After a bizarre loss to Tennessee in which Kentucky nearly set a school record for rushing yards in a game, but was never in the game down the stretch, Kentucky has had two straight weeks of losing a bit of momentum from beneath their sails. Never to fear, because the seas are likely to be very smooth on Saturday against Austin Peay, and the Wildcats can officially plot a course toward a bowl game with a win.
Some negativity has popped up—that Kentucky isn’t really very good and that UK fans are too complacent to be happy with a six-win season. But for the moment, can we regard the glass as half-full and enjoy a send off to a gutty group of seniors—and snag that bowl invite, which is the first since 2010?
There will be good reason to celebrate Saturday in Commonwealth Stadium, so let’s get ready.
WHERE WE ARE
Kentucky ends their SEC season at 4-4, which likely places the Cats in 3rd in the seven-team division. The Cats are 5-5 overall, with a cupcake this weekend at home against Austin Peay and then a mountain to climb the following week at Louisville.
Against Tennessee, the Kentucky ground game bashed along quite successfully. With 443 yards, UK just missed the single-game school rushing record. Stephen Johnson broke a 75 yard scamper, Boom Williams passed 1,000 yards for the year, and Snell, Kemp and King all had big runs for UK. Look for more of the same this week.
The Kentucky defense was hindered by some significant injuries—linebacker Jordan Jones went down early, and UK rotated multiple players in the secondary as well. For the first time since Week 2, Kentucky was gashed by big plays, and for every gain the offense ground out, the defense promptly paid it back with interest. Accordingly, Kentucky lost 49-36.
WHO THEY ARE
Austin Peay is terrible. This isn’t a matter of manners, but a matter of fact. The last game Austin Peay won was on October 18, 2014 at home against Murray State. That win snapped an 18-game losing streak. At present, the Governors have lost 26 in a row. Opponents have scored 41 or more points in nine of the ten games this season—in the other, Austin Peay gave up 34. The last Power Five opponent that the Governors faced was Vandy, who beat them by 40 last season.
Offensively, Austin Peay isn’t terrible. They average 24 points and 375 yards per game—although at the FCS level. Kentel Williams, with 417 yards and five touchdowns, is their top rusher. The passing game is hit and miss, but receiver Jared Beard, with 69 catches, 920 yards, and seven touchdowns, is AP’s best player.
Defensively, Austin Peay is awful. They allow 46.8 points and 516.3 yards per game, not to mention 6.3 yards per carry. Their defense has claimed just four interceptions all season. One familiar name is Lloyd Tubman, a defensive lineman who was enrolled at Kentucky but left the school after some legal squabbles. Tubman has two and half sacks, which places him one behind the team’s leaders.
WHAT TO EXPECT
If Kentucky were to even allow this game to be competitive, it would be a monumental surprise. This is probably the worst team to ever play in Commonwealth Stadium. Ryan Timmons and Jojo Kemp, among other seniors, will probably have good games. Kentucky will likely set that school rushing record (446 yards), and the Wildcats can pick the score.
Kentucky 63, Austin Peay 7
AROUND THE CONFERENCE
My current power rankings.
Texas A&M (7-3)
Ole Miss (5-5)
South Carolina (5-5)
Mississippi State (4-6)
For the season, my record now is 66-25. Who knew Auburn would awful, that A&M would lose to Ole Miss, that Vandy would fold up against a team whose season is already basically over? Not me.
But we’ll try it again this week:
Georgia 35, Louisiana-Lafayette 17
Texas A&M 38, Texas San-Antonio 7
LSU 27, Florida 21
Tennessee 41, Missouri 21
South Carolina 38, Western Carolina 6
Kentucky 63, Austin Peay 7
Alabama 52, Chattanooga 0
Arkansas 29, Mississippi State 28
Auburn 31, Alabama A&M 10
Ole Miss 31, Vanderbilt 20
Joe Cox is contributing editor for KySportsStyle.com Magazine. He grew up in Letcher County and Bell County, and has written five books, with his most recent, Almost Perfect, to be released in February 2017. Joe is an attorney and lives in Logan County with his wife and children. You can reach him at email@example.com.