Kentucky Football: Saturday Is On It's Way

Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, it's time for football season in Kentucky!

I know -- there have been no basketball posts around here for awhile.  Don't worry, they will come, but let's all focus on the precious present, and our present is NCAA football.

Right now, Ken is looking at the various areas of the Wildcats gridiron campaign, and doing a bang-up job as always.  Me, I am looking for inspiration as usual at this point in the season, but it just occurred to me that while Ken is getting detailed, I should fly up to 50,000 feet and get general, so that we don't lose sight of the forest due to a close examination of the trees.

To that end, the purpose of this commentary is to examine how Kentucky ranked last year in some important statistical areas, and try to prognosticate on the direction and magnitude of the change this year.  In this post, I will examine the offensive statistics, next post the defensive, and finally the special teams and miscellaneous stats.  So without further ado, let's take a look.

Here we go:

Offensive Statistics

2008 Rank 2009 Outlook
Statistic National Conference National Conference Comments
Scoring offense 87 6 Mid 50's 4 I expect a big improvement. Both the lines and the skill positions are significantly better.
Rushing offense 83 8 Mid 60's 5 Better lines, Locke available, older Smith & Allen = improvement.
Passing offense 96 8 Mid 40's 4 Better receivers, older receivers, experienced quarterback.
Total offense 106 9 Mid 50's 5 Hard to go down from here.
First downs 105 6 55-65 2 I think we'll get more due to a more diverse but controlled offense.
Turnover margin 35 4 Mid 50's 6 If Brooks can keep this at 35 or better, it is worth an extra victory for UK.
3rd down conversions 110 12 Mid 30's 5 I think our O-line is the key to this stat, and better, older receivers.
Red zone conversions 102 9 Mid 30's 6 We were 7th in the nation in 2007.
Time of possession 80 11 Mid 30's 4 I expect us to be a bit like Georgia last year in this stat, more ball control than quick-strike.
Sacks allowed 5 1 Mid 20's 4 More passes, more sacks
Tackles for loss allowed 12 1 Mid 20's 3 More runs around the edges with Locke and Smith.
Fumbles lost 28 3 High 40's 5 Longer time of possession will increase this stat.

If Mike Hartline really is as improved as many say, we should expect UK to get off many more plays on offense this year, more first downs, more time of possession and a better overall offensive game.  That will likely result in our turnover margin and fumbles lost taking a turn for the worse, but the tradeoff is a good one.

I would really like to see UK in the low 20's in red zone conversions, but I'm not quite ready to go there yet.  I do expect third down and red zone conversions to be significantly improved, if for no other reason than they could hardly be much worse than last year.  That will take enormous pressure off the defense and allow them to get some decent rest, and even though the defense is not as mature as last year, I think less game reps will produce fewer injuries on defense and better overall balance.

It all depends on Hartline, and the ability of his receivers to catch his throws.  I have a great deal of confidence in our O-line, as it is experienced and, for a Kentucky team, quite deep.  I am very excited about the potential for this Kentucky offense for the 2009 campaign.

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