How Kentucky and Auburn match up for Thursday night's game at Commonwealth Stadium:
Although inconsistent, Kentucky's Patrick Towles is fifth in the SEC in passing yards (230.6 a game). UK's rally past EKU meant the Cats now have a winning record (9-8) in games Towles has started. Auburn junior Jeremy Johnson began the season hyped as the new Cam Newton — only to get benched after three games. Redshirt freshman Sean White started the past two games, serving mostly as a game manager. The expectation is that Auburn will go back to the 6-foot-5, 240-pound Johnson this week.
After sitting out the Eastern Kentucky game for an undisclosed "personal issue," Kentucky's Boom Williams is back. The sophomore ran for 135 yards against Louisiana-Lafayette and 107 at South Carolina. He can be electric when he's on. Auburn's Peyton Barber already has four 115-yards-plus games and is fourth in the SEC in rushing (111.6 yards a game). He ran for five touchdowns against San Jose State. Backup Roc Thomas is Auburn's most lethal pass-catching threat — he has four of the Tigers' seven receptions of more than 20 yards.
Kentucky sophomore Dorian Baker was a hero of the comeback victory over Eastern Kentucky, catching eight passes for 86 yards and the tying and game-winning touchdowns. Sophomore Jeff Badet also had four catches vs. EKU, including a diving TD reception. Auburn's most lauded wideout, D'haquille "Duke" Williams (12 catches) was thrown off the team Oct. 5 after reportedly punching four people in an Oct. 4 bar fight. With Williams gone, senior Ricardo Louis (19 receptions) is the only Auburn player with double-digit catches.
After C.J. Conrad's breakout receiving game against Missouri (three catches, 55 yards, a TD), the Kentucky true freshman had no receptions against Eastern. His three catches this season are three more than Auburn's top two tight ends, Jalen Harris and Chris Laye, have combined.
Kentucky senior left tackle Jordan Swindle missed the Eastern Kentucky game with an injury, but he is slated to return to his starting position against Auburn. UK's line could use a boost: The Wildcats are last in the SEC in sacks allowed (16) and next to last in rushing (135 yards a game). Auburn center Xavier Dampeer allegedly was one of the four people punched by Duke Williams in the aforementioned bar fight. Gus Malzahn said this week Dampeer will "miss an extended period of time." Austin Golson is listed No. 1 in his place.
Kentucky defensive tackle Cory "C.J." Johnson is coming off a monster, 19-tackle game against EKU and has 30 stops in his past two games. Johnson is questionable after injuring an ankle in practice, but UK gets DT Regie Meant back after he injured a shoulder against Florida. Auburn DT Montravius Adams terrorized Louisville with seven tackles and a quarterback sack in the season opener. He has had only seven tackles combined in the past three games, however.
Kentucky middle linebacker Josh Forrest is tied for second in the SEC in tackles a game (9.8) and passes defended (1.2). Auburn's Kris Frost had 12 tackles last week against San Jose State and had 10 in the Tigers' loss at LSU.
Kentucky safety AJ Stamps had six tackles in the victory over Eastern, and nickel back Blake McClain had five. Teams always test true freshman cornerback Chris Westry, but the onetime Auburn recruiting commitment has held up well for UK. Auburn safety Jonathan Ford is tied with UK's Josh Forrest for second in the SEC in tackles per game (9.8). Yet Ford is listed second on the Tigers' depth chart at both safety positions. True freshman nickel back Jeremiah Dinson was a longtime Kentucky recruiting commitment who "flipped" to Auburn just before signing day in February.
A groin injury caused Kentucky placekicker Austin MacGinnis to leave the EKU game. His backup, walk-on Miles Butler, hit three straight PATs under game-deciding pressure in the comeback victory over Eastern. Mark Stoops said this week that UK hopes MacGinnis will be able to play. Auburn place-kicker Daniel Carlson hit a 56-yard field goal against Louisville and is one of three kickers in the country with two field goals of 50 yards or longer. Jonathan Ford is second in the SEC in kickoff returns, averaging 33.5 yards.
Auburn 24, Kentucky 21