Finally, after nearly nine months of waiting, Kentucky football is back! The Cats travel down to #8 Auburn on Saturday for what many have labeled as the "game of the week". In case you haven’t been paying attention, this Kentucky team has the potential to be the greatest in school history, and you can learn about them completely in this breakdown I wrote earlier this month. Kentucky returns to Jordan-Hare for the first time since 2009, a game in which the Cats walked out with a 21-14 victory. I won’t beat around the bush for this matchup – I fully expect Kentucky (who's won more games in the past two seasons than the Tigers) to thoroughly dominate this game. What you’ll see in this matchup is a significantly-underrated, experienced, and hungry Kentucky team take complete advantage of an overrated, inexperienced, and cocky Auburn team. One might consider those to be very “hot takes”, but let’s just dive on into the five keys to the game that will result in a substantial week one victory for the Cats that puts them at the forefront of the college football world.
How The Cats Come Away Victorious
1) Expose Auburn’s Offensive Line
Auburn enters this season with the colossal challenge of replacing four of their five starters on the offensive line from last season, as well as head OL coach J.B. Grimes. The Tigers’ new starters on the line have less than 30 total games played between the four of them, and they will need to grow up fast if they hope to slow down this 10-deep Kentucky DL that returns a plethora of multi-year starters, including pre-season All-SEC selections Quinton Bohanna and Josh Paschal. Auburn will also face the difficult task of containing UK senior edge-rusher Boogie Watson, who returns as the SEC’s leader in total QB pressures (sacks, hits, hurries) from last season. Expect Kentucky to apply consistent pressure throughout the game on this young OL group for Auburn.
2) Start The Sophomore Slump For Bo Nix
Despite being named SEC Freshman of the Year in 2019, many are still concerned with Auburn QB Bo Nix’s inconsistency as a passer. Last season as a true-freshman, Nix threw 16 touchdown passes and 6 interceptions on a very sub-par 58% completion percentage – throwing under 52% in five games as well. It’s also worth emphasizing that in Nix’s games against elite secondaries last season (Oregon, UF, LSU, UGA, Bama) he posted a horrific 48.5% completion percentage, along with 6 TDs and 6 INTs. In addition to Nix’s struggles against top defenses last year, he and the rest of the Tiger-offense will be under new leadership at OC this season, with familiar face Chad Morris as the play-caller. There’s always early growing-pains for an offense under a new system, and with his OL already at a significant disadvantage, Nix cannot afford to be anything but perfect against this lethal Kentucky secondary that returns EVERYONE from last year’s unit that tied Ohio State for the fewest TD passes allowed (9) and finished second in the nation behind the Buckeyes for fewest passing yards allowed per game (167.8). On top of how great this UK secondary performed last season, the Cats will actually be gaining even more talent in that department this year with the return of former-starter senior Davonte Robinson and the addition of LSU transfer Kelvin Joseph. Expect Kentucky’s pass-rush to pressure Nix into many ill-advised throws that their DBs will capitalize on (more than once) during this matchup.
3) Run The Damn Ball
In 2019, Auburn’s defense finished fourth in the SEC for rushing yards allowed per game (123.2 YPG) but will be without their two best defensive players from that team – their two best players in general – as DT Derrick Brown and DE Marlon Davidson are now playing on Sundays in the NFL. Kentucky on the other hand ranked FIRST out of all power-five teams in rushing offense last season (278.8 YPG) and returns all three of their running backs – AJ Rose, Kavosiey Smoke, Chris Rodriguez – who combined for 1,975 yards and 18 TDs as a unit last year, and also return dual-threat QB Terry Wilson, who has rushed for over 600 yards and five TDs in his 15 career games as a Wildcat. Kentucky has one of – if not the – best o-lines in college football this season, which is led by consensus pre-season All-SEC first-team selections C Drake Jackson and OT Darian Kinnard, and consensus second-team selection OT Landon Young. For Auburn, life after the "DB & MD Show" will prove to be more painful than anticipated – expect Kentucky’s o-line to bulldoze this Tiger-defense and create holes that’ll allow for their explosive rushing attack to have a field-day against this inexperienced defensive group.
4) Terry Touchdown Makes A Statement
If Kentucky wants any legitimate shot at the East this season, then Terry has to establish himself as the best dual-threat QB in the SEC – and there’d be no better time to show out than this weekend. This year Auburn will have to replace four starters in their secondary unit that ranked in the bottom-half of the conference last year in passing defense – finishing 8th for passing yards and 9th for passing touchdowns allowed. After going up against the elite UK secondary in practice for the past month, Terry should be more than prepared for this matchup, and you can expect him to silence the haters with a beautiful passing display against these inexperienced Auburn DBs.
5) Non-Existent Home-Field Advantage
Let’s be clear – Jordan-Hare Stadium at full capacity with 90,000 fans screaming “War Eagle” is easily one of (if not the) toughest places to play in all of college football. If that were the case for this game on Saturday, then I would’ve without a doubt predicted this game to be much closer. However, the fact that capacity will only be at 17,000 eradicates any possible home-field advantage for the Tigers. Expect Kentucky to come out playing loose and completely unintimidated against an Auburn team that has been heavily-reliant on their home-field advantage for big games throughout their program’s history.
Kentucky comes out and sets the tone defensively from the very start. The Cats pass-rush has no problem getting past the young offensive line of Auburn and applies consistent pressure to Bo Nix. On the offensive side, the Cats dominate the line of scrimmage and run-at-will over the Tiger-defense. Bo Nix struggles to get anything going against the Cats’ lockdown secondary and commits a turnover late in the first half. Kentucky heads to the locker room with a 14-6 lead. Terry Wilson establishes himself as the better QB in the second with a perfect passing display to counter Auburn’s halftime adjustments that were made to stop the Cats’ rushing attack. Chad Morris proves that he is officially past his prime and has overstayed his welcome in college football, as his offensive-schemes fail to even slightly hinder this veteran Kentucky defense. The Cats add one more TD in the final minutes to complete the week one beatdown.
Offensive Players Of The Game
Defensive Players Of The Game
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