Rafael Little is questionable for the game
The unanimous AP # 1 LSU Tigers invade Commonwealth Stadium Saturday afternoon in a 3:30 p.m. CBS-televised contest. The Tigers may be the physically most gifted team in the country. How do you beat such a team? Here are the seven keys to a Kentucky victory.
1. Make LSU put the ball in the air. LSU is the most talented team in the country, but they may be stronger running the ball than passing it. At quarterback, they use a two QB platoon system, with Matt Flynn handling the main passing duties, and Ryan Perrilloux being primarily a ball carrier (fourth leading rusher on the team). When Perrilloux is in the game, you can generally expect to see quarterback draws and option plays from him.
The Tigers have nine players averaging 5.0 yards per carry or greater, a mark slightly skewed with a fake field goal run for a touchdown and a 15.0 ypc average for Colt David, among a couple of other anomalies, but the point is, they run the ball very well. Flynn's passing has been very average, with 55.4% completion, and only four touchdowns to three interceptions. The more the Tigers are forced to put the ball in the air, the better UK's chances are.
2. Bend-don't-break defense. LSU will move the ball against UK, and they'll move it against anyone. Stop LSU at some point, and make them attempt field goals. Kicker Colt David is 0-4 from 37 yards and beyond this season.
3. Win the battle of big plays. Against Florida, LSU was 5-5 on 4th down conversions. Any one stop, and Florida may have walked away with the victory, rather than LSU. The Tigers also continued their penchant for gambling, with a fake field goal resulting in a first down when quarterback Matt Flynn ran for seven yards. If a long field goal is attempted, the Cats would be wise to play for the fake, with the poor kicking and the generally gambling nature Coach Les Miles employs.
4. Win the turnover battle. Last year's Music City Bowl champion Kentucky Wildcat teams were one of the best in the nation at turnover margin with a +18 turnover margin in its last 11 games last season. Coming into the South Carolina game, the 2007 UK team continued where it left off, with a +7 in turnovers. Against the Gamecocks, the Cats fumbled five times (losing three) and had one costly interception in the Gamecock end zone. UK's four turnovers to SC's one was a big key to UK's loss. The Cats outgained the Gamecocks, outrushed the Gamecocks, had 8 more first downs than the Gamecocks, 12 more plays than the Gamecocks, and won the time of possession. But because of the 4-1 turnover margin, the Cats dropped the 38-23 decision. Against LSU, this must return to form.
5. Protection. If LSU's fierce defensive line gets into the backfield, we could see a very bad day from Andre Woodson. Kentucky needs no hurried passes thrown off a back foot, or any ill-advised backward passes, and no fumbles, all of which have occurred when Woodson has been pressured. This could be the single most important key of the ballgame.
6. Balance. Much of Kentucky's success has been attributed to the passing attack, with Woodson enjoying a tremendous season last year and continuing this year. And no doubt it's a big part. Woodson is hitting over 65% of his passes, and has thrown for over 1500 yards, 18 touchdowns and only two interceptions. But just as importantly, the Cats rushing attack has been stellar all season. Leading rusher Rafael Little has five 100-yard rushing games this season, and all five of the primary backs are rushing for 6.4 yards per carry or greater.
Monday afternoon Coach Brooks announced that Little was questionable for the game with the thigh bruise he suffered against Arkansas. Either Little or one of the other Kentucky backs will need to perform on a consistent basis. Establishing the run with the pass, or establishing the pass with the run, it does not matter--as long as the Cats can keep LSU off-balance with their own balance.
7. Keep your poise. Against South Carolina, the Cats appeared careless and flustered. Even when turnovers did not appear, the Cats appeared blinded by the ESPN lights. Again the Cats will face national scrutiny, this time with a Saturday afternoon CBS telecast, and facing the unanimous # 1 team in the country, focus need be absolute to avoid a similar result.