Kentucky returns home after a demoralizing and humiliating loss to Vanderbilt. The table was set. Dinner was served in Nashvillem but apparently the Wildcats weren’t hungry enough to finish the SEC road game meal. Have to admit, the three-plus hours spent watching from the 70th row were not my finest, nor proudest moments of over 40 years of UK fandom.
But, I have a job to do, so let’s get to it.
Kentucky is a 24.5 point favorite. You have to go all the way back to October 15th to find a final score in which Kentucky scored 24 or more points. Charlotte is in its initial Division 1 year and not very good. UK should win this one, at least we’d hope so, in a convincing manner.
It’s Drew Barker’s team. Perhaps the rumored locker room divide has been closed. Maybe that gibberish was mere speculation. Whatever, it’s time to grow up respect the game of football.
Position breakdowns are a weekly staple. Actually, the research put into those posts are fun. But not this week. But again, I have a job to do, so here it goes:
Apparently we’re entering the Drew Barker regime. Thought so last week when Barker replaced a struggling Patrick Towles. However, Towles was ushered back in to finish the abstruse Nashville embarrassment. Drew has a big arm and accompanying bravado. A home game against a bad team is the perfect scenario for a first time starting quarterback.
Charlotte has played three quarterbacks: Lee McNeill, Matt Johnson, and Brooks Barden. Combined they’ve completed 171 passes for 1844 yards with 21 interceptions and 10 touchdowns. McNeill is the thrower, Johnson is the dual threat runner.
Running Back: Kentucky
Boom Williams played through pain and rushed for over 100 yards against a Vanderbilt defense that was allowing 113 per game. JoJo Kemp is quickly becoming my favorite Cat due to his team role acceptance and continued high level of effort. Mikel Horton is still available as is Sihiem King.
Charlotte’s does have a thousand yard rusher in Kalif Phillips. He’s joined by Andrew Buie. The team’s third leading rusher is one of the three quarterbacks, Matt Johnson.
Wide Receiver/Tight End: Even
Last week was the last time I’d give UK the advantage until it stops dropping passes. Two dropped touchdowns on the first drive are still too fresh in my mind to give the Cats the advantage. Unfathomably, TE CJ Conrad was not targeted or thrown to in Nashville.
The 49ers are led by Austin Duke with 47 catches for 527 yards and 5 touchdowns. Trent Bostick, TL Ford, and Workpeh Kofa all have twenty plus catches on the season.
Offensive Line: Kentucky
John Schlarman’s group has taken heat during the five game losing streak. Saturday is a perfect opportunity to force its will. Will it do so? I sure as heck hope it can and will.
Charlotte is averaging 352 yards per game in its inaugural big boy football debut. Not too shabby.
Defensive Line: Kentucky
Farrington Huguennin played his best Wildcat game in Nashville. CJ Johnson, Regie Meant, and Matt Elam all managed the line of scrimmage against the less than vaunted Commodore offense. Effort and passion were both evident in their play.
Charlotte’s Larry Ogunjobi is a very good nose tackle. He leads the team in tackles with 52 with an astounding 13.5 tackles for loss and 2.5 QB sacks. Those numbers from that position, highly impressive.
Much like its defensive line mates, UK’s linebackers played well against Vanderbilt. The return of Jason Hatcher was impactful. Josh Forrest continues to build his case for Sunday play. Khalid Henderson is just solid. The perceived preseason liability has turned in a quality senior year performance. Proud of that young man. Need more with his heart.
The 49ers are led by MLB Caleb Clayton-Molby and his 6.5 tackles for loss and 2 QB sacks.
Trick plays happen. The one Vanderbilt succeeded with was well designed and executed. Football happens. Other than that, the two true freshmen corners are growing up in front of our eyes. Chris Westry and Derrick Baity are going to be special. AJ Stamps has earned his way back into the lineup with solid tackling. Mike Edwards continues to develop.
Terrance Winchester leads Charlotte with 3 interceptions from his cornerback position followed by Devin Pearson with 2.
Special Teams: Even
Until the Cats clean up their error prone ways, not giving it the advantage regardless of opponent.
Charlotte doesn’t statistically appear much better.
What does all this mean?
Defensively, Charlotte is an aggressive team that has experienced vast success in categories in which UK has struggled. The 49ers have 73 tackles for loss and 19 QB sacks. Comparatively, UK has 40 TFL’s and 13 QB sacks. Granted competition skews the numbers, but still. Larry Ogunjobi is a formidable defensive tackle that must be accounted for at all times. Offensively, Charlotte will play multiple quarterbacks, one thrower and one runner. It does have a solid running back in Kaliff Phillips. On the year, Phillips has rushed 189 times for 1022 yards.
Kentucky should win. The ease in which it does or does not will determine the BBN’s Governor’s Cup confidence level. Drew Barker gets his shot. I’m hoping that he is allowed to play through freshman mistakes and manages the offense. Due to self-infliction, the UK Football Program has fences that need mending. An impressive outing against an opponent it should dominate would be the first step in that process.