I’m a Kentucky fan. I have planned every Saturday since September around watching Stoops’ Troops, and I will be tuning all noise out at 4:30 ET to watch the Kentucky Wildcats take on the Wildcats of Northwestern for the first time since 1928. So, when I refer to the “‘Cats” in this article, you should know of which Wildcats I speak.
But I do not think that Kentucky is going to win this game. Northwestern exceeds the ‘Cats in every major statistical category except for rushing yards, of which Kentucky averages nine more per game. Northwestern’s defense is significantly better than the Cats’, allowing 9.3 fewer points on 67 fewer yards per game while more than doubling Kentucky’s interception rate. In addition, Northwestern is, without doubt, the hotter team entering the game: Kentucky arrives with a point differential of negative-56 in its previous two, whereas Northwestern has won its last two by a combined 74 points while giving up only one touchdown.
Though the quarterback matchup is not condemning for either team, Northwestern quarterback Clayton Thorson has thrown for 60 yards more per game than has Stephen Johnson of the ‘Cats. However, I foresee each team relying on its run attack today, as Nashville’s temperature could reach sub-30 degrees and neither team has had consistent quarterback play this season. Despite Kentucky running back Benny Snell’s 18 rushing touchdowns and 1300+ rushing yards on the season, the Northwestern backfield is deeper, as it has big-play potential from five to seven different backs who have compiled four more touchdowns on the ground than have Snell, Johnson and Siehiem King.
The argument for UK is an emotional one: that they will rebound from two embarrassing losses and give Mark Stoops his first career bowl win. Both the eye test and the numbers, however, strongly suggest otherwise. Though I predict the game will be run-heavy, I think Northwestern will capitalize on its passing advantage against a Kentucky secondary which has allowed an average of 29 points on 263 passing yards per game. Northwestern’s slight advantages in coaching, passing and its backfield depth will lead Pat Fitzgerald to his third career bowl win and his second 10-win season in three years.
Northwestern: 31, Kentucky: 21
-Admin Tam (@tomhall2323)