As you know, we like to do stats analysis here at A Sea of Blue, and I haven't spent as much time as usual recently looking at them. That itch needs to be scratched, so I thought I would take a look at some of the statistics for Saturday's game with Florida in the Swamp.
I'd like to examine the basic stats -- total yards earned and surrendered for passing, running, and overall as well as the position rankings for each fundamental aspect of these stats both nationally and in the SEC:
|Overall Basic Statistics|
|Points||TTL Yards||Passing yds||Rushing yds|
As you can clearly see, a quick glance at the stat comparison is not too encouraging for the Wildcats. You could make a case that this is the "unstoppable force/immovable object" comparison, where UK has a stout defense and Florida a dynamic offense. Unfortunately for Kentucky, we tend to be strongest defensively against the pass, which is not what the Gators have been doing particularly well. Florida has been running the ball well, and as we saw against Alabama, South Carolina and in spades against Arkansas, Kentucky is not a particularly good defensive team against a determined running attack.
Another thing that sticks out to me is that the Wildcats gain almost as much through the air as the Gators do, and the Gators have a significantly weaker pass defense than do the Wildcats. In fact, if we look at the Gators' game log, we see that this has been a recurring problem throughout this season:
|Florida Game Log -- Pass Defense
|9/6/08||Miami (FL)||Grass||W 26-3||22||12||54.5||79||3.6||0||0||84.71|
|9/20/08||@ Tennessee||Grass||W 30-6||28||18||64.3||162||5.8||1||0||105.75|
|10/4/08||@ Arkansas||Grass||W 38-7||38||24||63.2||220||5.8||1||0||106.53|
|10/11/08||#11 LSU||Grass||W 51-21||41||25||61||241||5.9||2||2||116.7|
So, Luke, have we found a weakness in the Death Star? Well, maybe. It is clear that the Gators have surrendered some big yardage through the air, and although they have had some big victories in spite of that fact, the Arkansas game in particular is misleading. That was a football game well into the third quarter, when the Gators suddenly exploded for about 28 points in the last quarter and one half.
The thing is, UK's passing game is not exactly striking fear into secondaries around the league. Hartline has had difficulty controlling his throws and tends to sail the ball over receiver's heads. That has resulted lately in interceptions, and Florida has nothing if not great athletes in their secondary, so an INT to them is likely to result in points on the board. Not exactly encouraging.
One of the reasons that Florida has suffered against the pass this year is their defensive line. The Florida d-line is young, and they haven't gotten that much pressure on the passer against any SEC foes but Arkansas, and Arkansas next to last in the the league in sacks surrendered whereas Kentucky is leading the league in that statistic. What all that means is that Hartline should have plenty of time to throw the football, but can he deliver it? Perhaps more importantly, can our receivers catch it even if he does?
The other thing I notice above is that the Gator defense has been a bit stingier in total yards surrendered than the Widlcats more highly touted squad. The Florida defensive line has not been productive against either the pass or the run in terms of sacks and tackles for loss, but the Gator linebacking corps has been up to the task and has kept that from being a huge problem so far.
Another really weird stat is that Florida is last in the league in number of plays run this year. You may think that is caused by some kind of slow offense, but the reverse is the case -- they score fast, and in fewer plays than anyone else in the league. Florida leads the SEC in total offense, so this is one case where a stat is misleading. Kentucky, believe it or not, is a respectable sixth in total offense, although critics will tell you that is primarily because of a weak schedule. I want to point out for the record that Florida isn't exactly playing a Georgia-type schedule this year, although it is still significantly tougher than UK's.
So where does all this leave us? Well, to defeat Florida, Kentucky is going to have to take advantage of their defensive line both in the running and passing game. Florida is going to score on us -- the 'Cats defense has not been as strong against the spread offenses they have faced, and UK has faced nothing like a Tim Tebow/Percy Harvin lead spread offense. The UK defense is as banged up as it has been all year, and they are about to face the best offense in the SEC. That is not a good thing.
Hartline is going to have to find ways to get the ball into the end zone. Empty red-zone trips will mean sure defeat at the hands of the Gators. Hartline will get time to throw, but he has to deliver the ball on target and the receivers have to catch it. The Wildcats' game plan has to revolve around keeping the linebackers honest and getting the ball to playmakers early and often to loosen up the Gator defense. It's a tall order for the UK offense, as the Kentucky defense is not likely to be able to win this game without a lot of help.