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Kentucky Football: Previewing The Ohio Bobcats With Hustle Belt

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A Q&A exchange with SB Nation's MAC blog Hustle Belt regarding Saturday's game against The Ohio University.

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Kaleb Carter of SB Nation's MAC site, Hustle Belt, was nice enough to conduct a Q&A with A Sea of Blue in advance of Saturday's game between the University of Kentucky Wildcats and The Ohio University Bobcats. Give Kaleb (@Kaleb_M_Carter) and Hustle Belt (@HustleBelt) a follow for Ohio football news this week. ASoB's answers to Kaleb's questions will be appearing at Hustle Belt in the near future so stay tuned for that.

Thanks to Kaleb for taking the time to answer the following questions. Without further ado:

Ohio seems to have lost quite a bit of offensive production from last season, but returns eight defensive starters. From a general perspective, how did Bobcat fans see this season playing out?

We all understand the expectation should not be increased offensive production this season, but we're really hoping (at least the general hope is that) new leadership will prevail in the form of victories and not falling off in November. We have a lot of speed to work with, though our backs struggled with a huge case of the fumbles against Kent State. Anywhere from 5-6 wins, maybe 7 is the hope, though many fans didn't even have that high of expectations coming in. But we have athletes, we have speed, so there is room to see lots of improvement with a lot of young guys, especially on the offensive side of the football with new guys expected to step into new roles. 
Ohio is without last season's starting QB and running back, but on Saturday the new mobile quarterback Darrius Vick performed well. The running backs appeared to be much more of a mixed bag last Saturday, but an unheralded running back made a huge difference late in the game. Meanwhile, the offensive line only gave up one sack against Kent St. and looks talented in the interior. What position would you say is the strength of this offense?
I honestly don't know if there is one main strength. Hope this answers a question for you Big Blue fans, but really what is exciting about our offense is the speed that the skill players possess. The running back/wide receiver positions have plenty of young speedsters (and senior Chase Cochran who has a knack for big plays), on top of Vick being a capable runner, so speed is the characteristic that could win us games.
A glance at the roster tells me Ohio has some pretty big receivers. Which one do you think UK's secondary is preparing the hardest for this week? Are these receivers more of the lengthy possession variety, speedsters, or both?
I would have to think that the Wildcats need to prepare for Landon Smith and Cochran. Smith had both of Ohio's TDs in week one. Cochran is just a big-play type dude and very well might jump over your DBs. Our other WR's might be fast, but won't necessarily have any advantages over SEC corners. 
As previously mentioned, Ohio returns eight starters on defense, and I noticed Ohio had several tackles for loss and quarterback sacks last Saturday. They also defended the run well against Kent St. The roster shows the defense has good size at most positions. Which Ohio defenders should UK fans be aware of on Saturday?
UK should be wary of our D-Line. We have already displayed a propensity for stopping the run early (though this has not always been the case in the past). And though we have good DB's by MAC standards, they don't quite stack up with the athleticism some of the Wildcat's receivers have. Kentucky needs to establish the run-game and control the line of scrimmage early, and maybe later on, Towles will have the opportunity to carve up the Bobcat secondary.
UK will look to establish tempo early with a balanced run/pass ratio. Do HC Frank Solich and DC Jimmy Burrow-led defenses have experience defending up-tempo offenses regularly in the MAC? 
The MAC typically has teams who will play fast and try to speed them up. I don't think the Bobcats will have many problems with that aspect of Kentucky's game, but I could be wrong. 
Ohio seems to have very good special teams. Kicker Josiah Yadzani hit a clutch field goal for the win Saturday, while return man Devin Bass was named first-team All-MAC kick returner. Plus, Ohio's JUCO transfer punter was All-American at the JUCO level last year. Has solid special teams play always been a staple of Frank Solich teams? How did Bass and the punter Mitch Bonnstetter look last Saturday?
Bass will have his moments, and so will Ohio's special teams this year. Not sure if this is the game where they will breakout, but hey you never know. Bonnstetter at punter can switch field position in Ohio's favor. And Yaz is the man, he's a local kid with a Golden boot. Mr. Reliable for sure. Curious if he feels the heat in a more intimidating environment. 
Predict the winner and the score. Who do you think will be the difference-maker(s) in the game?

As critical as I have been of Ohio in answering these questions, this is always the way I am about teams I cover. I think Ohio can and will hang with the Wildcats, but that UK will prevail in the beautiful Bluegrass. Kentucky wins 38-18.