Reporters weigh in on WKU-UK game

Cole Claybourn

It’s officially game day for WKU and Kentucky. 

With still a few hours before kickoff, several

journalists from around the state took the time to give the Herald

their final thoughts and predictions on tonight’s game.

Here’s what they had to say:

John Clay, Lexington Herald-Leader


I expect to see a Kentucky win, but not the rout UK

fans – the ones watching in HD at home as it doesn’t like many will

actually be at LP Field —are expecting. Joker Phillips is going to

rely on a lot of young faces, especially on offense. It is

unrealistic to think the newcomers will burst from the gate in full


The most interesting aspect might be on defense,

where both teams are breaking in new coordinators. Rick Minter

wants to be (overly) aggressive. So I’m expecting the Cats to bust

a blitz or two, allowing Bobby Rainey to gallop into the great wide

open. WKU has a new defensive boss, too, which might confuse the UK

offense. At least early.

Don’t get me wrong. I think Kentucky will win. But

I’m guessing 34-20. And I hope the atmosphere is better than I

expect. Truth be told, I know of very few who are actually making

the drive to Music City. After all, it’s a 9:15 p.m. start on a

work day. In any other profession, that’s known as poor


Prediction: Kentucky 34, WKU 20

Kyle Tucker, Kentucky beat reporter for the

Louisville Courier-Journal

I can’t see this one becoming the shootout that it

was last year. Kentucky’s offense might take some time to get going

this fall with a new quarterback (sort of), new starting tailback

and new starting wide receivers. But the Wildcats’ defense — with

its top 11 tacklers back and a new, more aggressive coordinator in

Rick Minter — seems certain to be better than in 2010. The question

is simply how much better. While I’d expect Bobby Rainey to get his

yards, I’d be surprised if his two-game career average of 9.1 yards

per carry against UK holds up tonight.

Wildcats fans are maybe most eager to see some of the

talented freshmen play, although I’m not sure how much they’ll

actually get on the field. There are seven true freshmen and five

redshirt freshmen in the two-deep. But most are backups, and I

don’t think this will be the all-out rout many folks are expecting.

If not, the starters will be in this one til the end. Unfortunately

for Western, which I do expect to be a better team this fall,

that’s about the best the Hilltoppers can hope for. The talent gap

is still too wide.

Prediction: Kentucky 35, WKU 17

Eric Crawford, Louisville Courier-Journal


This looks to me like a game where both teams will

load up against the run early and try to make the other move the

ball through the air. It wouldn’t surprise me to see UK open up

with several passing plays in its first series, just to try to get

QB Morgan Newton some confidence. Western, I would think, has to

feel like it can run into the teeth of the Kentucky defense to a

degree. Bobby Rainey needs to get his carries no matter what UK


I feel like this game will be close at halftime, and

if it can minimize mistakes and establish any kind of possession

with its run game, WKU will have a chance to make things

interesting in the third quarter.

As usually happens, I’d think UK’s depth will be the

main factor as time wears on. I look for the Wildcats to pull away

for a two-touchdown victory, comfortable, but far less than the

spread is calling for.

Did not give a score prediction

Rick Bozich, Louisville Courier-Journal


For all the fascination about play-makers and guys

with dazzling arms, blocking and tackling is still the first place

to look when the college football season begins. Kentucky should

have its best offensive line in several years — and beefier and

faster personnel on the defensive line, too. WKU halfback Bobby

Rainey gives the Hilltoppers a puncher’s chance, but UK will

eventually wear WKU down and win. 

Prediction: Kentucky 41, WKU 14

Aaron Smith, Kentucky Kernel


Some painfully sloppy football, at points, with UK

going through major shifts in offensive personnel (new quarterback,

new running back, new receiving corps) and major shifts in

defensive philosophy (a new defensive coordinator with a scheme

that seems to be the polar opposite of the previous playbook). Some

exquisitely executed football, at other points, with the seemingly

large disparity between these two teams. Bobby Rainey reprising a

slightly lesser version of his Madden-esque performance from last

year’s game. And empty seats.

From UK’s perspective, this game is all about

assessing all of the newness with the team. There’s positive

expectations for this team, mainly because that’s a requirement at

the start of college football season, but they’re rather vague. We

really don’t know what this defense will be like, and we really

don’t know if the new offensive players will have fans immediately

wondering how much money it would have taken to keep Randall Cobb

around for one more year. This game will be the instant-judgment

game, and there will be an endless amount of over-analysis

following the game. Which should make it all the more fun.

If you give me an over/under of 35,000 for

attendance, I’ll go with guessing the people in charge won’t let in

random people off the streets to make the game look better on TV

and take the under.

Prediction: Kentucky 38, WKU 21

Ethan Levine, Kentucky Kernel Sports


UK finds themselves in a transition year of sorts in

2011. The team features a brand new quarterback and an inexperience

stable of skill position players at running back and wide receiver.

Defensively, the team has installed new co-defensive coordinator’s

defensive scheme, giving them a new look on defense in 2011. The

Cats’ success will hinge upon how quickly the offense can find its

rhythm and how many of these new faces step up and make plays on

offense, as well as how quickly the defense can learn this new

system and have it game-ready. The season opener against WKU will

provide a good barometer for how far along UK is in their


For WKU, their hopes of staying with the Cats on

Thursday night live and die with running back Bobby Rainey. Rainey

broke out for over 180 yards against UK in last year’s matchup of

these in-state rivals, and has explosive, big-play abilities coming

out of the backfield. Rainey is a player that has the ability to

make something out of nothing on every play. If WKU has any chance

of beating UK, they will have to hop on Rainey’s back early in the

game and let him carry them.

My prediction: UK will win big. Rainey will get his

yards, and even touchdowns, but UK, despite their inexperience, is

a more complete team at every position on both sides of the ball,

and it will show in this game. WKU continues to improve every year,

but they are not yet at a point in their development where they can

compete with an SEC team like UK.

Prediction: Kentucky 38, WKU 17