Auburn at Kentucky
When: 7 p.m. Thursday
Where: Commonwealth Stadium
TV: ESPN (play-by-play Dave Flemming; analysis Mack Brown; sideline Allison Williams)
Radio: WLAP-AM 630, WBUL-FM 98.1, XM Channel 84, Sirius Channel 84
Records: Kentucky 4-1 (2-1 SEC), Auburn 3-2 (0-2 SEC)
Series: Auburn leads 25-6-1 and is 6-0 all-time in Commonwealth Stadium.
Last meeting: Auburn won 37-34 on Oct. 9, 2010, in Commonwealth Stadium
Line: Auburn is favored by 2 points.
THREE KEY QUESTIONS
1. Will Kentucky match Auburn's zeal?
After being ranked No. 6 in the country in the pre-season, Auburn has so far been disappointing. Looking ahead on the schedule, there's little path for Gus Malzahn's Tigers to right the ship that does not include a victory in Lexington. UK's motivation is opportunity. The Cats have a chance to show a national ESPN audience that UK football is on the way up. A Wildcats victory would also keep Kentucky well positioned in the SEC East race.
2. Can Boom Williams take advantage of Auburn's run defense?
After San Jose State's Tyler Ervin torched Auburn for 160 yards, new defensive coordinator Will Muschamp's Tigers are last in the SEC against the run, allowing 209.6 yards a game. Yet the game may feature the movable object vs. the stoppable force. The Kentucky offense is next-to-last in the league in rushing (135 yards). UK's most talented back, sophomore Boom Williams, missed the Eastern Kentucky game due to an undisclosed "personal issue." Mark Stoops says Williams (85.8 yards a game) is back in good standing and will play Thursday. UK's victory chances could rest on Boom exploding.
3. Does the CWS crowd lift UK?
The first Thursday night Kentucky game in Commonwealth Stadium should make for an electric atmosphere. That pre-supposes the fans are able to get to the game on time and in the frame of mind to cheer. Presumably, traffic around the stadium will not reach Luke Bryan concert-level congestion. But adding a sellout crowd to normal Lexington rush hour traffic could make for some testy people. If it is bad, maybe UK fans will release their road rage on Auburn.
Is pensive. A 4-1 start is much better than most predicted for UK. However, Kentucky needing a near-miraculous rally to beat FCS foe Eastern Kentucky in its last outing eroded some belief in the Cats. A victory on ESPN Thursday night football over Auburn — a team UK has not beaten in Lexington since 1966 — would give Kentucky its first 3-1 start in SEC games since 1999. That would be a substantial achievement for Mark Stoops' rebuilding project.