Who has the edge?
Morgan Newton is doing some nice things for Kentucky but is having to shoulder too much of the load. Because Jarrett Lee isn’t having to carry the burden of producing huge plays for the Tigers, he is quietly piecing together the best season for an LSU signal-caller since Matt Flynn in 2007.
Running back: LSU
Someday UK freshman Josh Clemons might be the kind of game-breaking back who will turn heads no matter who the Wildcats are facing. In the here and now, very few teams in the country have as productive and reliable 1-2 punch as the Tigers’ Spencer Ware and Michael Ford. And to make matters worse for opposing defenses, Alfred Blue looked SEC-ready last week in limited playing time.
Receivers/tight ends: LSU
The Tigers receivers are starting to find their stride, paced by Rueben Randle (18-282, 3 TD) and Odell Beckham Jr. (17-193, 1) – and that’s without Russell Shepard up to speed and DeAngelo Peterson yet to make a huge impact since the first game. Mix in what Kadron Boone, James Wright and Jarvis Landry have contributed and LSU easily wins this matchup, despite UK’s La’Rod King’s strong start through four games – 19-276 with 3 TDs.
Offensive line: LSU
You could almost say the Tigers’ second unit up front would still win this battle. Then that could be the case anyway the way LSU’s large experienced group of offensive linemen have performed this season despite a spate of injuries. T-Bob Hebert might be the only starter unavailable today, but that doesn’t cause much of a ripple with Josh Williford and Greg Shaw stepping in and playing well in relief roles this season.
Defensive line: LSU
The Wildcats have some talent up front here and have recorded seven sacks to anchor a decent defense. But the Tigers are just too deep and destructive up front and against a patch-work Kentucky offensive line and pedestrian offense, this crew could wreak even more havoc.
This is one area on the field where the Cats can stack up with just about anybody in the SEC, thanks to Danny Trevathan (SEC-best 46 tackles, tied for league-lead with 5½ tackles for loss). But rover Winston Guy is also solid and will line up like a linebacker quite a bot. Plus, Ronnie Sneed and Ridge Wilson have also been solid, with 26 and 21 stops, respectively. Through four games, nobody on LSU’s linebacking corps has really broken out.
As bad as this group was against West Virginia last week – and it was bad to the tune of 463 passing yards allowed and a slew of missed tackles and interceptions – there’s too much talent for that performance to be anything but an aberration. Kentucky doesn’t do anything particularly well on offense and with Morris Claiborne or Tharold Simon available to lock down King, look for the safeties and Tyrann Mathieu to blitz a little more often than they have this season.
Special teams: LSU
The Tigers showed massive improvement in the kicking games last week, thanks to Brad Wing, James Hairston and Claiborne. Wing has emerged as a major weapon with his ability to pin offenses deep and Hairston gives LSU the chance to plant the ball in the end zone on every kickoff. Claiborne’s 99-yard kickoff return was the first flash of brilliance for either return game and the Tigers hope a sign of things to come. This isn’t a lopsided advantage for LSU, though. Kentucky is very solid on punt and kickoff coverage teams. The difference is in the return games where the Wildcats rank 12th in punt returns and 10th on kickoffs.
PREVIEW: Reputation (and a ranking) to uphold