Previewing Central Michigan Versus Kentucky
The Cats begin the quest for a third straight bowl bid under Mark Stoops on Saturday when they host Central Michigan. We will take a look at both teams and give a prediction for the game. Let’s get you ready for the 3:30 contest on ESPNU by previewing Central Michigan versus Kentucky.
The Cats Finally Have A Starting Quarterback
Throughout the spring and fall camp, the big question looming around the program is “who will be the starting quarterback?” That question was finally answered as newcomer Terry Wilson won the job.
The redshirt freshman from Garden City Community College in Kansas beat out Gunnar Hoak for the job. As a dual-threat player, Wilson offers Eddie Gran’s offense a look the Cats haven’t had since Pookie Jones 25 years ago.
— Kentucky Football (@UKFootball) August 27, 2018
Though he didn’t win the job, Stoops says Hoak may also see playing time on Saturday.
Benny And The Jets
No matter who the quarterback is, the main focus of the offense is running back Benny Snell. The junior from Westerville, Ohio is the only player in school history to rush for 1,000 yards in consecutive seasons.
In addition, he needs 1,412 yards to break the school record of 3,835 set by Sonny Collins. He needs to average 118 yards per game to break the record. Should the Cats make a bowl game that number drops to 108, which is certainly attainable.
Once Kentucky establishes the running game it will open up the passing attack. Look for Lynn Bowden to have a breakout season. As a true freshman, last season, Bowden had 17 catches despite not arriving on campus until August.
One other player to keep an eye on is tight end C.J. Conrad. He is an All-SEC caliber player who has been plagued by injuries. True Blue fans hope Conrad and Wilson can establish a rhythm he and Stephen Johnson never could.
Another Tough Injury
One of the players expected to open holes for Snell is now out for the season. Junior Landon Young tore his right knee last Friday and is out for the 2018 season. The Lexington Lafayette product will redshirt this year and have two years remaining.
Just want to thank everyone for the prayers and concerns. The lord has a plan for me and sometimes that means obstacles in my path. I know my team will be fine and still do amazing things this year! I will be working hard to come back even stronger next year #BBN. pic.twitter.com/lF6ZRg3Iov
— Landon Young (@Landon_Young_67) August 26, 2018
This is the second year in a row the Cats have lost a starting lineman. Last season, Cole Mosier tore his ACL and missed the 2017 campaign.
Look for offensive line coach John Schlarman, who himself is battling cancer, to fill Young’s position with redshirt freshman Nassir Watkins or sophomore E.J. Price.
John Schlarman updates how he is doing. Finishes with, "It's really important to me to do the job that I'm here to do. That's something that really motivates me everyday and I want to keep on doing that for as long as I can do that and hopefully that's a long, long time." pic.twitter.com/BzQ5FxhSyK
— Curtis Burch (@curtisburch) August 29, 2018
Looking At The Defense
Kentucky returns nine starters on defense from 2017. They are led by outside linebacker and potential first-round draft pick Josh Allen. Jordan Jones returns at the other outside linebacker position. Jones is looking for a bounce-back year in 2018.
Headed by safety Mike Edwards, the Cats’ secondary looks to be a strength. However, that was the thought last year and the unit struggled. The Kentucky pass defense gave up 251 yards per game in 2017 ranking them 102nd in college football.
As we continue previewing Central Michigan versus Kentucky, it is time to look at the Chippewas.
A Big Time Play Maker
Coached by John Bonemago, Central Michigan went 8-5 last season losing to Wyoming in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl. They are led by junior running back Jonathan Ward who ran for 1,024 yards and ten touchdowns. He topped 100 yards five times a season ago including a 159-yard performance twice. In addition, he hauled in 48 passes for 470 yards and three more touchdowns.
During his Monday press conference, Stoops had nothing but praise for Ward. “He’s a big-time player, he really is. He’s got great vision, great patience and he’s really strong. He’ll play football for a long time.”
While they are strong at running back, Central Michigan is also starting an untested quarterback. Sophomore Tony Poljan takes over following the graduation of Shane Morris. As a true freshman, the six foot seven Poljan saw limited time completing 13 passes for 78 yards. He also ran for 97 yards and a touchdown and caught five passes.
Who Wins On Saturday?
During Stoops’ tenure at Kentucky, dual-threat quarterbacks have given the Cats fits. However, with it being Poljan’s first game the defense should be able to contain him. They also can’t let Ward have a huge game.
On the other side of the ball, look for a huge game from Snell. Already playing with a chip on his shoulder, Ward did nothing to help the cause with this quote.
Central Michigan RB Jonathan Ward on Kentucky RB Benny Snell: "I don’t know him. I don't think there’s anything too special."
— Evan Petzold (@EvanPetzold) August 28, 2018
Snell responded to Ward’s comments after Tuesday’s practice.
— bigkat (@bigkat606) August 28, 2018
Look for Snell to have at least 150 yards and a couple of touchdowns while taking the load off Wilson in his debut.
While the Chippewas have defeated Power Five teams the last two years, they only return 10 starters from 2017. This is the first of 11 games Kentucky will play against the Mid-American Conference over the next seven years. These are games the Wildcats have to win and they should do just that on Saturday.
Kentucky 35 Central Michigan 17
Thanks for previewing Central Michigan versus Kentucky here at Last Word On College Football. Next week, the Cats hit the road for a date in “The Swamp” against Florida.