The final regular season game of the Wildcats’ season will kick-off at Kroger Field against the Louisville Cardinals.
Last season, the Wildcats defeated the Cardinals at Papa Johns Stadium during Lamar Jackson’s Heisman Trophy campaign.
Lamar Jackson may have won the Heisman, but Kentucky won the war. After such an unbelievable high from last year’s win, how will the ‘Cats fare in the 2017 contest?
Let’s take a look at the statistics:
· 319 Passing Yards-Per-Game (3,511 passing yards in 11 games)
· 25:6 Touchdown-to-Interception Ratio in on the year
· 60.4% Completion Percentage on 412 pass attempts (37.5 per game)
Lamar Jackson has put together a fine passing season for himself. He’s limited his turnovers through the air with only six interceptions on 378 passing attempts. That’s an interception every 63 passes. He has thrown for almost 300 yards a game.
· 187.5 Passing Yards-Per-Game (2,063 passing yards in 11 games)
· 2:1 Touchdown-to-Interception Ratio (10 TDs – 5 INTs)
· 61.4% Completion Percentage on 272 pass attempts (24.7 per game)
Kentucky’s passing game has progressively worsened since SEC play began. Stephen Johnson only has one touchdown, and two interceptions, in the last five games. He’s been pretty accurate against Mississippi and Vanderbilt, but his numbers overall have dropped since the bye week. The inconsistency from the receiving core hasn’t helped, but hopefully Johnson can end the season on a high-note.
· 6.4 Rushing Yards-Per-Attempt on 413 attempts
· 241.2 Rushing-Yards-Per Game (2,653 rushing yards in 11 games)
· 29 Rushing Touchdowns in eleven games
A one-man army. That is what Lamar Jackson is for Louisville. Not only is he the leading passer on the team, he more than doubles the output of the second leading rusher on the team. Jackson has run for 1,287 yards on the season, for 17 touchdowns on almost seven yards a carry. He’s having a season reminiscent of last year’s Heisman trophy run. And we all know what happened in last year’s game.
· 4.3 Rushing Yards-Per-Attempt on 423 attempts
· 164.5 Rushing Yards-Per-Game (1,809 rushing yards in 11 games)
· 22 Rushing Touchdowns in 11 games
Kentucky has the rushing touchdown leader in Kentucky history as their counter to Louisville’s Jackson. Benny Snell Jr. has had a great season for himself averaging almost five yards-per-carry, 16 touchdowns, and over 1,000 yards. He’ll be the key to Kentucky’s success against Louisville. Johnson is no Jackson rushing the ball, but he has proven to be more than capable to be Snell’s running buddy. Johnson was instrumental in last year’s victory by running the ball, and he’ll need that on Saturday for a victory. Sihiem King is also capable, evident by his big game against Vanderbilt.
· Jaylen Smith: 47 receptions, 798 yards, 5 TDs, Junior
· Dez Fitzpatrick: 43 receptions, 662, 8 TDs, Freshman
· Seth Dawkins: 37 receptions, 577, 4 TDs, Sophomore
Louisville lacks experience from their leading receivers, but not production. All three average over 15 yards-per-reception. Smith, having only played in eight games, is averaging 100 yards-per-game. If keeping Jackson in check wasn’t enough, they’ll have to try to contain their receiving core as well.
· Garrett Johnson: 46 receptions, 500 yards, 2 TDs, Senior
· C.J. Conrad: 16 receptions, 286 yards, 4 TDs, Junior
· Tavin Richardson: 19 receptions, 241 yards, 1 TD, Sophomore
C.J. Conrad is out for the rest of the season, and that is a huge blow to UK’s chances in this game. An X-Factor like Conrad is always a threat to defenses, so without him another receiving weapon will have to step up. Lynn Bowden will hopefully be that player, as he is arguably the most talented receiver on the roster. Many expected this position group to be the weakest on the team, and it certainly has been.
· 28 Points-Per-Game (308 points in 11 games)
· 244 Passing Yards-Per-Game (2,684 passing yards in 11 games)
· 147.2 Rushing Yards-Per-Game (1,619 rushing yards in 11 games)
· 18 Passing Touchdowns, 18 Rushing Touchdowns in 11 games
· 12 Interceptions, 20 Forced Fumbles, 8 Fumble Recoveries
· 40.4% Third Down Conversion Rate
Louisville’s defense isn’t great, but it’s good enough. The unit gives up a little over three touchdowns-per-game, and the team as a whole has given up four-per-game. The defense, though, has forced 32 turnover possibilities in 11 games, and gives up less than 400 yards-per-game.
· 27.2 Points-Per-Game (299 points in 11 games)
· 267.8 Passing Yards-Per-Game (2,946 passing yards in 11 games)
· 145 Rushing Yards-Per-Game (1,600 rushing yards in 11 games)
· 19 Passing Touchdowns, 18 Rushing Touchdowns
· 11 Interceptions, 12 Forced Fumbles, 7 Fumble Recoveries
· 40.13% Third Down Conversion Rate
Other than the Vanderbilt game, this Kentucky defense has taken a beating since the bye week. That does not bode well with Lamar Jackson coming to town. The defense has given up an average of over 40 points to teams not in the state of Tennessee since the bye. There’s just not enough positive momentum going for this unit to have a ton of hope.
· Louisville converts 56% of their fourth downs (14-25)
· Opponents score on 87.1% of their redzone trips against Louisville
· Conversely, Louisville only has an 85% success rate, but they have 46 redzone trips compared to their opponents’ 31.
· If Louisville fumbles, they aren’t likely to recover. They lose 78.5% of their fumbles (11-14)
· Kentucky is tied for 120th in the nation in punt returns with only six on the year
· Austin MacGinnis is a perfect 32-of-32 on Point After Touchdown attempts
· Kentucky has a +6 turnover margin against non-conference opponents
· Kentucky has a 100% score rate in the redzone at home (15 TDs, 7 FGs on 22 attempts)
The Battle for the Governor’s Cup will be a close contest according to the statistics. It will be Kentucky’s grind-it-out offense versus Louisville’s explosive one-man army, as the defenses are almost identical. The key will most likely be how Kentucky’s secondary plays against Louisville’s receivers, as I don’t expect Jackson’s rushing to be halted. The UK offense will need to stay on the field a majority of the game to finish the season with a victory.
Time: 12:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Saturday, November 25th
Where: Kroger Field, Lexington, Kentucky
Television: SEC Network
Weather: 56 degrees, partly cloudy, West winds 11 miles-per-hour
All statistics retrieved from cfbstats.com.