Gene Chizik's No. 8 ranked Auburn Tigers (5-0, 2-0) invade Commonwealth Stadium on Saturday night in a tilt the home-standing Wildcats need to win to keep their losing streak from reaching three games. Chizik, a very unpopular choice among Tiger fans to replace Tommy Tuberville two years ago, has proved to everybody paying attention that he is the man to turn around the proud Tiger football program after Tuberville nearly "deconstructed" the Tiger tradition (5-7, 2-6 in his final tumultuous season).
The Cats will be tested, and tested in a big way. The Tiger roster is littered with "watch" list candidates, and the numbers they have accumulated thus far this season justify the ink they are receiving.
For a breakdown of the Tiger roster as well as a look at pertinent statistics, follow me after the jump.
Tiger Offensive Personnel
Quarterback Cam Newton: 6-6, 250 lb junior -- Newton, a Florida transfer, has thrown for 928 yards on 57 of 87 passing (65.5%), 12 touchdowns and four interceptions. Newton has also rushed for 474 yards (94.8 yards per game) on 76 carries (6.2 yards per carry) and another five touchdowns.
Newton is quite simply the most dangerous offensive weapon the Cats have faced this year. He is the nation's second most efficient passer (191.4), and he's adept at getting the ball into the end zone, accounting for 17 touchdowns -- Six SEC teams have yet to score 17 touchdowns. He is extremely dangerous running with the ball, evidenced by his 6.2 yards per carry average. Last week Chizik placed a no-run restriction on Newton, this week, that won't be the case. Kentucky will look to contain Newton in the pocket, making him a one-dimensional threat.
Running back Onterio McCalebb: 5-10, 170 lb sophomore -- The speedy back has rushed for 336 yards on 42 carries (8.0 ypc) and two touchdowns. McCalebb has no catches.
Running back Michael Dyer: 5-9, 215 lb freshman -- Dyer, a true freshman, has ran for 334 yards on 69 carries (4.8 ypc) and two touchdowns. He's caught only one pass, for nine-yards.
Dyer was the top-rated running back coming out of high school last year by ESPN.com and Scout.com. He's a powerful downhill runner, who seldom goes down after initial contact. As a senior in high school in Little Rock, Arkansas he ran for 2,502 yards and 31 touchdowns.
Running back Mario Fannin: 5-11, 228 lb senior -- Fannin has rushed for 114 yards on 19 carries (6.0 ypc) and one touchdown. He's also caught seven passes for 94 yards (13.4 yards per reception) and two touchdowns.
A converted wide receiver, Fannin, along with Newton, brings a tremendous amount of versatility to the Tiger attack. He's caught 80 passes over the last three seasons.
All of the Tiger tailbacks are potential game-changers. Kentucky's linebackers and defensive ends (hello DeQuin Evans) will face their toughest test of the season, and if the Cats have any hope of pulling out a victory, they must play better than they have so far this season.
Wide receiver Darvin Adams: 6-3, 185 lb junior -- Adams leads the team with 16 receptions for 284 yards (an outstanding 17.8 yards per reception) and two touchdowns.
Adams has 1,299 career receiving yards and 12 career touchdowns. A 2010 Biletnikoff Award candidate, Adams set an Auburn single-season record with 60 catches last year.
Wide receiver Terrell Zachery: 6-1, 210 lb senior -- Zachary has 14 catches for 218 yards (an outstanding 15.6 ypr) and one touchdown.
Wide Receiver Emory Blake: 6-1, 192 sophomore -- Blake has only seven receptions for 173 yards (an unbelievable 24.7 ypr), but he has three receiving touchdowns.
Wide receiver Quindarius Carr: 6-1, 186 lb junior -- Like Emory Blake, Carr has only a handful of catches (3), but two have gone for touchdowns. And oh, he's averaging 34.3 ypr. Carr also returns punts: 13 returns for a 7.7 average.
Tight end Philip Lutzenkirchen: 6-4, 258 lb sophomore -- Lutzenkirchen has caught seven passes for 63 yards (9.0 ypr) and two touchdowns. For his career, he's caught 12 passes, five for touchdowns.
Looking at the numbers this receiver crew have put up is enough to send D-coordinators to the brink of sleeplessness. All possess outstanding yards per catch numbers, and Fannin, Blake, Carr, and Lutzenkirchen's touchdown to catch ratio (24 catch/9 TD's) is impressive. They all have size and speed; they will severely test UK's youth-oriented secondary.
Offensive linemen Lee Ziemba (6-8, 320 lb senior) and Ryan Pugh (6-4, 297 lb senior) were both 2nd Team All-SEC last season, and both are on national watch lists this year: Ziemba is an Outland Trophy candidate, and Pugh a Rimington Trophy candidate.
Collectively, the Tiger offensive line have made 129 career starts, and clear the way for the eighth ranked rushing attack in the nation -- 269.0 yards per game. In the preseason, both Phil Steele and Lindy's rated the Tiger O-line the eighth best in the nation.
Kicker Wes Byrum (6-2, 216 lb senior) is on the Lou Groza Award watch list, and has made 20 of his last 24 kicks (83.3%).
Overall, the Auburn offense is averaging 36.6 points per game. The Tiger ground game has accounted for 1,345 yards on the year, while averaging 5.8 yards per carry. The wide outs are collectively averaging 16.4 yards per catch, an outstanding number. The Tiger offense has converted on 27 of 57 third downs (47.4%).
Tiger Defensive Personnel
Linebacker Josh Bynes: 6-2, 235 lb senior -- Bynes leads the team with 31.0 tackles, to go along with 3.5 tackles for loss, one interception, two pass breakups, and four quarterback hurries.
For his career, Bynes has executed 198 tackles and 14.5 tackles for loss.
Linebacker Daren Bates: 5-11, 203 lb sophomore -- Bates has made 24 tackles, 1.0 tackle for loss, and four quarterback hurries.
Last season versus UK Bates had a career high eighth tackles. Bates is a former safety.
Defensive back Aairon Savage: 5-11, 200 lb senior -- Savage is second on the team with 29 tackles.
After the 2008 season Savage was named 3rd Team All-SEC. He missed the 2009 season with an injury.
Strong Safety Zac Etheridge: 6-0, 213 lb senior -- Etheridge has made 27 tackles, as well as one interception.
Last season versus the Cats, Etheridge recorded a career high 1.5 tackles for loss.
Defensive lineman Nick Fairley: 6-5, 298 lb junior -- Fairley is third in the nation with 11.5 tackles for loss, and he leads the Tigers with 5.0 sacks (1st SEC, t13th nationally). He has also recorded 12 quarterback hurries, and 22 tackles overall.
Defensive end Antoine Carter: 6-4, 256 senior -- Carter has 5.0 tackles for loss and 3.0 sacks on the season.
Amplifying the "stay away from him crowd" are Carter's 20.0 career tackles for loss.
Overall, the Tiger defense is holding opponents to a meager 2.6 yards per carry, 18.8 points per game, and only 92.8 yards rushing per game (12th nationally). They've recorded 14 sacks. Opponents are 25 of 71 (35.2%) on third down conversions.
Who They've Beaten
Arkansas State 52-26, @ Mississippi State 17-14, Clemson 27-24 in OT, No. 12 South Carolina 35-27, Louisiana-Monroe 52-3.
Auburn is 19-23 (82.6%) in red zone scoring, and 15-23 (65.2%) in red zone touchdowns ... Tiger opponents are 13-15 in red zone (86.7%) scoring, and 10-15 (66.7%) in red zone touchdowns ... Auburn foes have passed for an average of 241.8 yards per game ... Of Auburn's 28 scoring drives, 12 have taken less than two-minutes ... 10 of the Tiger scoring drives have taken less than four plays ... Only three of Auburn's 28 scoring drives have taken longer than four-minutes ... Marcus Lattimore, South Carolina running back sensation, ran for only 33 yards on 14 carries against the Tigers ... The Auburn defense has forced eight turnovers over the last two games, resulting in 35 points ... Auburn has overcome double-digit deficits to come back and win twice this year -- 20-7 to South Carolina, and 17-0 to Clemson ... In last season's 21-14 UK win at Auburn, Randall Cobb and Derrick Locke combined for 245 of Kentucky's 357 total yards.
Thanks for reading and Go Cats!