Indiana Looks to Go 3 and 0
After coming off an enormous win in Eugene, Oregon last weekend, the Indiana Hoosiers will travel south of the border to Cat-town to take on second year coach Rich Brooks' Kentucky Wildcats. The Hoosiers go into the game with a 2-0 record , looking to go 3-0 for just the first time since 1994, while Kentucky is looking for their first win of the season, after losing to Louisville in their opener by a score of 28-0. The Hoosiers hold the all-time lead in the series at 17-16-1, but Kentucky has owned the border rivalry for the last 9 years, only losing once in that time. Now let's break down the Kentucky Wildcats.
Offense: The Kentucky offense is one of the NCAA versions of Jeckle and Hyde. Kentucky was rather awful last year on offense, except when they were in the redzone. The Wildcats were among the nations leaders in red zone efficiency. However, their big QB star, Jared Lorenzen is gone from the Kentucky offense, and this year's starter, Shane Boyd boasts only a 35% completion mark from 2003. The O-line is weak with 3 new starters joining a squad that wasn't that good last year. Too many mistakes hurt the line last year, and with that many fresh faces, things could look similar in 2004. The running backs for Kentucky are average with no big playmaker, but no one who is overly weak in the backfield. Their strongest position will be at wide out, where they have the most experience and depth. The wide outs will have to work hard however to make up for their young QB's mistakes.
Defense: The Kentucky defense will be a strong point in terms of experience, as 10 of the 11 starters from last year's squad return. They were at the top of the league in pass defense, however they were weak in run defense, allowing too many big gains, and teams took advantage of this. The big reason for the success in the pass and failures with the run stem from Kentucky's 3-4 defense. They are slightly undersized at LB, and this helps them with the pass, as they can float easier, but hurts when you have a bruising tackle coming at you. The secondary is decent without a big playmaker, but they won't get beat badly. Kentucky tends to play the pass first, so they won't get beat deep most of the time.
Special Teams: Expect a solid kicking game from Kentucky as they return their punter and kicker from 2003. Both are talented and serviceable kickers, but neither has an overpowering leg. Kentucky will be inexperienced in the return game, as they lost their best returning in Derek Abney. They hope that John Logan and Keenan Burton will fill in for the missing roles. Special teams will not be a weakness for Kentucky.
Prediction for Kentucky: Just managing a winning season would be a great goal for the Wildcats who have a tough SEC conference schedule coming ahead of them. However, there is not enough experience on the offensive side of the ball to expect great strides this year. If the Wildcats can gel as a team, they may have a chance, but that has not happened yet.
Intangibles: After coming off a huge upset win over Oregon, Indiana will have to hunker down and concentrate on Kentucky. The old saying of putting your win behind you needs to be strictly administered in the IU locker room to beat Kentucky. The stadium should be a slight advantage for the Wildcats, although UK fans are not afraid to boo if their Cats don't perform. This isn't too great on 18-22 year old egos, but fans will be fans.
Bold Prediction: Indiana comes in as just a 1.5 point underdog, mostly due to being on the road. This is certainly a winnable game for Indiana and if they play as a team, and the offense can get Ben Jarvis Green Ellis going against a weak rush defense, then Indiana could have their first 3-0 season since the players were in grade school. The Hoosier defense should continue their strong play, and create havoc on a Kentucky offense that has not gelled yet, and lacks experience. Expect the Hoosiers to look good in this one, and return to Bloomington with high hopes for the Big Ten season.
Game time is set for 6:00 Central Time, and no television has been announced. You can listen to the game on the Indiana Radio network with the voice of Don Fischer broadcasting.
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