The duel between Kentucky and Central Michigan will be decided on the ground.
The two best players on the field are the running backs. It will not be long before we see Benny Snell and Jonathan Ward playing on Sundays. Whoever shines brightest will leave Kroger field with a win.
In 2017 Central Michigan’s star averaged 5.7 yards per carry and finished the season with 1,017 yards. When the Chippewas didn’t hand Ward the ball, they were throwing it to him. He caught just under four passes per game and gained 9.8 yards per reception. When Ward got going, it was hard to beat Central Michigan.
Since 2011, Central Michigan is 24-4 when rushing for at least 150 yards. Last year the Chippewas won all five games when they eclipsed the 150-yard rushing mark. The last time CMU lost a game when they rushed for more than 150 yards was against Western Michigan in 2015. They fell 41-39 to the boat rowing P.J. Fleck.
Kentucky is just as successful when Benny Snell carries the Cats’ water. A 1,000-yard rusher in consecutive seasons, since Snell arrived on campus Kentucky is 9-3 when he rushes for more than 100 yards. In that same time frame, UK is 11-2 when they outrush their opponent, compared to just 3-8 when they get out-rushed.
With a first-time starter at quarterback and an entire new group of Central Michigan wide receivers, the pressure is on Kentucky’s defense to stop the run. In last year’s season-opener, they faced a similar task against Southern Miss’ Ito Smith. The Atlanta Falcons’ fourth round draft pick rushed for only 37 yards on 16 carries. If they can contain Ward to just 2.3 yards per carry, Stoops’ Troops will start the 2018 season 1-0.