Kentucky Wildcats vs Western Kentucky Hilltoppers
LP Field, Nashville, Tennessee
Thursday, September 1, 2011, 9:15 pm Eastern, TV: ESPNU
Opening Line: Kentucky -19 1/2
Current Line: Kentucky -18
Opening Total: 50 1/2
Current Total 50 1/2
Opening Money Line: Kentucky -900 / WKU +650
Current Money Line: Kentucky -870 / WKU +620
Kentucky and Western Kentucky meet for the third time ever. This game is listed as a home game for Western Kentucky but it is being played in Nashville, Tennessee. Kentucky has won both previous meetings in Lexington by lopsided scores of 41-3 in 2008 and 63-28 last season.
Kentucky was 6-7 last year under Coach Joker Phillips but the Wildcats qualified for a bowl losing 27-10 to Pitt in the BBVA Compass Bowl. Western Kentucky finished last season 2-10 under first year coach Willie Taggart. While most schools wouldn’t be happy with 2 wins, WKU just moved up from FCS in 2008, and has a 4-32 record since then. They are just now getting to a point where they can even be competitive in the mediocre Sun Belt Conference.
Kentucky must replace the versatile Randall Cobb, who is now with the Packers. He had over 2,300 all purpose yards and accounted for 16 total touchdowns via rushing, receiving, punt & kick returns, and even three three touchdowns. Kentucky’s offense averaged 428 yards and 31.2 points a game last season. Junior Morgan Newton takes over at quarterback for Mike Hartline. Newton completed 25 of 43 passes last year for 265 yards, with no touchdowns or picks. Sophomore Raymond Sanders will be the feature back after he had 68 carries, 254 yards, and 3 touchdowns, along with 16 catches and a touchdown. Jonathan George and CoShik Williams will also get carries. The Wildcats lose 3 of the top 4 rushers and receivers this season. Junior La’Rod King is the top returning receiver with 36 catches, 478 yards, and 5 touchdowns. Matt Roark and Brian Adams will also get some targets for the Wildcats.
Kentucky allowed 356.8 total yards a game last year and 28.4 points a game. Last year the Wildcats had a top 15 pass defense but struggled to stop the run. The defense returns 9 starters including senior All-American linebacker Danny Trevathan and safety Winston Guy. Kentucky needs to shore up the pass rush, but the defense should be a strength of this team. They switched to a 4-2-5 alignment this season.
Western Kentucky relied on the running game last year averaging 176.1 yards a game which was 35th best in the country. The passing game was anemic though averaging 143.5 yards a game. Overall, Western Kentucky averaged 319.6 yards and 22.8 points a game. Junior Kawaun jakes returns as the quarterback. He completed 149 of 291 passes for 1,680 yards, 10 touchdowns and 6 interceptions. He was also the team’s second leading rusher with 96 carries, 210 carries, and 4 touchdowns. The best weapon on offense is senior running back Bobby Rainey. The workhorse had 340 carries, 1,649 yards, and 15 touchdowns. He was also the team’s third leading receiver with 29 catches for 230 yards and no touchdowns. Junior Marcus Vazquez is the leading receiver. He led the team in receptions with 30 for 332 yards and 3 touchdowns. Junior tight end Jack Doyle had 20 catches for 224 yards and 2 touchdowns.
Western Kentucky’s defense gave up 386.8 yards a game last season and 33.2 points a game. They were much better against the pass than the rush. The defense will be led by senior DL Jared Clendenin.
Despite winning only 2 games last season, Western Kentucky was decent against the spread going 6-5-1. This was mainly because they were such heavy underdogs in every game. The Hilltopers suffered a lot of beat downs last season but they hung around teams like South Florida losing 24-12 or Middle Tennessee St losing 27-26. The over/under was 5-7 for WKU last year. Kentucky was 6-7 ATS last year and the over/under was 9-4. WKU is 6-1 ATS in their last 7 as an underdog, but is 0-4 in the last 4 against SEC foes. Kentucky is 5-1 ATS in their last 6 as a favorite. Four of the last five Western games have gone under the total. The over is 4-0 in Kentucky’s last four games as a favorite. The over is 8-2 in Kentucky’s last 10 games on grass.
Western Kentucky might be able to hang around for a while but Kentucky simply has too much for them. This game could get ugly if Kentucky really wants to put down the hammer.
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