The Wildcats enter the game against the University of Louisiana at Monroe on a bit of a high. Even though the Cats have lost three of their last four games, the victory over Auburn at Auburn brought a renewed confidence upon the squad.
Against Auburn, the Wildcats struggled in the passing game while breaking in two new quarterbacks, but they relied heavily on a run game featuring Derrick Locke and Randall Cobb running the "Wildcat" offense. In the end, the offensive line for the Wildcats dominated the Auburn defensive front and allowed the Cats to rack up 282 yards on the ground. The Wildcat defense also held Auburn to only seven points (Auburn scored a touchdown on a blocked field goal) and over 150 yards below their season average, yardage wise.
Standing at 3-3, the Wildcats defeated Miami University easily before pulling out a close one against Louisville and being handily defeated by the Gators and the Tide. The Wildcats then lost by two to South Carolina in Columbia, before defeating the Tigers at Auburn last weekend.
The quarterback position continues to be one that is in-flux with the injury to Mike Hartline. With Hartline out of the picture, junior Will Fidler has stepped up to the plate and given valuable snaps and true freshman Morgan Newton started last game and is expected to start this weekend against the Warhawks. In a statistical oddity, the Wildcats had three quarterbacks score rushing touchdowns against Auburn as Fidler, Newton and Cobb (who lines up at quarterback in the Wildcat formation) all ran for scores last weekend.
Kentucky's running backs have been beat up early this season with Moncell Allen having a quad injury and suffering from flu like symptoms. Senior Alfonso Smith has ligament damage in his thumb, but did have a couple of crucial carries against Auburn. Leading rusher Derrick Locke appears healthy and will carry the load for the Wildcats. Locke has 459 yards and three touchdowns rushing for the Wildcats.
Receivers Randall Cobb and Chris Matthews are the main threats through the air. Cobb is a do-everything type of player who may line up on the outside, in the slot, in the backfield or at quarterback. Chris Matthews size and speed make him a long ball threat at any time. In Fidler and Newton, Kentucky's backup quarterbacks have stronger arms than starter Mike Hartline. Both Cobb and Matthews have beaten their defenders deep at times this year, but haven't been able to come away with the catch. The Wildcat offense will definitely try to stretch the field to help loosen up the run game.
Kentucky's offensive line will be in tact this weekend. The Wildcats start four seniors on the line and have proven to be one of the better units in the SEC. The offensive line has given up only six sacks this season and has consistently been the strength of the entire offense over the last three weeks. The Wildcats also play several of their backups throughout the game, rotating to keep the groups fresh.
Kentucky will line up in the I-formation, the shotgun, the Wildcat, and three wide. On rare occasions they will line up with five wide receivers. The wildcats run a pro-style offense and will try to be a close to 50/50 run/pass team, though with the quarterback situation as it is, it's likely they will run the ball more than normal.
Defensively Kentucky comes into the game after playing one of the best games of the Rich Brooks era. Although still missing All-America corner Trevard Lindley, the Wildcats have proven depth at corner and have handled the loss of Lindley fairly well.
Four year starter Corey Peters is the leader of the defensive line. Peters was named SEC defensive lineman of the week two weeks ago for his performance against South Carolina. Ricky Lumpkin brings experience to the tackle position opposite Peters. At defensive end, the Wildcats are a work in progress, but growth in the unit is visible each week. DeQuin Evans has proved to be a solid prospect who can get a pass rush. On the other side of the ball, Taylor Wyndham has earned a starting position and is known as an explosive pass rusher. Collins Ukwu and Chandler Burden both have gained experience this season and are expected to contribute as well.
At linebacker, Micah Johnson heads up this group. He's the leading tackler this year with 52 total. Danny Trevathan and Sam Maxwell flank Johnson on either side. They are the third and fifth leading tacklers respectively. This is a strong and athletic group, but they struggle in pass coverage. Danny Trevathan is coming off a game that many believe is the best he's had as a Wildcat. Sam Maxwell is a big play maker for the group breaking up seven passes this season, pulling down two interceptions and sacking the quarterback once.
At corner the Wildcats will start Randall Burden who is normally the third corner and junior Paul Warford. Warford is a two year starter at corner and provides a physical presence in run support, but also is improving playing the pass. Safeties Calvin Harrison and Winston Guy have both been very active. Guy is Kentucky's second leading tackler from the free-safety position and is possibly the most athletic player on the Wildcat defense. Calvin Harrison has also been a big play maker this season with two interceptions and several big hits in run support.
Kentucky lines up in a base 4-3 defense. It's a pretty basic scheme for the most part, not a lot of blitzing. Steve Brown will often leave his corners on an island against receivers. On passing downs, Kentucky brings in nickel back Taiedo Smith and will often move linebacker Danny Trevathan down to defensive end to provide a better pass rush.
Kentucky has struggled on special teams this year. Aside from one long kickoff return by Derrick Locke, kick coverage and kick returning have been average at best. Ryan Tylacka has proved to be a solid replacement for All-SEC punter Tim Masthay (39.1 ypp). Kentucky's blocking has been a problem for their field goal team as well as the punt team. Each group has had one kick blocked over the last month (field goal against Auburn, punt against Florida. Place kicker Lones Seiber has had a solid senior season making 5 of 8 field goals and 18 of 18 extra points, becoming the Wildcats all-time leading scorer.
The Wildcats have established themselves as more of a blue-collar team. They will rely on the offensive line to wear down the Warhawks, but don't be surprised to see a trick play or two thrown into the gameplan. Defensively, Kentucky will play their base defense most of the game with very little blitzing unless they can't get pressure on the quarterback in the basic scheme. They will play a cerebral type of defense rather than reactionary, which may help to stop some of the misdirection expected out of ULM.
Final Score Prediction
Kentucky 28, University of Louisiana at Monroe 14