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Friday, November 20, 2009

Behind Enemy Lines: Kentucky Wildcats

As we do every Friday, it's time to take a trip behind enemy lines and get the inside scoop on what's happening with this week's opponent, the Kentucky Wildcats. This week, the news comes courtesy of Chip Cosby, the UK beat writer for the Lexington Herald-Leader.

David Hale: Kentucky will be without Mike Hartline for the remainder of the season. What can you tell us about Warren Newton? How much will Rich Brooks ask him to do in this game?

Chip Cosby: Morgan Newton was one of the gems of UK's 2009 recruiting class, a four-star prospect by Scout. He's got great physical tools, 6-4, 220, good mobility, live arm. But he's very raw in the passing game when it comes to making reads and going through his progressions. Brooks and the coaching staff didn't ask him to do much last week against Vandy, instead relying on the running game. But if UK is to have a chance to win at Georgia, they'll have to take the handcuffs off and give Newton a chance to throw downfield some.

DH: Looking back at last year's game in Lexington, Randall Cobb nearly beat Georgia by himself. Kentucky has certainly put him to use all over the place this season, but with Hartline out, are we likely to see a little more of Cobb in the Wildcat and maybe even used a bit as a passer? And what's his health status at the moment?

CC: It all depends on health. Cobb is coming in with a bruised shoulder and is officially listed as questionable. It'd be a shock if he didn't at least try to play, but the bigger issue is how healthy he will be. If he's OK, he'll be Kentucky's No. 1 target in the passing game and will get plenty of snaps at quarterback in the Wildcat formation. Whenever Kentucky needs a big play, expect to see the ball in his hands in some way, shape or fashion.

DH: Kentucky runs for more than 200 yards per game, but Georgia's defensive line has been strong and the Dawgs have yet to allow a 100-yard rusher this season. How do you see the matchup of Derrick Locke & Co. going up against Georgia's big defensive line playing out?

CC: That will be the most intriguing matchup of the night. The Kentucky offensive line has been very good so far this season, not only in pass protection, but opening holes for Derrick Locke and the running game. But Brooks said this week that they'll face their biggest challenge of the year in Georgia's D-line, calling them better than both Alabama and Florida. Kentucky's going to come out and try and establish the run. Whoever wins the battle at the line of scrimmage will likely win the game.

DH: Kentucky's overall stats against the run look pretty bad, but much of that was done against Mississippi State and Florida's spread-options. How do the Wildcats stack up against a more traditional I-formation backfield like Georgia runs?

CC: The Kentucky defense usually performs better against more traditional I-formation teams. They completely shut down Vanderbilt, have done a decent job against Alabama the past two years and bottled up South Carolina's running game.

DH: Trevard Lindley is obviously an NFL talent, but Kentucky's pass defense has been exceptional all season, ranking ninth nationally. Add to that the fact that A.J. Green won't play in this game and Joe Cox's propensity for turnovers this season, and that looks like a matchup the Cats have to like. Do you expect the game plan to be to stack the box and dare Georgia to test that UK secondary?

CC: What's been remarkable is that the secondary has performed at such a high level with Lindley basically being hurt since the Alabama game. He missed four games and hasn't really been healthy since he's returned. With A.J. Green out, you can definitely expect for Kentucky to zone in on the run and see if Joe Cox can beat them downfield.

DH: What's your prediction for the game?

CC: I really thought Kentucky had a good chance to win this game, but with Cobb hurting I don't see it. I'm going with Georgia 27-17.

Big thanks to Chip for his help on this. You can read his UK coverage for the Herald-Leader HERE or view his Wildcats blog HERE.

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