We'll be seeing a lot more of #8 this year, I predict.
With 33% of the regular-season football games played, lets take a brief look at where Kentucky stands.
Game-wise, Kentucky is 3-1. The only really competitive game so far has been against traditional rival Louisville on the road, the rest have been either UK blowouts versus week opponents or a Florida blowout against Kentucky. We have not seen Kentucky play a competitive game since Week 1.
We have seen that Kentucky has a strong offense and a weak defense. The weak defense is due, in large part, to huge talent losses over the last two years, and the necessity of bringing up so many young players. One of our best defensive lineman to date is a walk-on, which kind of shows you how much we have lost over the last couple of years.
The defensive secondary is talented, but still pretty young. The linebacking corps is just plain young. What that means is that teams are going to exploit our defense all year, but as we have seen before, over time the defense will improve as the year goes on barring injuries. How much it improves will be, in large part, the key to how well Kentucky does this year.
Some statistical comparisons:
|Statistic||National Rank||SEC rank|
|Tackles for loss||29||6|
|Third down conversions||35||6|
|Red zone conversions||78||10|
I have highlighted the ones that I think are particularly troublesome right now, as you can see. I find red zone conversions downright shocking -- how can the #3 rushing and #4 passing offense in the SEC be having trouble scoring in the red zone? That's just baffling to me.
Equally disturbing is the fumbles forced statistics. Technically, UK is tied for 8th in that stat with about four or five other schools, but that just highlights the fact that Kentucky's turnover margin is fools gold. If Kentucky doesn't improve in this statistic in the SEC part of the season, the turnover margin that looks so pretty right now will not look pretty after four more games.
I wish there was a stat for "yards after catches allowed." That one would likely be particularly revealing for the Wildcats. I have a feeling that if UK could do a better job getting receivers on the ground after a catch, we might have given Florida a real battle. I lost count of the times that UK played the Florida guys too soft and allowed them to just reach the marker after the catch.
To be honest, the statistics do not look that bad for Kentucky, but we do have to keep in mind the level of competition so far. I don't want to dwell on that, though, because UK has only played in one game where it was not either a prohibitive favorite or a prohibitive underdog, and that game they won. Coming into Ole Miss this weekend, the Wildcats are currently a 4-point dog, which makes sense on the road in the SEC. Kentucky needs this game for all sorts of reasons.
It will be interesting to see how Kentucky plays teams that are not national championship contenders, and that's what we are about to see. Ole Miss is a good opponent for the 'Cats, in that they have more than enough talent to beat UK on their home field, despite some early struggles. The Florida game exposed the Wildcats' defense, but the Mississippi Rebels offense is not nearly as powerful as Florida, although it is right there with Kentucky.
The next third, not the first one, will be the portion of the schedule that tells the tale about this football team. Ole Miss, Auburn, South Carolina and Georgia are all teams that UK at least has a chance to beat on paper, and three of the four are at home in Commonwealth Stadium. If UK is going to make some noise in the SEC, it is in the upcoming stretch of games.