Mid-Season Football Report: UK, UL, WKU

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Kentucky’s three FBS schools find themselves in different positions. Here’s my assessment of each team and what it needs to do as we head toward bowl season.

Kentucky Wildcats (5-1, 2-1 SEC)

Grade: B+

If not for a couple missed plays against then-20th-ranked Florida, the Wildcats would be undefeated and ranked in the Top 25. But the Wildcats could as well be 0-6.

That’s because the Wildcats have won five games by an average of 7 points a game. The last two games–against Eastern Michigan and Missouri–came down to the last play of the game. The Wildcats managed to pull out both games.

Kentucky will enjoy a bye this week before traveling to Starkville on October 21 to face Mississippi State. The Wildcats can use that time to cross T’s and dot I’s.

Stephen Johnson (photo, Saturday Down South)

There are good things on which to build. Senior QB Stephen Johnson has had a good year: 99-of-155 passing, 1,238 yards, and nine TDs, and 144 rushing yards, two TD. The defense has been proficient, too. The Wildcats rank 40th in the nation with just 21.3 points allowed per game and 8th in the nation in turnover margin with a +8 advantage.

But Kentucky has still struggled to find consistency and put opponents away. Coach Mark Stoops needs to iron out those issues if his Wildcats are to contend in the SEC East race–an idea that isn’t far-fetched when you consider UK’s competition. After MSU, the Wildcats play Tennessee, Ole’ Miss, and Vanderbilt. The ESPN Power Football Index projects UK wins over the Volunteers, Rebels, and Commodores, and the Wildcats can beat MSU if they can contain dynamic quarterback Nick Fitzgerald.

So, if UK wins those four games, that will set up a SEC East title showdown with Georgia in Athens on November 18. A win there would be one of the biggest in UK football history.

Louisville Cardinals (4-2, 1-2 ACC)

Grade: B-

Louisville fell out of the national spotlight last year when the Cardinals dropped their last three games. And, unfortunately, UL’s football fortunes haven’t changed much this year. Louisville was embarrassed by Clemson at home on September 16, and a two-touchdown defeat at NC State last Thursday night sent the Cardinals to the bottom of the ACC Atlantic standings and out of the Top 25.

Courtesy: mypalmbeachpost.com

QB Lamar Jackson certainly isn’t to blame. The Heisman winner has completed 138-of-222 passes for 1,990 yards and 14 TD while rushing for 510 yards and seven TDs on 91 attempts.

What’s the main problem? Turnovers. Louisville has lost seven fumbles and thrown four interceptions so far this season. That performance ranks the Cardinals an abysmal 86th nationally in turnover margin.

And, now, Bobby Petrino’s squad has to go on the road in back-to-back games at Florida State and Wake Forest. ESPN Power Football Index projects the Cardinals to lose both games. If true, that means a once-promising season will stand 4-4 (1-4).

Cardinals’ fans need some positives, especially as they weather the school’s basketball scandal.

Western Kentucky (3-2, 1-1 C-USA)

Grade: C

Coach Mike Sanford’s inaugural season isn’t going the way he would have liked. In a season that started with great promise, the Hilltoppers have failed to play well consistently and whispers of doubt are circulating in Bowling Green.

Courtesy: Western Kentucky University Athletics

WKU didn’t execute well in losses to Illinois and Louisiana Tech. Even the wins have been ugly. Western didn’t put away FCS opponent Eastern Kentucky in the season opener, and WKU was fortunate to beat Ball State and Texas-El Paso. A loss against the winless Miners would have been especially embarrassing.

The main problem has been the offense. The Hilltoppers went from being the third-best offense in the nation last year (44.3 points per game) to one of the worst (21.6 points per game). Veteran quarterback Mike White–touted pre-season as one of the best in the country–hasn’t found his rhythm in Sanford’s system.

The good news is defense. WKU is giving up just 25.9 points per game, and the D saved the Toppers last Saturday night–a tough 15-14 win in El Paso.

While the Hilltoppers still have seven games left, it will be a long season in Bowling Green unless there’s a righting of the ship.


Cameron Brown is an undergraduate student at Western Kentucky University double majoring in journalism and history, with a minor in broadcasting. In addition to being a sportswriter and sports columnist, he is also the voice of South Warren Spartans football for The Sporting Times Broadcast Network. Contact him at cameron.brown288@topper.wku.edu


About Cameron Brown

Cameron Brown is sports columnist with The Journal-Enterprise, Providence, Kentucky and winner of the Kentucky Press Association “Best Sports Column of the Year” award. Cameron has a passion for basketball–like so many others in his home state of Kentucky. He played basketball for his high school in rural western Kentucky and enjoys other sports, including college football and Major League Baseball. His dream is to have a job in sports.

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