UK vs. WKU: Keys to the game

mstory@herald-leader.comAugust 30, 2013 

THE GAME

Kentucky (0-0) vs. Western Kentucky (0-0)

When: 7:15 p.m. (EDT)

Where: LP Field, Nashville

TV: ESPNews

Radio: WLAP-AM 630, WBUL-FM 98.1, Sirius Channel 132, XM Channel 192.

Series: Kentucky leads 3-1

Last meeting: Western Kentucky won 32-31 in overtime on Sept. 15, 2012, in Commonwealth Stadium.

Line: Kentucky is favored by 41/2 points.

THE KEYS

Establish ... the run?

For all the talk about Air Raid 2.0, the UK offense needs to send WKU a message by taking control of the line of scrimmage with its run game. In its last two meetings against the Hilltoppers, Kentucky has failed to rush for 100 yards in either game. The quickest way for UK to show Western 2013 is going to be different is to impose its will by running the ball.

Win the QB matchup

Whether Jalen Whitlow (the expected choice) or Maxwell Smith starts under center for Kentucky, UK will have a more experienced quarterback than WKU. Both Kentucky sophomore quarterbacks have seven career starts. WKU's announced starter, redshirt junior Brandon Doughty, has started one game. The Hilltoppers' backup, former Louisville Seneca star Damarcus Smith, has never played in a college game.

Need a fearsome foursome

UK is in the uncomfortable position of facing a Bobby Petrino offense with major questions in the secondary and at outside linebacker. The Kentucky defense needs its much-praised front four — senior tackles Mister Cobble and Donte Rumph, junior ends Alvin "Bud" Dupree and Za'Darius Smith — to help stifle WKU star running back Antonio Andrews and put pressure on Western's QB without the need for blitzing.

THE MOOD

Has been almost giddy. Mark Stoops decisively "won" his first off-season as Kentucky head coach. Now that the actual games are starting, a loss to a Sun Belt Conference team, albeit a good one with a top-level coach, in the first game of the new era would let some of the good feelings out of the UK football balloon.

Mark Story: (859) 231-3230. Twitter: @markcstory. Blog: markstory.bloginky.com.

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