25 by pass.
If Auburn wants to live up to its No. 8 ranking in the Associated Press poll, this is a game the Tigers must win because championship teams do not lose to Kentucky unless you are Les Miles and LSU.
Thus far Auburn has overcome its own miscues, which includes missed assignments, turnovers and penalties. In order for the Tigers to take the next step to becoming a polished team, they must find their identity to avoid the burden of having to overcome their miscues. Great teams are capable of overcoming their mistakes, but they also find success by simply limiting them. Auburn 34, Kentucky 23
Around the SEC...
Florida over LSU by 8
Georgia over Tennessee by 3
Alabama over South Carolina by 13
Arkansas over Texas A&M by 10