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Three Quick Hits from Eddie Gran’s Press Conference

Following pre-bowl game practice today, some members of the offensive unit spoke with the media. First up, offensive coordinator Eddie Gran. KSR will have more coming your way throughout the night, but here’s a taste of what’s to come: the three most important things Gran said this afternoon.

On the Wildcat:

It’s the one play that’s been highly scrutinized over and over again this season. Fans have questioned its efficiency, while Gran and Mark Stoops have continued to remain loyal. If you’re anti-Wildcat, I’ve got some bad news for you: Gran expects to use it against Northwestern.

“The wildcat has been successful this year against some people, and against some it’s not been so good,” Gran said. “[Northwestern] hasn’t had a lot go against them yet this year so I think you have to for sure dabble in it and go in-and-out and keep people off balance and create new formations… it’s been good for us, so we’re going to continue using it.”

Well, there you go.

On recruiting:

It’s been a crazy time month of Music City preparations, but the coaches have been extra busy because of the new, early signing period that will begin on December 20. When asked how recruiting was going, Gran had a simple answer:

“Awesome. Really really really good.”

When asked about how the new period will affect recruiting, Gran expanded:

“It’s a little bit different this year with the December 20 signing day so, you know, this thing is getting ready to happen here in a couple of weeks. So, you know, this weekend and next weekend are going to be huge. And we’re going to have a great signing class come December the 20. The good part is we’ve got some guys that are on board and are expected to sign on the 20th.”

On next year’s QB:

While Stephen Johnson has been steering the ship this season, we unfortunately only have one more game under his guidance. While he obviously needs to be preparing for the bowl game, these extra 15 practices are also important for next season’s contenders. Namely, Drew Barker and Gunnar Hoak. According to Gran, Barker has been getting more reps in during recent practices.

“You know, Stephen right now is our starting quarterback so you’ve got to continue to get him ready,” Gran said. “But we’ll also have Drew take some of the one-reps as we’re going through these 15 practices – which is a good thing too. So he got some today.”

We’ve only seen glimpses of Barker’s in-game talent this season, and fans are yet to see Hoak in action. Still, in terms of their individual progress, Gran didn’t offer much information.

“We’re not there yet. I don’t think anybody is ever happy. When I say that, you’ve got to strive for perfection with offenses – it’s execution,” Gran said. “It’s just still the consistency part of it for me. The anticipation and throwing on time and those are the things we’ve still got to get better at for us to go to the next step.”


@MaggieDavisKSR


Northwestern Pass Defense Similar to Missouri

Northwestern Pass Defense Similar to Missouri

Finding flaws in the Northwestern defense is not an easy task. However, at times the NU pass defense has shown to be a limitation throughout 2017. Statistically (not structurally and we’ll get to that in a later post) it compares to Missouri. The following chart contains each Northwestern opponent, the opponent’s pass yards vs. the Wildcats, and its foe’s average pass yards per game. It must be noted that the Wildcats faced two foes that are rated near the bottom in passing offense: Minnesota (122nd) and Maryland (116th) and played in three overtime games. Opposing offenses averaged 63.2% through the air in the three games it lost.

Northwestern Pass Defense Results

Opponent Pass Yards vs. NU/Completion % Opponent Pass Yards Average per game
Nevada 199 (43.2%) 270
@Duke 305 (64.4) 210
Bowling Green 256 (61.3%) 235
Wisconsin 197 (55%) 187
Penn State 286 (70.7%) 285
@Maryland 255 (44.7) 161
Iowa 233 (57.5%) 197
Michigan State 445 (68.4%) 215
Nebraska 225 (55.6%) 277
Purdue 398 (62.9%) 239
Minnesota 43 (18%) 126
Illinois 139 (45.1%) 174

 

Pic by The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern Pass Defense

Completion % Yards TD INT Yards per game
57.5% 2971 18 15 247.6

Missouri Pass Defense

Completion % Yards TD INT Yards per game
59.7% 3141 18 12 261.8

 For comparative reasons; let’s see how Kentucky’s pass offense executed vs. the Missouri pass defense.

Passing Stephen Johnson 22/36, 298-yards, 2 TD, 1 INT
Receiving Garrett Johnson 7 receptions, 111-yds, 1 TD

 Northwestern has registered 30 quarterback sacks. That’s two more than Kentucky and one less than Missouri. Its led by a pair of All-Big Ten performers in the secondary: Nickel Kyle Queiro and Safety Godwin Igwebuike. At times; NU has struggled with one-on-one matchups on the outside and with TE’s vs. linebackers. Kentucky must be able to take advantage of the Northwestern pass defense in order to have a chance to win the Music City Bowl.


Wesley Woodyard is the Titans’ Walter Payton Man of the Year

Wesley Hitt | Getty Images

Former Kentucky Wildcat linebacker Wesley Woodyard has been named the Tennessee Titans’ Walter Payton Man of the Year.

Each NFL team awards one of their players for his work in the community.  The individual then becomes one of 32 finalists for the NFL’s Walter Payton Man of the Year title, given each year during Super Bowl week.  Along with the trophy, the winner also receives a $1 million donation to split with their charity and the United Way.

“It’s a huge honor,” Woodyard said. “Any time you get a chance to be compared to a great guy like Walter Payton, it means the world to me. The groundwork he put down in the past, and showing guys what to do in the community, it still inspires people to this day.

“I love working in the community and I love trying to make a change with others. And I really feel like it is my purpose to be here, to make a difference in their world and make a difference in their lives.”

The ten-year veteran has been a captain for ten years and his game has not taken a step back, leading the Titans in tackles this year with 139.  However, that’s not why he won this award.  Woodyard’s work through his 16Ways Foundation accomplishes a variety of goals; he’s built mini-libraries in inner-cities, he’s hosted countless free football clinics, and the foundation’s track club competes annual in the Junior Olympics.

If we’re being honest, Woodyard’s work off the field cannot simply be summed up in one post.  To read more on his work and to help his cause, click here.


@UKFootball

Courtney Love recognized at the College Football Awards

@UKFootball

Earlier this week, Courtney Love won The Wuerrfel Trophy, presented to college football’s top community servant. Tonight, he was recognized at ESPN’s College Football Awards in Atlanta.

First, he hit the red carpet with Mark Stoops and the man the award was named after, Danny Wuerffel.

And met up with Kirk Herbstreit backstage:

@UKFootball

Thank you, Courtney.

WATCH: Courtney Love finds out he won the Wuerffel Trophy

Courtney Love wins the 2017 Wuerffel Trophy


Just one more time, let’s talk about this picture

Just one more time, let’s talk about this picture

The picture above is absolutely amazing and I can’t emphasize that enough. On the surface, this is a picture of Mark Stoops leaning on a Bentley alongside 3-star recruit Shocky Jacques-Louis (probably the best name ever). However, this picture has so much more to offer upon further analysis. Let’s take a closer look.

The Bentley

 

 

 

 

 

There aren’t many other cars that you can flex harder in than a Bentley and Stoops seems to be well aware of that, judging by this photo. Stoops knew exactly what he was doing here. Instead of standing close to the two other young men, he elected to isolate himself from them leaving an awkward gap. An awkward gap that ensures you notice the Bentley logo. This leaves zero doubt as to what kind of car he’s whipping thus solidifying his baller status. It’s definitely a rental, but what people don’t know won’t hurt them.

There are so many cars in this picture

Including the Bentley there are nine freaking cars in this picture which seems like an excessive amount of automobiles to be in this particular residential area. Anywho, Jacques-Louis recently decomitted from a crumbling Tennessee program which I think gives significance to the cars in the background. Notice the cars in the background are all hunks of junk compared to the Bentley. Jacques-Louis looks forward, stoically, with Stoops’ Bentley in the foreground while the less impressive cars are ignored behind him. The forward gaze and Bentley symbolize a successful future career with UK, while the cars in background represent mistakes of the past and the waning Tennessee program, each car symbolizing all the coaches who turned down the head coaching job.

Lol

I said earlier that Stoops was trying to flex but I never said he was good at it. I just find this part of the picture funny. First of all, I think Stoops is going for the old school B-Boy stance here, but it kind of just looks like he’s a little chilly and may need a thin jacket to combat the breeze. I’ve also never seen a man look so uncomfortable leaning against a car in my life. To tell the truth, I don’t really want my football coach to look comfortable leaning against a flashy vehicle anyway. If a football coach looks comfortable near a fancy car then all that tells me he is more interested in how he looks than how the team looks. It’s obviously a rental, and solely being used as a prop to make his football team better, which is a classic football guy move and Stoops is a pure football guy. Honestly, seeing Stoops that uncomfortable in this picture was very reassuring.

Also, notice the trashcan in the background. It’s a big blue trashcan that looks like it is devouring a smiley Amazon box while Stoops seems to be looking away in disgust. Possibly symbolic of Stoops’ unwillingness to ever disappoint the fans by letting the most recent UofL game happen again? I’ll let you interpret that one.


Inside NU

Northwestern Tops Kentucky in the Red Zone

The Red Zone is a football term that is frequently used by talking heads and on-field analysts. We often utilize statistics from this category in order to construct an opponent’s proficiency profile. Do you know at what point on the football field is considered the redzone? I have to be honest, for years I thought the red zone started at the plus 25-yard line. In fact, the term refers to the area of the football field that stretches from the opponent’s 20-yard line to the end zone.

The Kentucky has excelled and failed in the red zone. Let’s take a look:

Kentucky Red Zone Offense

Eddie Gran’s unit entered the red zone on 39 occasions in which its scored 36 times. Its 92.31% scoring ratio is excellent; good enough for 4th in the SEC and 13th in the nation. BUT, the Wildcats managed just 24 touchdowns from those 39 trips; 61.54%. It kicked 12 field goals; 30.77%.

Summary: Excellent scoring percentage. But, the UK settled for field goals instead of touchdowns on far too many occasions. Matter of fact, its inability to score touchdowns inside the twenty-yard line significantly factored in its win/loss column. Kentucky cannot trade field goals for touchdowns vs. Northwestern in the Music City Bowl.

Kentucky Red Zone Defense

UK’s opponents entered the red zone 43 times and scored in 39 of those trips; 90.70%. Of the opponent’s 39 scores, 26 were touchdowns (70%) and 10 scores were of the field goal variety.

Summary: Surrendering 70% touchdowns ranked 13th in the SEC. This statistic has greatly influenced the win/loss column. Opponents made 43 trips, scored on 39. So, just 4 red zone drives ended with zero points.

Inside NU

Northwestern Red Zone Offense

Northwestern’s 90.74% red zone efficiency offense is ranked 2nd in the Big Ten and 21st in the nation. The Wildcats made 54 trips inside the twenty in which it scored 49 times. Of the 49 scores; 39 were touchdowns (72.22%). 10 drives finished with field goal conversions (18.52%).

Summary: 72.22% of all redzone trips end with Wildcat touchdowns. Highly efficient.

 

Northwestern Red Zone Defense

Opponents made 38 trips to the red zone in which they scored on 27 occurrences or 71.05% of the time. That percentage ranks the Wildcats 1st in the Big Ten and 7th in the nation. Of those 38 red zone trips; 20 resulted in touchdowns. Opponents are scoring touchdowns on just 52.63% of all red zone opportunities. 7 of the 38 attempts finished with made field goals; 18.4%. Thus, 11 of 38 drives resulted with zero points.

What does all this mean?

Northwestern is one of the best Red Zone teams in all of college football. In my opinion; this stat column combines “want to” with discipline and efficiency. Those terms adequately describe UK’s opponent in the Music City Bowl.


The Depth Chart Podcast: Music City Bowl Bound

The Depth Chart Podcast can’t wait to go to the Music City Bowl.  That’s right, Freddie Maggard will be in Nashville to watch Kentucky take on Northwestern.  If Freddie can muscle up and go to his least-favorite city, you can make the postseason trip to the Music City.

The podcast wasn’t all about the bowl game.  The crew also talked about…

—  A Salute to those who lost their lives at Pearl Harbor.

—  Unfair comparisons between Mark Stoops and Rich Brooks.

—  How bad was UK’s defense behind the line of scrimmage?

—  The gang gets a few things off their chest.

—  What does next year’s quarterback situation look like?

—  Freddie’s experience at Kroger Field for the KHSAA State Finals.

You can easily listen on the KSR App, available on iTunes and Google Play.  Streaming online is simple through Pod Paradise.  You can also get it directly to your phone by subscribing to “Kentucky Sports Radio” on iTunes or via Android’s Podcast Addict app.


Lynn Bowden Named to the SEC’s All-Freshman Team

In his first season at the University of Kentucky, Lynn Bowden has earned All-SEC honors.

Kentucky’s electric athlete from Youngstown, Ohio has been named to the Coaches SEC’s All-Freshman team as a return specialist.  Bowden returned six kicks for more than 30 yards, the second-most in the SEC.  He averaged 23 yards per return and accounted for 1,149 all-purpose yards.

Bowden failed to find the end zone this year, but he made plenty of plays that setup scores; a deep pass to Tavin Richardson down to the five-yard line vs. Tennessee, a fumble down to the two at Vanderbilt and a kickoff return that was stopped just short of the goal line.  Bowden’s electric highlights showed flashes of great things to come in the future.


Tennessee’s New Head Coach Ain’t Never Heard of Asparagus

The new face of Tennessee football.

After 25 entertaining days searching for a coach, there’s finally a new man sitting at the peak of Rocky Top: Jeremy Pruitt.

Most recently the Alabama defensive coordinator, Pruitt has an interesting résumé.  Before his two-year stint as Nick Saban’s DC, he spent two years at Georgia and replaced Mark Stoops at Florida State.  In his only year as FSU’s defensive coordinator in 2013, the Seminoles had the nation’s top-ranked defense and won a National Title.  Pruitt had a connection with Jimbo Fisher when Jimbo coached Bama’s QBs and Pruitt coached their DBs.

Pruitt climbed his way onto Saban’s staff as the defensive backs coach after an illustrious high school coaching career in Alabama at Hoover High School.  Yes, that Hoover High School.  Rush Probst’s defensive coordinator, Pruitt was introduced to fame ten years ago when MTV showed the world that the grown man had never seen asparagus before.

Pruitt is a perfect fit for Tennessee.

@Vologistics


The Best Bowl Gifts of the 2017-18 season

The Best Bowl Gifts of the 2017-18 season

Half of the fun of bowl season is breaking down the gifts that each bowl gives to the teams that participate. Last year, Kentucky players each got a bobblehead of themselves from the TaxSlayer Bowl, a cool and unique souvenir they’ll have on their desks or nightstands for years to come; what gift awaits them in Nashville at the Music City Bowl?

According to Sports Business Daily, a Fossil watch and a trip to the bowl’s gift suite.

Oh. Well, to be fair, that gift suite could include a lot of cool stuff (per NCAA rules, up to $550 worth of cool stuff per person). According to KnoxNews.com, last year’s Music City Bowl gift suite featured 70 items, including flat-screen TVs, mountain bikes, recliners, watches, electronics, headphones, and apparel. Schools can also add up to $400 for each player, meaning that the Cats could have up to $950 to spend in the gift suite.

That’s enough to make you forget about the Fossil watch, which might make for a nice Christmas gift for Dad, but it’s hardly as cool as a personalized bobblehead or some of the swag other bowls are handing out. Such as…

 

Cactus Bowl (Kansas State vs. UCLA): Yeti cooler and tumbler; Fossil watch; Ogio backpack; Legendary hat; JBL Flip 4 speaker; blanket

Shoutout to the Cactus Bowl for going all out. As anybody with a Yeti cooler will tell you, they’re not cheap, so to pair that with a Yeti tumbler (also not cheap), a backpack, a hat, a really nice bluetooth speaker, and a blanket? That’s all you need for a fun day at the beach or park. And, of yeah, the requisite Fossil watch (14 bowls are handing those out this year).


Quick Lane Bowl (Duke vs. Northern Illinois): $175 Best Buy gift card; JBL bluetooth headphones; life-sized Fathead decal for each participant of his likeness; Ogio backpack and tag; mini helmet; hoodie; workout shorts; winter hat; vintage football

The Quick Lane Bowl compensates being located in Detroit with an amazing gift set. Not only will players get a $175 gift card to Best Buy, nice bluetooth headphones and other swag, they’ll get a life-sized Fathead of themselves. That is awesome. Can you imagine Stephen Johnson’s?

That could be worth going to Detroit for.


Citrus Bowl (Notre Dame vs. LSU) & Camping World Bowl (Virginia Tech vs. Oklahoma State): $400 Best Buy player shopping trip; Timely Watch Co. watch

You can get a 43″ Samsung LED 4K Ultra HD TV for $379 at Best Buy right now. No gift will get more use than that.


PlayStation Fiesta Bowl (Washington vs. Penn State): PlayStation PS4 PRO bundle; Fossil watch; Ogio backpack

See above. College boy’s dream right there.


Alamo Bowl (Stanford vs. TCU): Amazon Echo Show; $175 Amazon gift card; Fossil watch; mini-helmet; Rock ‘Em socks; team panoramic photo

I doubt anybody under the age of 45 is going to use an Amazon Echo Show (why when you have a phone?), but it would make a nice gift for parents or grandparents. Plus, $175 will get you plenty on Amazon.


Peach Bowl (Auburn vs. UCF): $300 Vanilla Visa gift card by InComm; Ultimate Ears Wonderboom bluetooth speaker; Fossil watch; football

Money, money, money. MONEY!

…oh, and a Fossil watch.


Bahamas Bowl (UAB vs. Ohio): Gift suite; iSlides sandals; drawstring backpack; beach towel; bowl pin

Also, being in the Bahamas.


Outback Bowl (Michigan vs. South Carolina): Jostens ring; Fossil watch; $125 Best Buy gift card; Outback Steakhouse gift card; hat

You had me at “Outback Steakhouse gift card.”


Gildan New Mexico Bowl (Marshall vs. Colorado State): Gift suite; Oakley sunglasses; Oakley 5-Speed backpack; Lit tumbler; beanie; Gildan stadium blanket; cap; Fidget Spinner

To be fair, the fidget spinner will be the most used gift on that list.


Belk Bowl (Wake Forest vs. Texas A&M): Shopping trip to Belk department store; Fossil watch

Somewhere, Jim McElwain is really jealous.


AutoZone Liberty Bowl (Iowa State vs. Memphis): Bass Pro Shops shopping trip; Bulova Caravelle watch; Nike athletic shoes, sport sandals and backpack; football

Somewhere, Kash Daniel is really jealous.

 

For a complete list of the bowl gifts this year, check out SportsBusinessDaily.com.


Alabama DC Jeremy Pruitt expected to become head coach at Tennessee

(Photo via Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports)

Did the Vols finally find someone to accept their offer?

According to Bruce Feldman, Alabama defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt is expected to become the head football coach at Tennessee.

ESPN’s Chris Low reported Tennessee is currently trying to finalize the deal with Pruitt.

Mind you, this is the third or fourth time a coach has been “expected” to become the next head man at Tennessee, so nothing is official until pen hits paper. Or in Greg Schiano’s case, when the fanbase scares the administration into backing out of signed paperwork.

One of the most mind-blowing coaching searches in sports history could finally be over.

What do you guys think?


UPDATE: Terry Wilson will visit Kentucky this weekend

@TerryTouchdown3

Earlier this week, four-star JUCO QB and Kentucky target Terry Wilson tweeted that he was visiting somewhere “special” this weekend.

It was later reported that the “special” place was Kentucky, and many people thought the Wildcats were the favorite to land the former Oregon quarterback.

Just a day after announcing his visit, he had a change of heart and decided he would visit Nebraska this weekend instead of UK. After Scott Frost was named head coach for the Huskers, his interest in the program spiked, and many thought a commitment was imminent when he changed his visit schedule.

After announcing the Nebraska visit, reports leaked out that Wilson would still visit Lexington sometime next week. This morning, Justin Rowland of Rivals.com tweeted that fans “(shouldn’t) buy the story that Kentucky’s out of the Terry Wilson race.”

Tonight, our friend TJ Walker at Rivals reported that Wilson would, in fact, be visiting Kentucky this weekend.

After so many back and forths with this story, I don’t know what to believe anymore. What I do know, however, is that Wilson would be an absolute stud at Kentucky and could push for the starting job next season. He’s that talented.

Bring him on home, Stoops.


Is Lynn Bowden trying to play quarterback?

Is Lynn Bowden trying to play quarterback?

With Stephen Johnson graduating this year, Kentucky’s quarterback situation for next year is up in the air.

Drew Barker is the favorite to start, but Gunnar Hoak has impressed in practice and the coaching staff has always liked Danny Clark. If Walker Wood can get healthy, it’s possible we see a four-man QB competition this offseason.

Tonight, UK true freshman Lynn Bowden went on Twitter and said he “should” get a shot at quarterback, but would “do whatever’s best for the team.”

When some fans expressed their doubts, Bowden laughed it off.

After seeing several impressive throws from the talented freshman this season, could we see Bowden take a stab at the starting QB competition next season? Randall Cobb V2?

The kid sure is electric with the ball in his hands…

What do you guys think?


Northwestern’s strength coach is the most intense person ever

Northwestern’s strength coach is the most intense person ever

If Northwestern’s players are even half as intense as their strength coach, Kentucky is doomed in the Music City Bowl.

Alex Spanos, the Wildcats’ strength coach, became an internet star last month after videos of him pumping up the team on the sidelines in an extra tight polo shirt went viral. Words cannot do Spanos justice; he is a spectacular ball of energy that must be seen to be believed.

A few weeks ago, the Chicago Tribune profiled Spanos, who claims he wears a large polo, not a “smedium” as the internet speculates. He was a linebacker at Robert Morris and now, works 80-hour weeks at Northwestern, waking up each day at 4:30 a.m. to “slam” protein shakes and get to the gym. His typical breakfast includes 40 grams of protein from six whole eggs, Greek yogurt, bacon, sausage, cheese, and vegetables. My goodness.

And yes, he does get cold wearing a polo with cutoff sleeves in frosty Chicago, but he says he does it on purpose so he’s “always on his toes.” (Also, those guns aren’t going to show off themselves.)

No wonder Northwestern had such a good season. How could you not be hyped with this guy around?

BEAT MSU #strengthtraining #football #ncaafootball #northwesternfootball #gameday #win

A post shared by Alex Spanos (@turbostrengthnu) on

I mean…

Sometimes he just gets so hyped he has to stop what he’s doing and do some pull-ups:

Spanos’ awesomeness extends to his social media accounts. The son of Greek immigrants, he refers to himself as a “Kalamata Olive”:

Appropriately, ALL OF HIS PICTURE CAPTIONS ARE IN ALL CAPS:

COOKING TURTLE SOUP TODAY

A post shared by Alex Spanos (@turbostrengthnu) on

THESE HUSKERS OF CORN DON’T STAND A CHANCE AGAINST THESE CATS

A post shared by Alex Spanos (@turbostrengthnu) on

HUMP DAY BABY GET JACKED. GOT SOME LITTLE KITTY CAT NITTANY LIONS COMING IN 3 DAYS!

A post shared by Alex Spanos (@turbostrengthnu) on

We could all learn something from Spanos. Talk about someone who lives every moment of life to the fullest.

CATS WIN BABY

A post shared by Alex Spanos (@turbostrengthnu) on

Mitch Barnhart, open the checkbook and give this guy everything he wants.


An Early Look at the Northwestern Defense

David Banks | Getty Images

Northwestern head coach Pat Fitzgerald is a defensive guy. He played linebacker for the Wildcats and did so at a very high level. A consensus college All American; Fitzgerald’s fierce, on-field coaching personality and cerebral approach to the game of football is mimicked by his defensive scheme and personnel.

As you can see below; Northwestern held six of its twelve regular season opponents to less than 100-rush yards. More impressive; the Wildcats limited perennial run-powers Iowa to 89 and Wisconsin to 109-yards on the ground. This defensive strength should present a major concern for the Big Blue Nation given Kentucky’s propensity to rely heavily upon first team All SEC RB Benny Snell and its ground attack.

This chart highlights Northwestern’s opponents, points allowed, and total yards divided by the run and pass. Let’s take a look:

2017 Defensive Schedule Results  

Opponent Points Allowed Yards Allowed Rush/Pass
Nevada 20 341; 142-rush, 199-pass
@Duke 41 495; 233rush, 305-pass
Bowling Green 7 352; 96/256
@Wisconsin 33 306; 109/197
Penn State 31 381; 95/286
@Maryland 21 340; 85/255
Iowa 10 312; 89/223
Michigan State 31 540; 95/445
@Nebraska 24 337; 112/225
Purdue 13 438; 40/398
Minnesota 0 182; 139/43
@Illinois 7 239; 100/139

As our first Northwestern post that concentrated on its offense referenced; the Wildcats average 23.1 first downs per game. That’s more than three of the Football Playoff teams: Clemson, Alabama, and Georgia. This stat-line is an indication of the Wildcat’s ability to possess and maintain the football through long, extended drives. It’s also ran more offensive plays on the season than any other UK opponent including Missouri, Louisville, and Ole Miss. It must be factored that Northwestern played three overtime games in 2017.

Defensive numbers paint a picture of a run-stout, 4-3 team that’s comprised of efficient tacklers that are excellent at impeding opponents from establishing the run. Add in its inconceivable defensive red-zone efficiency, and you get a typical Pat Fitzgerald hard-nosed, no-nonsense defense. Let’s take a look at how Northwestern’s defense stacked up Big Ten competition: 

2017 Big 10 Statistical Rankings 

Category Results Big-10 Rank
Scoring 19.8 5th
Rush 111.25 4th
Pass 247.6 14th
Total 358.9 9th
QB Sacks 30 6th
Tackles for Loss 88 3rd
3rd Down 37.50% 9th
Red-Zone 71.5% (52% TD) 1st, 7th nationally
Interceptions 15 3rd
Long Scrimmage Plays Allowed 9th Allowed 161 plays of 10+yards

 

Top Performers 

Category Name Result
Tackles LB Paddy Fisher 110 tackles, Big Ten-4th
Tackles for Loss LB Nate Hall 16.5, Big Ten-2nd
QB Sacks DE Joe Gaziano 8 (Big Ten-1st)
Interceptions N Kyle Queiro 4

Northwestern executes a 4-man front which means it features two defensive tackles and two defensive ends. All four defensive linemen align in a three-point stance or with their hand in the dirt/turf. The defensive front is led by All-Big Ten defensive lineman Joe Gaziano. The sophomore leads the league with 8 quarterback sacks.

Its linebackers are yet another reflection of their head coach. Freshman LB Paddy Fisher’s 110 total tackles ranked 4th in the conference. He was named All-Big Ten as well as the league’s freshman defensive most valuable player. He’s joined by LB Nate Hall. The veteran racked up 16.5 tackles for loss which was good enough for 2nd in the conference. Combined; Hall and Fisher are a formidable duo that ranks in the top 3 of inside linebackers that Kentucky has faced in 2017. Both are excellent football players.

The secondary is controlled by a pair of All-Big Ten performers: Nickel Kyle Queiro and Safety Godwin Igwebuike. However, Northwestern ranks 14th or last in its conference by allowing 247.6 pass-yards per game. Notably; Michigan State threw for 445-yards in an overtime loss to the Wildcats and Jeff Brohm’s Purdue Boilermakers tossed it around for 398. It has been vulnerable to long pass plays especially against taller receivers.

Joe Gaziano via Chicago Tribune

Kentucky has faced more athletic defenses than Northwestern. However, I’m not certain its faced a better coached or disciplined collection of defenders. Expect to see the Wildcat D play with extreme effort as it takes tremendous pride in swarming to the football and team tackling. Northwestern will be focused on stopping or slowing RB Benny Snell. This means that UK must find balance and a passing game if it intends on competing for the Music City trophy.

Kentucky’s offensive possessions will be limited. It must improve its red-zone touchdown efficiency and 3rd down conversion ratio. I find it difficult to compare Northwestern to a defensive opponent that UK has faced in 2017. However, UK has been productive when facing 4-man fronts. It faced mostly 3-4 defenses in conference play.

Much, much more to come on the Northwestern defense. Summary; it’s great vs. the run. Not so good vs. the pass but extremely well coached and disciplined.