College Football Preview: UK opponent capsules

August 17, 2004|LARRY VAUGHT

A game-by-game look at Kentucky's opponents this season.

At Louisville, Sept. 5: Seven starters, including quarterback Stefan LeFors and running back Eric Shelton, return from an offense that averaged 35 points and 488 yards of total offense per game last year when the Cardinals won nine games. The Cardinals also have the last two Kentucky Mr. Football winners - Michael Bush (2002) and Brian Brohm (2003) to add to their offensive arsenal.

On defense, the Cards allowed 202 points in their last five games - an average of 40.4 per game - last season. The Cards return three starters in both the line and secondary along with aggressive linebacker Robert McCune, who had 143 tackles in 2003.

Indiana, Sept. 18: Since 1994, Indiana has just one season with five victories and has won only 28 games total. However, the 2003 offense did average 322 yards per game and returns nine starters, including running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis. The big question is at quarterback where Matt LoVecchio returns after throwing nine interceptions and just three touchdown passes last year.


On defense, eight starters return, including all linemen and linebackers. However, the Hoosiers allowed 193 yards rushing, 430 yards total and 32 points per game last year.

At Florida, Sept. 25: Coach Ron Zook expects big improvements in the offense behind sophomore quarterback Chris Leak, who made his first start at Kentucky last year. He threw for 2,435 yards and 16 scores last year and will have even more speed at receiver this year.

On defense, the Gators lost eight starters and lack experience in the secondary. Channing Crowder, a freshman All-American, returns at linebacker. One big plus could also be punter Eric Wilbur, who averaged 44.8 yards per kick last year.

Ohio, Oct. 2: The Bobcats will run a variation of the Wing-T offense, something no other UK opponent will use, and rely on the run much more than the pass. But Ohio won just two games in 2003 and lost 35-14 at Kentucky after taking an early lead.

Ohio does return nine of its top 10 tacklers and has four experienced linebackers back to lead the defense. The secondary also returns its top two players at each spot.

Alabama, Oct. 9: Like Kentucky, Alabama will have just over 70 scholarship players because of recent NCAA probation limitations. Second-year coach Mike Shula is counting on a healthy Brodie Croyle at quarterback to direct a more potent offense, but will also need to rely on true freshmen for help at receiver and tight end.

On defense, the Tide returns seven starters off a unit that ranked fifth in the SEC against the run last year.

South Carolina, Oct. 16: South Carolina's 5-7 record in 2003 resulted in coach Lou Holtz making drastic changes on his coaching staff and taking over calling the offense from his son, Skip. The Gamecocks return nine starters on offense, but lack a big-time player at quarterback. However, running backs Daccus Turman (648 yards) and Demetris Summers (638 yards) are a solid one-two punch.

Carolina's defense gave up 63 points in a season-ending loss to Clemson. The Gamecocks have six starters back, including talented ends Moe Thompson and George Gause.

At Auburn, Oct. 23: The two teams have not met since Auburn won 42-21 in 1995. The Tigers are coming off a disappointing season in which they were the preseason pick to win the national title but finished 8-5. The Tigers may have the nation's best overall group of running backs led by Carnell Williams.

Auburn's defense ranked seventh in the nation against the run last year and fifth overall, giving up just 281 yards per game. Six starters return, but Auburn will rely on a lot of inexperienced players. Carlos Rogers, one of the nation's top cornerbacks, does return.

At Mississippi State, Oct. 30: New coach Sylvester Croom tries to put the pieces back together for a team that finished just 2-10 last year and lost its last six games, including a 42-17 decision at Kentucky.

The Bulldogs were last in the SEC in offense last year and failed to score 10 points in four games. Croom hopes his version of the West Coast offense will put more spark into the offense. On defense, middle linebacker Marvin Byrdsong returns and the secondary has all four starters back.

Georgia, Nov. 6: Georgia could be the best team on UK's schedule with 10 starters returning to an offense that won 11 games last year. Quarterback David Green (3,307 yards passing in 2003) is rated the best in the SEC and has three talented running backs for support as well as a healthy Fred Gibson at receiver.

The defense is led by SEC star David Pollack, an All-American the last two years. The Bulldogs have to replace five starters on defense, but coach Mark Richt thinks he could have an even better defense this year.

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