Sidelines with John Clay

How much does Kentucky’s run defense need to improve?

Kentucky head coach Mark Stoops talks to defensive Blake McClain (24) during UK’s 45-7 loss at Florida on Saturday, September 10, 2016.
Kentucky head coach Mark Stoops talks to defensive Blake McClain (24) during UK’s 45-7 loss at Florida on Saturday, September 10, 2016. Lexington Herald-Leader

Since the start of the second half in the season opener against Southern Miss, Kentucky has had a terrible time stopping the run.

The Golden Eagles ended up with 296 rushing yards on the way to a 44-35 win at Commonwealth Stadium. Last Saturday, Florida rushed for 244 while ripping Mark Stoops’ Cats 45-7 in Gainesville.

Dating back to last season, Kentucky has allowed 200-or-more rushing yards in six of its last eight games. Checking the NCAA stats through two games this season, UK is 118th out of 128 FBS teams in rushing defense, allowing 253 yards per game.

Obviously, coordinator D.J. Eliot’s defense needs improvement in this area. But how much improvement?

In my random notes column for Thursday’s print edition, I pointed out that since 2011, Kentucky is 2-25 when allowing 200-or-more yards rushing. During that same time period, UK is 17-18 when allowing under 200 yards.

Here, I expanded the time frame to the last 10 seasons and broke down the numbers in 50-yard increments. Here are the win-loss percentages looking at both when Kentucky held the opposition below a certain number or when the opposition was above a certain number.

During the last 10 seasons, including this season, Kentucky's win probability has been just 40.7 percent. The Cats are 46-67 in that time.

According to the findings, however, Kentucky's win probability jumped from 55.4 percent when it held the opponent to below 200 yards rushing to 71.1 percent when it held the opponent to less than 150 yards rushing.

On the flip side, if opponents rush for 150-or-more yards UK's win probability is only 25.3 percent.

Kentucky win probability based on rushing yards allowed

Below

W

L

Pct

50

2

0

1.000

100

14

5

0.737

150

27

11

0.711

200

36

29

0.554

250

42

53

0.442

300

44

58

0.431

350

46

65

0.414

400

46

66

0.411

450

46

67

0.407

Above

W

L

Pct

400

0

1

0.000

350

0

2

0.000

300

2

9

0.182

250

4

14

0.222

200

10

38

0.208

150

19

56

0.253

100

32

62

0.340

50

44

67

0.396

0

46

67

0.407

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