Tell me if you’ve heard this before: The Kentucky Wildcats will be underdogs when Mark Stoops’ team hits the road to open SEC play. Auburn is currently a 7.5-point favorite and if you ask one of their most famous alums, that number is not big enough.
“We’re going to kill Kentucky,” Charles Barkley said Monday night. “I’m worried about Georgia the next week. Come on, man. This is not basketball. We’re not going to worry about Kentucky in football. Stop it.”
The bulletin board material can seem unending at times. That’s just how Landon Young likes it.
“We’re always underrated and that’s been true since the day I got here. UK always gets the shaft in sort of the media standpoint in sort of how good we are and I think year after year we’ve proved to them that we’re a better team, but we still get that discredit. I like it though. It feeds us,” said the senior left tackle.
“We go out there every single week and prove to somebody that we’re a lot better team than what they have us out to be, but also, it gives us a little bit of fire. I’d much rather see an underdog win. We have nothing to lose and everything to gain. These teams want to protect this view that the media has of them and this high rating that the media has of them. To the media, we’re crap, so what do we have to lose by going out there and giving everything and beating these teams?”
Just a little bit of fuel is all Kentucky’s offensive line needs. Young might sound like an “aw shucks” kind of guy to UK fans, but it’s a completely different story for opponents in the trenches. The offensive line will arrive at Auburn prepared to make the Tigers earn every single stop the hard way.
“It starts off with a mentality. Second off, we go out there and realize that if we do what we do during the week and we do what our coach teaches us to do, you can blow these guys off the ball. We can open up holes for these running backs to have these big, explosive plays. We can protect the quarterback to make those big, explosive plays, even the routine ones.
“We just want to make sure that we come out there and we’re dominant and that the other team knows it,” Young said. “If they’re going to stop us they have to earn every single blade of grass.”
Gatewood’s Auburn Scouting Report
Joey Gatewood may not be playing against his former team this Saturday. That doesn’t mean he still can’t help the Wildcats secure a victory on the Plains. Terry Wilson said Gatewood was a “huge” help when Kentucky began breaking down Auburn’s personnel.
“Joey knows those guys pretty well. Starting the prep, he gave us an inside prep, an inside breakdown on a couple of their guys,” Wilson said. “He’s been phenomenal in the meeting room, just helping us get a better look on those players. Joey he’s been doing great.”
Cats are still Piping in Noise
Gameday will look much different than normal at Jordan-Hare. There won’t be a War Eagle flying down to midfield before kickoff. Only 17,400 students will be in the stands for the game. It will not be as loud, but there still will be some piped-in crowd noise. Like they do before every SEC road trip, during team periods on Tuesday and Wednesday the Wildcats are piping sound into practice. Here’s a sample of what to expect from Auburn on Saturday:
Auburn football is practicing with the piped-in crowd noise today at Jordan-Hare. pic.twitter.com/pMIMk2Jyjp
— Jake Weese (@TheJakeWeese) September 19, 2020
Familiar Setting for Eddie Gran
Jordan-Hare is one of the few high-profile stadiums Mark Stoops has not coached at in his decades-long career. Offensive coordinator Eddie Gran is quite familiar with the place. He spent ten years on the Auburn sideline, coaching special teams and running backs from 1999-2008.
“I spent ten years there. They were ten as good of years as you can have,” Gran said. “Playing in the SEC, I raised my family there. Probably that’s the biggest thing is I get to go see my daughter Lucy. She’s 13 — FIFTEEN — gosh almighty. She’ll be driving here in a month. I’m excited for that. Friends will be there. I won’t be able to see them but some guys are still on parts of the administration and staff there that I’ll get to see. It was a great ten years. You stay somewhere ten years and it’s an absolute blessing in this league. I’m Big Blue Nation now all the way. This is the best place.”
Gran’s Evaluation of Auburn’s Defense
“They know what to do and they’re fast and they’re long. They’re aggressive,” said UK’s offensive coordinator. “Coach Steele does a great job of mixing things up and he’s a heck of a football coach. They’ve got a lot of speed and talent on that defense so I’m excited about the challenge. I know our players are. They’re one of the top ten defenses, maybe top five defenses in the country statistically last year.”
Gran is slightly exaggerating. The Tigers finished at No. 20 overall in scoring defense and No. 25 in rush defense. It wasn’t top five, but it was still pretty damn good.