KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — It’s November, and fans in Kentucky are still talking about football with the Wildcats holding an outside chance of winning the SEC East Division.
Kentucky (5-4, 4-3 SEC) kicks off against Tennessee (6-3, 2-3) at noon Saturday at Neyland Stadium.
Joe Mussatto covers the Wildcats football program for SECcountry.com, and he took some time to answer five questions about Kentucky football:
1. What’s Kentucky’s team strength?
The run game has been the biggest reason behind Kentucky’s success. Freshman Benny Snell has 10 rushing touchdowns, the most of any back in the SEC. He’s been the surprise of the season for Kentucky as a former three-star recruit. The staff likes to use Snell out of the wildcat formation and I’d expect him to get 25-30 carries on Saturday. Boom Williams is the veteran in the backfield that’s been a bit overshadowed by Snell. He won’t get as many chances as Snell, but Williams has been the big-play guy averaging more than 7 yards per carry. If Tennessee stops Kentucky’s run game it’ll be a long night for the Cats.
2. Will Wildcats’ fans travel to Neyland Stadium to support their team?
I think so. The most Kentucky fans I saw at an away game this season was at Alabama. That was a trip a lot of fans wanted to mark off, but there was never a chance to see a win. This one is different. The fan base was ready to leave the team after an 0-2 start, but after winning five of its last seven games, Stoops seems to have them back behind him. I think there will be a good amount of Kentucky fans given the proximity and chance for a close game.
3. Which Kentucky basketball player would be best at football, and what position would he play?
That’s a fun one. I’ll go with freshman guard De’Aaron Fox. He’s one of a few freshmen who will probably start for John Calipari’s team and he’s definitely the quickest. His speed on the court has been compared to former Kentucky point guard John Wall. He’s quick and looks pretty shifty so I’ll put him as a slot receiver. He’s got decent size at 6-foot-3, 187 pounds. I’ve got no idea about his hands or if he’s ever played football but it’s a fun thought.
4. Did anyone expect the Wildcats to win four SEC games this season, or has this been a pleasant surprise?
It’s definitely been a surprise. It’s the first time Kentucky has won four SEC games in Stoops’ tenure, and if they get to five, it’d be the best mark at Kentucky since 1977. Again, the 0-2 start began to look like a train wreck and Stoops’ job didn’t seem all too stable, but the program and its coach is past that. Kentucky is all but guaranteed to make its first bowl since 2010 with winless Austin Peay still on the schedule. To still be in SEC East contention coming up on mid-November is quite the surprise in Lexington.
5. What is the Kentucky football team’s biggest weakness?
There are still plenty of questions on defense, especially depth in the front seven, but I’m going to go with the passing game. Stephen Johnson has been Kentucky’s quarterback since Week 3 when starter Drew Barker injured his back. The offensive has fully embraced a run-first mentality ever since. Johnson has progressed nicely as the season has gone on but his wide receivers weren’t much of a help last weekend against Georgia. Johnson throws a fine deep ball so look out for that, but the Kentucky passing game is far from reliable. I’d think Tennessee would stack the box and make Johnson try to win the game.