How Kentucky and Jacksonville State match up for Saturday's game at Commonwealth Stadium:
Morgan Newton is 10-for-41 passing for 74 yards in Kentucky's last two games. That clearly needs to get better if UK has any hope to salvage its season. Newton did run for 54 yards against South Carolina. Jacksonville State's Coty Blanchard is a dual threat who is completing almost 60 percent of his passes (with only two interceptions) while also averaging 4.4 yards a carry.
With leading rusher Josh Clemons sidelined for the season, Kentucky will have Raymond Sanders as its featured back with CoShik Williams and Jonathan George behind him. With Georgia a year ago, Washaun Ealey lit up Commonwealth Stadium by running for 157 yards and five TDs. The transfer is not Jacksonville State's only capable runner, either. Senior Calvin Middleton is the current OVC active leader in career rushing touchdowns with 20.
La'Rod King (22 catches, four TDs) is Kentucky's top wide receiver. The Cats desperately need someone else to become a consistent threat opposite King. Jacksonville State has a quartet of capable wide-outs led by Alan Bonner and James Shaw. Western Michigan transfer Trey Smith leads the Gamecocks in receptions (14).
With four receptions for 69 yards, Nick Melillo has the best yards-per-catch average (17.2) on the UK team. Physical Tyler Robinson (four catches) is listed as the Cats' backup. JSU's Justin Howard is efficient — his five receptions have yielded three touchdowns.
After the injury-plagued start to the season, Kentucky's five expected starters are now relatively healthy. Coming off an open date, the UK line — led by guard Larry Warford — has another chance to assert itself. Senior left guard Matt Jones is the most experienced player on a relatively youthful JSU line that starts two freshmen.
Sophomore tackles Donte Rumph and Mister Cobble anchor UK's interior line. The Cats may get end Collins Ukwu back after he missed three games with a shoulder injury. JSU's Monte Lewis, the OVC Pre-Season co-Defensive Player of the Year, and tackle Jamison Wadley have 11 tackles for loss combined.
Senior Danny Trevathan (72 tackles) continues to play at an All-America level. Hybrid linebacker/rush end Ridge Wilson had two sacks for UK at South Carolina. Sophomore Clarence Jackson, a transfer from Mississippi, is establishing himself as a future star at middle linebacker for Jacksonville State.
UK hybrid safety/linebacker Winston Guy has 67 tackles, including a team-best 8.5 for loss. Safety Martavius Neloms (41 tackles) also will bring the lumber. Cornerback A.J. Davis leads a JSU secondary that is allowing almost 273 yards a game through the air. The Gamecocks picked off five Austin Peay passes a week ago, however.
UK punter Ryan Tydlacka (an SEC-best 41.4 net yards a punt) has kicked so well, even Steve Spurrier is impressed. The Cats lead the SEC in kickoff coverage. Kentucky's return game, however, is 11th in the SEC in kickoffs and 12th in punts. JSU place-kicker James Esco, a Florida State transfer, is 5-for-5 on field goals but hasn't tried one longer than 28 yards. Quarterback Coty Blanchard handles the punting and is a threat to fake them. Alan Bonner is a dangerous return man.