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September 2nd, 2015

Uncertainties are Plentiful for Louisiana-Lafayette

The superstar the Cats must stop, Elijah McGuire. (Brad Kemp | RaginCajuns.com)

Brad Kemp | RaginCajuns.com

The Cats aren’t opening with a bunny.  The Ragin’ Cajuns have won four straight New Orleans Bowls, posting nine-win seasons each year.  But this team is much different than the ones in the past.

Head coach Mark Hudsbeth almost left for greener pastures because there were so many uncertainties.  We aren’t the only ones saying it.  The New Orleans newspaper, The Times-Picayune, broke down all of their question marks.

The biggest one is at quarterback.  Dynamic quarterback Terrance Broadway has moved on after winning the MVP of last year’s New Orleans Bowl.  Hudsbeth has three options: redshirt freshman Jordan Davis, junior Jalen Nixon, and junior Brooks Haack, the favorite that received some playing time last year as the #2.  We won’t know who will take the first snaps until Saturday.

It’s certainly not the only question mark for the Cajuns. Several key defensive players from last year’s squad have used up their eligibility along with a couple of veteran offensive linemen.

On top of that, Hudsbeth has a essentially a brand new defensive coaching staff, with co-defensive coordinators Melvin Smith and Charlie Harbison at the helm.  Their defense struggled last year, ranked 85th in total defense while allowing nearly 425 yards of offense a game.

The Cats should make mince-meat out of the unproven and questionable defense.  The UK passing defense has a lot to prove, but won’t be challenged through the air.

The only area for UK will have to worry about is stopping running back Elijah McGuire.  I believe it will be UK’s strength on the defense.  If they stuff the run, I’ll be much more optimistic about the Cats’ chances of pulling of an upset at South Carolina.

[NOLA.com]


The Cats are a 17-Point Favorite

My favorite Ragin’ Cajun, Christina Hamilton. 

With college football starting tomorrow night, a lot more money is about to change hands in Vegas.  You should do your part by getting the Cats -17 from Bovada.  Easy money.

There aren’t many handouts that are as good as this one, except maybe WKU as a 2-point favorite over Vandy.  I don’t care if they’re an SEC team at home, the Tops are going to score 50 points on ’em.

You can check out the full spread here.


The Alumni Game will be Televised

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cn2

This UK/UNC Alumni game is getting so good, it’s almost too good to be true.  With stacked rosters on both sides, the four-letter network could not resist.  The September 13th alumni showdown will be nationally televised on ESPNU. 

Even though it will be on the tube, it’s hard to resist watching this historic event in person.  Click here for tickets, and check out the rosters below.

Kentucky

  • Demarcus Cousins
  • Eric Bledsoe
  • Brandon Knight
  • Patrick Patterson
  • Karl Towns
  • Devin Booker
  • Trey Lyles
  • Willie Cauley-Stein
  • Anthony Davis (will be there, but we’re unsure if he’ll actually play)

North Carolina

  • Harrison Barnes
  • Danny Green
  • Rasheed Wallace
  • John Henson

Midweek Predictions For Saturday

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We’re exactly 71 hours away from Kentucky football’s first game of the 2015 season and its first in the New Commonwealth Stadium. The talking season has lasted entirely too long and it’s almost time to shut up and play –or in our case, watch– football.

But, unfortunately, we still have a few more days before the ball is kicked off and the helmets collide under the lights Saturday evening. So as we suffer a little longer through the wait, bear with me as we talk a little more about what’s ahead.

Below you’ll find my predictions, next to an empty box for you to check off as they happen on Saturday.

 

Patrick Towles will throw for 350 yards.

Towles will have a field day throwing against the Ragin’ Cajun defense that ranked 105th in passing yards allowed last season at over 260 per game. The secondary is a year older now so it should be improved, but with the recent news that starting corner Simeon Thomas will miss the game, it will still have its hands full containing a loaded UK receiving corps and a more accurate and confident Towles.

CJ Conrad will catch a touchdown pass.

It will be his first of many this season.

Sihiem King will return a kick for a touchdown.

A Wildcat hasn’t returned a kickoff for a score since 2009, when Derrick Locke took one 100 yards to the house against Louisville. That’s six years without a kick return TD, the longest drought in the Southeastern Conference. It’s been five years since UK returned a punt for a score, also the longest drought in the SEC.

King will show off his explosiveness in his college debut with a touchdown on a kickoff, thus ending the long streak and getting that monkey off Kentucky’s back early in the season.

 Boom Williams will do Boom Williams things.

I don’t know what he will do, but there will be a play or two or three when Boom has the ball in his hands and something special happens — one of those moments where you turn to your neighbor and you each give that wide-eyed look of disbelief, acknowledging Boom is the real deal. You know the look I’m talking about. You’ll do it a couple times Saturday, followed by a high-five if you’re the high-fiving type.

 Kentucky’s linebackers will struggle containing Elijah McGuire outside.

McGuire is a threat in the rushing and passing game, so Kentucky’s inexperienced linebackers and ends may get torched a couple times. Josh Forrest is the one reliable piece in the middle; everyone else will need to step up and play well to contain Louisiana-Lafayette’s star back.

 The new roundabouts on Alumni Drive will be dangerous after the game.

People leaving the stadium after a long day of tailgating, mixed with a new roundabout in place of a four-way stop? That’s a dangerous combination. Be careful out there, Cats fans.

 Some fans will bitch about the stadium.

Look, it’s not going to be completely ready. We’ve know that for some time now. Hopefully, the majority of fans will go into the game with an understanding there is still a little work to be done, and they’ll appreciate what they see and enjoy the game being played on the gorgeous new field in front of them.

However, not everyone is a team player, so we’ll undoubtedly here whining from some people. Don’t be one of those people. Suck it up and tough it out as best as you can. You will survive. I promise.

check Kentucky Joe will annoy the hell out of everyone he encounters.

Went ahead and checked that one off for ya. It’s like the free space in Bingo.

Joe will be all over the place, singing and talking to anyone in sight.

 Matthew Mitchell and the Go Big Blue Band will sing Kelly Clarkson’s “Since You’ve Been Gone.”

Coach Mitchell is breaking out the Kelly Clarkson when he performs on stage prior to the game, no doubt. The only mystery is which Kelly Clarkson song he will sing, and how many? I’m setting “Since You’ve Been Gone” as the favorite, followed by “Stronger,””Behind These Hazel Eyes,” and “Already Gone.”

(Yes, I had to Google ‘Kelly Clarkson songs.’)

  Ryan Lemond will say something dumb on KSR.

It’s been too long since we’ve let Ryan run wild around Commonwealth Stadium with a microphone on the KSR pregame show. He’s due a good, idiotic comment at some point on the two-hour broadcast. If not a comment, he’ll pop a player or coach in the mouth with the mic while trying to get comments during the Cat Walk.

check  It will be a sellout.

And if it’s not a sellout, UK will call it a sellout. Either way, sellout. Let’s go ahead and check that one, too.

 Kentucky will cover the spread.

The Cats are currently a 17-point favorite, and if I were a gambling man, I’d take that bet. The Cajuns’ four consecutive nine-win seasons don’t scare me one bit. Sure, they’re a good Sun Belt team, but I think Kentucky is much improved from a year ago and ready to hit someone in the mouth. ULL is that someone.


Hump Day Practice Notes

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After a much improved practice today, OC Shannon Dawson met with the media to preview Saturday’s season opener.

Dawson on deciding tempo of the game

When asked on how he decides when to go up-tempo or slow down, Dawson answered, “it’s just a guess.” If things are going well for the offense, they are going to stick with that tempo. If things are not going well, Dawson will change it by either speeding it or slowing it down.

“So there’s three or four tempos that we use, and typically, in my mind if things are going good, I try to stay with what we’re doing,” Dawson said.

Patrick Towles has the power to veto plays

Shannon Dawson has repeatedly said that if his quarterback does not like a play, he can veto it. As we become closer to kickoff, there have been some plays that Towles has not felt comfortable with that Dawson is okay with not using.

“There’s always going to be something that we have in that based on the looks we think we’re going to get that he doesn’t feel comfortable with. So that’s not unusual,” Dawson said.

Towles said that Dawson’s trust in him to pick and chose plays gives him a surge of confidence.

On ULL’s defense

Shannon Dawson grew up around South Louisiana, so he knows what kind of team Lafayette has. “They’re going to be athletic, they’re going to be physical, they’re going to have an edge to them, they’re going to play hard, they’re used to winning,” Dawson said.

However, being the first game of the season for each team there is going to be a lot of unknown factors. With so many unknowns, Dawson game plan is just sticking with what his offense does well. The beginning of the game is going to be a feeling-out process to figure out what ULL is doing schematically on the defensive side.

On whether or not Drew Barker will see playing time

The coaching staff really wants to give Barker some playing time, but it is going to depend on how the game is going.

“If it’s a situation where it’s possession by possession, I can’t tell you that that’s going to happen. I would love to do it. I absolutely would. He’s been playing great and he deserves it, no doubt. Ultimately, we have to win the game,” Dawson said.

Towles “sneaks” into Commonwealth Stadium at night

Patrick Towles told the media that he likes to “sneak” into the newly renovated stadium alone for the peacefulness. Towles said he will sneak into CWS a couple more times just to take it all in before everything starts on Saturday.

Towles said that he has most improved in his decision-making since last season. Towles feels he is “extremely prepared” when it comes to defenses surprising him.

Boom Williams is 100% ready to go

Kentucky’s number one back is feeling the best he has ever felt going into a season. Williams said that he felt 100% after the night practice the team had last weekend. Despite missing some fall camp due to injury, Williams feels confident and is ready for Saturday. When game time comes, Williams won’t be thinking about his injury but just on the game its self.

 

Is it Saturday yet?

 


Watch Mitch Barnhart talk about the stadium in today’s press conference


Decision on Flannigan coming tomorrow

 Andy Lyons/Getty Images North America

It looks like we’re going to have to wait one more day until we find out if senior linebacker Ryan Flannigan will play on Saturday. A UK spokesman told reporters after practice today that Stoops will address Flannigan’s status tomorrow, and there was no word on if he was able to practice today after injuring his shoulder early on in fall camp.

And so, we wait. Kindsey will be by in a bit with Dawson’s full remarks.


Scouting Report: Kentucky vs. Louisiana

Andy Lyons | Getty Images

Commonwealth Stadium will host a football game on September 5. There, we got that out of the way. To what extent the renovations will be completed is out of our hands. Let’s talk football shall we? Here are seven factors that ensure a Wildcat victory:

1. Patrick Towles completes 65% of his passes

As prior posted on KSR, Towles’ completion percentage must rise and his number of intentional rushing attempts have to fall. In this game, moving the chains is paramount. So is scoring early points. By efficient, accurate, and timely passing, Kentucky will be able to take advantage of a Louisiana defense that was ranked 85th in 2014. In searching for this opponent’s defensive weakness, pass defense jumps out both in terms of statistics and personnel.

2. Josh Forrest’s inside linebacker partner has 8 or more tackles

This position concerns. If Ryan Flannigan is unable to play, who will step up? Khalid Henderson, Nico Firios, and Eli Brown are all listed as on the two deep depth chart. One or a combination thereof will be called upon to make on-the-line of scrimmage tackles against a very good running back. Not an easy task. Josh Forrest will need inside help. An unproductive running mate will make for a long day for Josh and possibly for the Wildcat defense.

3. Louisiana RB Elijah McGuire has zero explosive plays of twenty five yards or more

All UK media will be writing about Louisiana’s Elijah McGuire this week. I’ve obsessed over him all summer probably to the point of you’re getting kind of tired of reading his name. Sorry, he’s that good. Mark Stoops described him as elite, especially in explosive plays of twenty or more yards. UK will not shut down a RB of this caliber. However, by containing his initial burst through the line of scrimmage and by fundamentally covering his down field pass routes are both non-negotiables. The McGuire-Forrest matchup intrigues and will surely lead to some nasty on-the-field collisions.

4. Kentucky scores 28 first half points

This factor also deals with McGuire. By scoring early and often, Louisiana will be forced to play catchup. This will take the visitors out of their comfort zone. The Ragin Cajuns’ starting quarterback won’t be named until its opening offensive drive. What we do know is that it won’t be the graduated All-Conference player Terrance Broadway. Most likely, Brooks Haack will be under center. Kentucky’s chances exponentially increase by forcing the visitors to place the game on his shoulders. ULL is not built to score points in bunches or through the air. A close or touchdown or less first half Kentucky lead will most likely indicate that the game will go the distance.

5. Kentucky sack total exceeds four

With linebacker issues, DJ Eliot will creatively blitz the inexperienced Louisiana quarterback. UK’s increase at the safety position will lead to the opposing quarterback holding the football longer while in the pocket. Stoops and Eliot will throw the kitchen sink at the ULL QB. Kentucky’s young but talented pass rushers could potentially have a field day.

6. UK scores a defensive touchdown or by kick/punt return

Kentucky’s punt and kickoff return has been inexistent. 2009/2010 are the last returns for touchdown. Rookie Sihiem King and veteran Ryan Timmons will have their chances against a suspect Louisiana special teams unit that surrendered big plays in 14. Defensively, creative blitz packages will force errant throws. Taking advantage of an untested quarterback could lead to a pick six. Expect to see this in the fourth quarter.

7. Wildcat rush total exceeds 150 yards

Shannon Dawson’s emphasized the physical run game from the moment he walked off the plane in Lexington. Saturday’s opener is a perfect time to test this theory given that Louisiana lost its top two defensive linemen to graduation. However, it is strong at linebacker especially in Arkansas transfer Otha Peters and Dominque Trovell.

SUMMARY

Louisiana won’t be scared or intimidated. Head Coach Mark Hudspeth is a motivational machine and has led a Ragin Cajun resurgence to relevancy. Kentucky is the more talented team, but not by as much as you might think. Don’t let the logo fool you, Louisiana has won nine games in four consecutive years. It will put up a fight and is fully expecting to beat Kentucky in its newly renovated stadium.


Stoops says he’s looking forward to seeing Boom “rip off some big runs” Saturday

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I think all of our hearts skipped a beat when we heard Boom Williams suffered a minor injury early in fall camp, but fortunately, he’s recovered and ready to roll heading into the season opener. On today’s SEC Coaches Teleconference, Kyle Tucker asked Mark Stoops about Boom, and I think you’ll like his response.

He’s been 100% full go, he’s looked good,” Stoops said. “He’s really had a solid training camp with the exception of the minor injury that set him back for a few days. Outside of that, he’s been really good.”

Stoops said he’s pleased with the depth at running back right now, especially since all of his guys are currently healthy. (Knock on wood.) That’s really awesome, but let’s get back to Boom…

“Boom has really looked good, he’s been very explosive and just making progress like you would expect from a true freshman going into his sophomore year. So we’re happy with the progress and looking forward to seeing him get out there Saturday and hopefully rip off some big runs.”

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Everything You Need to Be Prepared for The New CWS Opener

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The “Vast Majority” of the Stadium Will Be Finished

The first priority for completion was satisfying the needs of the team.  It’s not just making sure the lights, turf and locker rooms are good to go, it also means the coveted recruiting room will be complete.

The common fan has second priority.  Concessions and bathrooms will be improved and operational.  Their seats should be fine, but chairbacks will NOT be in every seat.  Barnhart said they’ll get there eventually, but that will be taken care of throughout the season.

What Won’t Be Finished

The fancy shmancy amenities and the suites will be in the worst shape.  There’s new signage everywhere, but wood from Kentucky barns intended to beautify the concourse area will not be finished.  Who knows what the press box will look like or when it will be done, but there’s one certainty, Mitch’s will be the last.

The Wi-Fi has been an issue, and will not be available, but Barnhart believes AT&T and Verizon upgrades should be completed by Saturday to ensure better cell service.

Parking: “Be Early, Be Patient”

Traffic flow before the game. Click here for post game

Pre-Game Traffic Routes

Before I get to the bad news, here’s a positive twist: they found an area near the soccer stadium to add 200 additional spots.  There’s also parking garages around campus that are free – the one near the library, the one by the tennis courts, and the one by the Kentucky Clinic.  Miller transportation will also be shuttling people from downtown to the stadium (see: MillerTransportation.com for details).

But let’s be real, it’s going to be a cluster.  They’ll have cops during traffic at the new round-abouts, but people will still look silly trying to figure things out.  The lots open at 8:00 am, so get there early.  Just be patient, don’t lose your cool.  Besides, after driving around the parking lots, not a whole lot has changed.  They’ve blocked off certain areas that you used to be able to cut through, so do yourself a favor and follow the directions in the map above.

Whatever you do: DON’T park on the grass.  It’ll be at least a ticket, and I wouldn’t be surprised if they had a tow truck ready to go.

Think Long-Term

No matter what it looks like on Saturday, finished or not, 100% of the BBN will not be satisfied.  For the fans that really care, they know the $170 million combined project is more about the long-term than the short-term.  As Freddie Maggard says on this week’s podcast, as long as they have a field, two goal posts and a scoreboard, he’ll be happy.

Mitch Barnhart echoed that sentiment today, “This is not something we’re building today, or for one game, we’re building it for generations,” Barnhart said.  “This is a 40-year facility.”

“We’re gonna have some fun,” he said with a smile.  “It’s the first time we’ve done this in 40 years.  We ought to enjoy it.”

Additional Info

Students can get a free ride with a Student ID Thursday-Saturday by calling 859-252-CATS.

If you don’t know which gate to enter, look no further than the back of your ticket.

A lot of changes will be happening for the Thursday Night Auburn game.  They have not been finalized, but you can take a look http://www.uky.edu/evpfa/thursdayfootball.

For all other information, visit http://ukathleticsgameday.com/category/football/.

 


Previewing ULL in the Second KSR College Football Podcast

There’s plenty of analysis between Freddie Maggard, Jared Lorenzen and I, but it isn’t as fun as the other stuff.  Jared and Freddie share stories from their nervous college career starts.  Tears and goosebumps may or may not be involved.

Listen here, subscribe on iTunes, and send your complaints to @RoushKSR, because I’m sure you’ll have plenty.


Watch Andy Kennedy Whip, then watch him Nae Nae

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You’ve gotta hand it to Andy Kennedy, the man has no shame. Today, the Ole Miss head coach resurrected his alter ego “Randy Kennedy” to promote season ticket sales. In the video, three Randys do the whip and then they do the nae nae, the latest reminder that this craze needs to end.

This isn’t the first time we’ve seen Randy. Earlier this summer, he promoted season tickets in a spoof of the DirecTV commercials:


Part Three of The Sporting News’ series on Calipari deals with the media haters

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Earlier today, we shared Part Two of The Sporting News’ five-part series on John Calipari with you, which dealt with Cal’s success as a recruiter. With all due respect to Mike DeCourcy and TSN staff, I think Part Three is much more interesting.

Part Three, entitled “John Calipari: The Target,” dropped this afternoon, and explores Calipari’s sometimes tumultuous relationship with the media, or specifically, the haters in the media. No, Pat Forde’s name isn’t mentioned, but several others were. This quote from 2012 at the end is all sorts of Swaggy Cal:

“If I think a guy’s wrong, I’m going to tell him. If I think a guy’s being a jerk, I’m going to tell him … And he’s not going to be treated like a friend,” he told Sporting News in 2012. “The way I grew up: You come at me, I come back at you twice. If you let him come at you, he comes back at you again and he keeps coming.”

Go read it and thank me later.

[John Calipari: The Target]


2,000 tickets are left for Saturday’s game

Barry Westerman | UK Athletics

Barry Westerman | UK Athletics

Earlier this week, we heard that 4,000 tickets remained for Saturday’s opener against Louisiana Lafayette. Ready for an update? Mitch Barnhart just said that as of today, 2,000 tickets remain, putting the total sold at approximately 59,000.

“We’re close,” Barnhart said. “We need some people to jump in.”

So jump in, people. Click here to go to Ticketmaster and join the opening day party. Use the promo code ALLIN for $25 seats.


Barnhart: “Vast majority of fans will experience a finished stadium”

One more quick hitter from the Game Day press conference before Nick’s recap later this afternoon. As we expected, Mitch Barnhart told reporters that a “vast majority of fans will experience a finished stadium” on Saturday. UK EVP Eric Monday added that the only areas that still need some finishing touches are on the club level.

Barnhart also gave us this great quote to keep in mind about the stadium: “It’s not something we’re building for one game, we’re building for generations.”

In other words, be patient.

Mitch Barnhart will also be a guest on KSR tomorrow to talk about the stadium. Hopefully he can get some sleep between now and then.