Western Kentucky (1-1) at Kentucky (1-1)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, September 15, 7:00 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Commonwealth Stadium (67,606) -- Lexington, Kentucky. Television: ESPNU. Home Record: WKU 1-0, UK 1-0. Away Record: WKU 0-1, UK 0-1. Neutral Record: WKU 0-0, UK 0-0. Conference Record: WKU 0-0, UK 0-0. Series Record: Kentucky leads, 3-0.
GAME NOTES: A pair of Bluegrass State foes are set to square off in Lexington on Saturday night, as the Kentucky Wildcats play host to the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers.
In two games this season, Western Kentucky has experienced very different environments and outcomes. In their opener, the Hilltoppers made easy work of FCS foe Austin Peay, 49-10, but then they had to travel to some of the most hostile soil in the country to take on No. 1 Alabama in Tuscaloosa, promptly falling to one of the nation's elite teams, 35-0. While this road matchup with Kentucky will be difficult, the outcome figures to fall somewhere in the middle of those two extremes.
Much like its counterpart, Kentucky has faced a tale of two tilts in the early going. After falling on the road to nationally-ranked Louisville, 32-14, the Wildcats pulled even at 1-1 in their home opener by taking out Kent State in convincing fashion, 47-14.
These two programs are meeting for the fourth time, with Kentucky winning each of the first three matchups. After winning handily in 2010 (63-28), the Wildcats squeaked out a victory in last year's matchup, 14-3.
Statistics at this point in the season can oftentimes be wildly unreliable, especially when a team faces a national championship-caliber defense. Western Kentucky netted just 224 yards of total offense against Alabama to lower its average to 410 ypg after a huge performance in week one.
Kawaun Jakes has been very efficient so far, completing more than 70 percent of his passes (38-of-54) for 474 yards and four touchdowns, although he did throw an interception and get sacked three times by the Crimson Tide defense.
Jack Doyle leads the Hilltoppers in both receptions and yards with 12 for 121, and Antonio Andrews isn't far behind him with 10 for 111, but neither have caught a touchdown pass yet.
As expected, Leon Allen was bottled up last week for just 26 yards on 11 carries. He is still averaging five yards per carry, however (24 carries, 119 yards, TD).
The defense may have surrendered 35 points last week, but all things considered, the unit played pretty well, holding UA's rushing attack to 103 yards on 31 carries, and sacking quarterback A.J. McCarron six times.
The pass rush is the defense's biggest strength. Of the eight sacks the team has posted, Quanterus Smith has three and Gavin Rocker has two.
Xavius Boyd and Andrew Jackson are tied for the team lead with 13 tackles, and four of Jackson's tackles have come behind the line of scrimmage. Johnathan Dowling has the lone interception.
With a struggle in one game and great success in another, the Kentucky offense comes in sporting averages of 30.5 points and 456 yards per contest.
The offensive output so far has been highlighted by outstanding quarterback play. Maxwell Smith put up career numbers against Kent State, throwing for 354 passing yards and four touchdowns. It's hard to imagine Smith getting off to a better start to the season as he has completed 73 percent of his passes (65- of-89) for 634 yards with six touchdowns and no interceptions.
Aaron Boyd is the team's leading receiver with 14 catches for 136 yards and a touchdown and nearly all of that production came against Kent State (10, 100, TD). La'Rod King (13 receptions, 130 yards, two TDs) is also a proven commodity in the passing game.
Raymond Sanders leads the team with 153 rushing yards, but again most of those yards came in a career-high total last week (115, TD). Sanders stepped up in the absence of CoShik Williams (10 carries for 62 yards in the opener), who missed the Kent State game due to injury.
The UK defense is allowing 437.5 total yards per game, but they have done a good job keeping opponents off the scoreboard (23 ppg).
Avery Williamson always seems to be around the ball and it shows on the stat sheet as he has tallied a team-high 19 tackles. Miles Simpson (13 tackles, sack, fumble recovery), and Alvin Dupree (12 tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss, sack) have also been productive members of the Wildcats defense.
The unit has had success getting after the quarterback, notching six sacks in the first two games, but it has only forced one turnover.
With both teams playing one difficult road game and one easy home game, it is hard to predict how each will respond to a more evenly-matched bout. Both sidelines have plenty of playmakers, but since no one has been able to stop him yet, the advantage has to go to Smith and the Wildcats, especially at home.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Kentucky 31, Western Kentucky 23
09/12 10:44:21 ET