Western Kentucky Hilltoppers Vs. Kentucky Wildcats Free Pick 8/31/13
Kentucky Wildcats (0-0) at Western Kentucky Hilltoppers (0-0)
College Football: Saturday, August 31, 2013 at 7:00 pm (L.T. Smith Stadium)
The Line: Western Kentucky Hilltoppers +5 --- Over/Under: 56.5 See the Latest Odds
TV: ESPNEWSHD, ESPN.com
The Western Kentucky Hilltoppers host the Kentucky Wildcats looking for consecutive victories over their instate rivals.
After suffering through a 2-10 season a year ago, I wonder if it's a positive thing to have seven starters back on each side of the football. The problem for the Wildcats in 2013 were rather simple in that they could not move the football and gave up too many points. Quarterback Maxwell Smith has potential after throwing for 975 yards on 68.7% completions although he threw the ball just 150 times. The Wildcats also return their top two runners in Raymond Sanders III (125-669) and Jonathan George (108-504) so the backfield looks competitive on paper. Demarco Robinson is the top receiver (28-297) back with George a decent receiver out of the backfield with 21 receptions. UK also gets back their top three tacklers but the question is will this team move the ball when needed and get stops when needed.
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The Hilltoppers also get seven players back on both sides of the football and might have exceeded some epectations in 2013. The defensive minded Hilltoppers were a victim of bad finish that saw the team drop five of their last seven and need to avoid that scenario if they expect to challenge in the Sun Belt. Even though this was a run first team behind work horse back Antonio Andrews (304-1728), the loss of signal caller Kawaun Jakes is a concern to me. Jakes completed 64.1% of his throws for 2,488 yards with 22 touchdowns and eleven interceptions and proposed starter Brandon Doughty attempted just three throws last season. Willie McNeal (43-556) was WKU's second leading receiver, while Andrews caught 37 balls so I'll take a wait and see attitude on the passing game. Bobby Petrino should help the offense but until this group gets it together, the defense has to be the glue that keeps things from falling apart.
Kentucky might have one of their better teams in recent years but the Hilltoppers have been on the upswing for awhile. I'm inclined to back the home dog but I wouldn't go crazy in the first week...
Just an fyi, Smith isn't the QB that's starting it's Whitlow (who didn't play against WKU last year) UK's best offensive player (Raymond Sanders) was suspended for the WKU game last year so they had almost no experience on the ground game, hard to pass when you can't establish any sort of running game, and UK's best defensive player (ZaDarius Smith) wasn't on the team last year, those guys are waaayyyy more important than any other returning players on UK's team so just a warning at -5 I'm taking Kentucky and laughing all the way to the bank.
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