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.
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.