It is officially Gameday in the bluegrass, BBN. The team is down in Hattiesburg, MS practicing and getting ready to start this season off with a bang today at 4:00 p.m. ET.
Naturally, nerves are setting in for fans with flashbacks of last year dancing in their heads. But don’t sweat it.
Here are five reasons you shouldn’t worry about a thing:
QB questions for Southern Miss
Former Golden Eagle star QB Nick Mullens is gone, and Southern Miss has struggled to find an answer for his replacement.
Head Coach Jay Hopson has been sorting out a QB battle between Kwadra Griggs and Keon Howard throughout camp, and yesterday, Howard was named the starter for Saturday.
Griggs suffered a middle finger injury on his throwing hand, and has had a major setback in practice as a result. Howard came in last season against Old Dominion and fumbled the ball four times, with career stats of 365 yards, one TD, and four picks.
After speaking with two Southern Miss beat writers this week, Griggs was discussed as the better quarterback and the favorite to start tomorrow afternoon, but injuries halted that.
We’re talking about a “best of the worst” situation, with the lesser option taking over due to injury.
Offensive line’s lack of depth
Southern Miss not only lost their anchor up front in four-year starting center Cameron Tom, but two other starters on the line are gone, as well. Four true freshmen and two RS sophomores are listed on the two-deep depth chart for the Golden Eagles.
Having to replace three starters on the line would be tough for anyone in America.
Having to replace them with first and second-year players is worse.
Having major concerns on the offensive line with two question marks at quarterback to open the year? Recipe for disaster.
If Kentucky pass rushers Jordan Jones, Josh Allen, and Denzil Ware can start the game with a few big sacks to silence a rowdy Golden Eagle crowd off the jump, it could get ugly in a hurry.
Opening the season on the road? No problem.
Johnson has ice in his veins, and proved it time and time again during his first year at Kentucky. He kept it close against Alabama, set the offense up for game-winning field goal against Mississippi State, he did that again against Louisville and those are just few examples.
The Southern Miss stadium is reportedly a loud one on game days, but the Wildcats are starting the perfect QB to neutralize that.
(On that note, Southern Miss has failed to sell out their 36,000 seat stadium, so it won’t even be as loud as they’re anticipating.)
Mr. Cool will be ready to go.
Last year, the legend of Benny Snell had not yet begun. Today, Southern Miss will be in for a treat.
Snell was one of the best freshman backs in America, proving to be the perfect clock killer in close game situations.
Though the Wildcats had several highlight plays and home run balls, Southern Miss doubled the time of possession last year, 40:32 to 19:28. The Golden Eagles ran 96 total plays compared to 63 total for the Cats, a truly sickening stat.
Snell is the key to controlling the time of possession. Kentucky couldn’t finish last year, but we have our finisher on display now.
If the sophomore can produce anything close to what he’s capable of, the Cats are in solid shape.
We know exactly what’s at stake here. The team does too.
Last season, Southern Miss came to Kroger Field and absolutely dominated Kentucky in all facets of the game in the second half.
For a team with high expectations going into last season, the Golden Eagles (momentarily) crushed those, and the Wildcats need to return the favor.
It’s show time.
– Luke Walerius (@LukeWaleriusUK) September 1, 2016