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Kentucky Football: Preview Wildcats vs University of Louisana-Monroe Warhawks

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Preview of the 'Cats versus the Warhawks

Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports

We are in exciting times. The Kentucky football season is exceeding most of our expectations, except for our resident Nostradamus, and we've made it until the middle of October without talking about a UK basketball team that may end up being the most talented ever assembled.  A bowl in Mark Stoop's second year seemed far-reaching in the preseason. 2015 was the target year. Ahead of schedule, this team feels eerily similar to the 2009 team that ended up 7-6. If UK knocks off UL-Monroe (3-2) on Saturday they move to 5-1 on the season, and will be well-positioned for post-season play.

Importantly, these ratings are taking into account performances from the regular season and preseason data until Week 7, so a grain of salt is required. As the season progresses, and more data is accumulated, the numbers should gain more accuracy.

F/+ ratings combine the S&P+ rankings and the FEI rankings. This is how those ratings are described:

The Fremeau Efficiency Index (FEI) considers each of the nearly 20,000 possessions every season in major college football. All drives are filtered to eliminate first-half clock-kills and end-of-game garbage drives and scores. A scoring rate analysis of the remaining possessions then determines the baseline possession expectations against which each team is measured. A team is rewarded for playing well against good teams - win or lose; and is punished more severely for playing poorly against bad teams than it is rewarded for playing well against bad teams.

The S&P+ Ratings are a college football ratings system derived from both play-by-play and drive data from all 800+ of a season's FBS college football games (and 140,000+ plays). There are four key components to the S&P+

If interested, here is a glossary that might be helpful. Lastly, keep in mind that the F/+ percentage ratings measure every team against a perfectly average team. So, if the F/+ rating of a team is 0% that team is considered perfectly average by this rating system.

The F/+ and S&P+ View

OVERALL

When UK Has the ball...

When UL-M has the ball...

Category

UK

UL-M

UK Off

UL-M Def

UK Def

UL-M Off

F/+ Rk (Overall)

60 (0.5%)

123 (-17.3%)

F/+ Rk Change

76 (+16)

116 (-7)

S&P+ (Overall)

63 (196.9)

113 (175.8)

FEI (Overall)

58 (0.33)

124 (-0.257)

S&P+ Rk (Overall)

204.7

175.8

55 (99.7)

89 (93)

68 (108.0)

124 (82.6)

Rushing S&P+ Rk

35 (0.543)

57 (0.427)

86 (0.502)

117 (0.424)

Passing S&P+ Rk

66 (0.525)

41 (0.486)

17 (0.440)

116 (0.439)

For the first time in two season, UK has risen above 0% and now rests at 0.5%. UK is above average! If you look at the F/+ rank change row you can see that UK shot up 16 slots after defeating South Carolina. Most of this is due to UK's FEI rating; UK actually fell a few slots in S&P+ mostly due to the defense's performance. If you look through the box, you'll see that UK has decided advantage for every variable with the exception of one.

UL-M, coming off a bye week, is ranked 123rd out of 128 schools in terms of F/+. Its offense is one of worst in the country. Its starting running back is Centarius Donald who is averaging 70 yards per game on 16 carries. The quarterback is Pete Thomas who averages 231 yards per game and sports a 112.6 QB Rating (Patrick Towles' by comparison is 140.5). The leading receiver is Rashon Ceaser, but the deep threat looks to be Ajalen Holley.

This is a good offense for UK's defense to face in the aftermath of 38 point and 500 yards against South Carolina last Saturday. They can work mostly on fundamentals all week, and shouldn't have to divert their time towards scheme or tendencies too much. This is as close to a bye week in terms of preparation for the defense as could be. Hopefully they show it on the field Saturday.

UL-M's defense on the other hand is respectable. It's fairly good against the run, and even better against the pass. The defense is a "3-3 Stack" which is similar to the defense Rich Rodriguez has run at West Virginia and now Arizona. This defense makes it easier to blitz from various positions, and sow chaos among blocking assignments. They are pretty effective and are averaging 6.6 tackles for loss per game, and nearly 4 sacks per game which is good for 8th in the country. UK's offense should be challenged more than UK's defense, especially the offensive line. Will they rise to the occasion for the second weekend in a row?

At the end of the day, though, UL-M is not even in the top five in the Sun Belt conference. They beat Wake Forest at the beginning of the year (17-10), but Wake Forest is really down this year. They gave up 31 points against an Idaho team with a S&P+ Offense ranked 100th (91.3), and UK is ranked 55th (99.7). If you already want to look ahead to next week's big LSU game, know that LSU beat UL-M 31-0 on September 13th.

UK's defense should not allow more than 7 points against UL-M's offense, and that's even factoring in playing a lot of back-ups from the second quarter on. Anything more than that would be disappointing, quite frankly. There's no reason the defensive starters should have to play in the game more than every second or third possession after the first half. The offense should put up points regardless of UL-M's respectable defensive success so far this season. UK has a distinct advantage running the ball, and should stay ahead of the chains. UL-M's five defensive back look, and unique blitz packages, could cause some trouble if UK gets in obvious passing downs. Still, UL-M's secondary has not faced a quarterback playing as well as Patrick Towles this season combined with his compliment of receivers (even LSU).

UK should easily win this game, but the score may not be indicative given Brown's penchant this season to throttle the offense as he did against Ohio and Vanderbilt once the game was in hand. When that happens, though, UK will still have a big advantage running the ball and should continue to pick-up yards. My arbitrary goals for this game: no injuries, defense holds UL-M offense under 210 total yards, 0 turnovers from the offense, and back-ups get ample playing time led by Reese Phillips.

UK wins 28-6.