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Know your opponent: Week 1 -- Eastern Kentucky

Game week is here, and even though Eastern Kentucky is a I-AA team, it's time for us here at ASoB to take a look at the game, and take a bold stand on the outcome.

Kyle King of Dawg Sports recently scoffed at Kentucky for scheduling Eastern, and I kind of agree that it is a point that can be argued not just with the Cats, but with others in the SEC who still tend to schedule pastries for their first game or two.  But to be fair to the Wildcats, we don't exactly have a great track record when taking on highly ranked teams at the beginning of the year.  In fact, over the last 10 years, we are 3-7 in opening-season games. 

It is also an interesting fact that in that same time period, when we opened the season with a victory, we never won less than 5 games.  But since every one of those last 10 openers have been against U of L, I'm not sure we can draw any conclusions from that particular statistic.  Let's just hope that it might have some significance and that by leading off (hopefully) with a win, it will be a harbinger of a great season to come.

Anyway, to the Colonels of EKU.  Eastern, as most UK fans are aware, are only about 30 minutes or so down the road from UK, and have been a Division I-AA powerhouse for many years.  During the 1990's, EKU either won or shared the OVC crown 7 out of 10 years.  Recently, they have been less successful with the rise of Eastern Illinois, but EKU is by no means one of the weaker schools in Division I-AA.

Eastern finished 4th in the OVC last year with a 5-3 conference record.  Their only then-division I-A opponent was Cincinnati, who mashed the Colonels 31-0, and Cincinnati wasn't exactly the class of the Big East last year.  However, Eastern did beat Western Kentucky, who moved up to Division I-A from I-AA this year and who, by the way, plays mighty Florida on Saturday.

Eastern will be lead by senior quarterback Josh Greco, who finished 2006 as the third rated quarterback in the league.  His main target is senior wide receiver Patrick Bugg Kyle Barber, who at 6'5"/215# 5'10"/175# is an imposing small but dangerous target.  Bugg Barber caught 37 50 passes last year, but only 1 for a touchdown.  Overall, Eastern led the league in passing yardage.

Eastern has a fair running game, as well, led by senior Mark Dunn who ran for 800+ yards and 9 touchdowns.  Dunn was 5th in the league in rushing yardage.

Eastern was second in the OVC in first downs per game with 17.6, converting on 3rd down 63% of the time.

But the fact of the matter is, Kentucky simply has too much for the Colonels on both sides of the ball.  Their solid passing attack will be sorely tested by our improved secondary, and our linebacking corps is one of the SEC's best.

But even if they do score on us, it is unlikely that their 22+ point scoring average against I-AA comp will match our 26+ ppg average against much better competition.  So I'm going to go out on a limb here and pick UK, 43-10.

Update [2007-8-30 16:51:42 by Truzenzuzex]:  Apparenly, my data source incorrectly listed Patrick Bugg as a senior this year when in fact he was a senior last year, and had him at wide receiver when I he may have actually been the TE.  Either way, some of my facts were in error, and I apologize to Eastern fans for getting it wrong.  Hopefully, I have it correct now.