After last week's big win over Auburn, Hog fans are anxiously awaiting Saturday's match-up against Kentucky in Lexington. We always look forward to games against the Wildcats because it gives us a chance to check in with one of our favorite bloggers, Truzenzuzex from the superb A Sea of Blue. Many thanks to him for his time. So, pull up a chair and read on to get Truzenzuzex's take on the team's quarterback controversy, fans' expectations of Rich Brooks and who is lower on his holiday shopping list - Bobby Petrino or Rick Pitino.
Update: Be sure to also check out our answers to Tru's questions over at his site.
One of your recent blog postings had the headline, "Does Kentucky now officially have a quarterback controversy?" Well … do you? And if so, who would you like to see have the job — Mike Hartline or Randall Cobb?
As far as the Big Blue Nation is concerned, we definitely do have a quarterback controversy. It is said that the most popular guy on any football team is the backup quarterback, and that is certainly true in spades right now as far as UK fans are concerned.
I don't think either Hartline or Cobb are SEC quarterback material right now, but I think a combination of the two might be. Hartline is struggling, as much with his receivers as with his passing, but his decision-making is generally pretty good. I think the biggest problem with Hartline is his youth and inexperience, which also happens to be the biggest problem with Cobb. Hartline also has a marginal arm for a quarterback in the SEC, and that has given him some trouble.
But I think if they split snaps at QB, some good things will happen because it forces the defense to react. When Hartline has the ball, linebackers and corners can sit on the routes, giving the D-line time to come in and make a play, or force a bad throw. But with Cobb, the linebackers have to always be thinking about him taking off and getting big chunks of yards, so they really have a lot to think about, because he can throw it, also. That forces errors, and creates offensive opportunities.
Unfortunately, Cobb is also our best receiver, and he can't throw the ball to himself.
It doesn't look like things are going to get any easier for your struggling offense: This week brought the sad news that wide receiver Dicky Lyon Jr.'s UK career is over after he tore knee ligaments in Saturday's loss to South Carolina. How big of a blow is his injury and which receiver is most likely to take up the slack?
Well, as I said above, Randall Cobb is our best receiver now that Lyons is injured. Obviously, that puts a lot more stress both on him and Hartline -- it stinks for UK, but that's just the way it is. Couple that with the fact that Cobb will not be 100% for the rest of the year due to a high ankle sprain he suffered about 3 games ago, and it spells trouble.
Brooks has suggested he might bring in 4* wideout Aaron Boyd a bit, and Boyd has been the one receiver that hasn't really dropped the football. But he had a bout of mononucleosis in the pre-season which almost forced a red-shirt, and he still hasn't adjusted to the speed and power of the league yet.
Job security in the SEC, where fans are known for their patience and reasonable expectations, is a very fragile thing (see: Tuberville, Tommy). With your offense struggling and tough games on the horizon, is there any significant discontent with Rich Brooks?
No. Kentucky is a basketball school, and two successful years at football do not make us Tennessee or Alabama or Florida. UK fans understand that -- we don't expect to compete for championships in SEC football, at least not yet. Right now, we want to win our winnable games and make bowls.
Yes, there will be some griping and criticism if we don't get bowl eligible this year, but realistically, the year has materialized much as Brooks said it would. Not only that, everyone knows that we have suffered significant injuries to key players, and that is hurting us without regard to coaching.
Besides, Brooks can retire any time he wants, and Phillips will take over. That gives him almost unprecedented freedom to ignore fan criticism and do what he thinks is best. It would take three years of poor performance to burn up the good will he has accumulated in the last couple, and looking at our recent recruiting, I'd say that is not at all likely.
What are the primary causes of Kentucky's offensive woes?
That's easy -- youth. Our most experienced offensive linemen have been hurt off and on all year, our quarterback is a sophomore, almost all our receivers are sophomores or freshmen, and our running backs are still young. Kentucky will improve as the year goes on. The question is, will they improve fast enough to get bowl eligible, which is really the goal of almost all UK fans at the moment -- a third straight bowl game.
Moving on to happier subjects: Your offense is a source of angst, but the Wildcat defense has been mighty impressive. Give us a brief scouting report on the Kentucky defense: For instance, who are the players to keep an eye out for? Are the Wildcats better against the run or the pass?
Statistically, we are better against the pass. Kentucky is #17 nationally against the pass, and 4th in the SEC. We had a rather bad game against South Carolina because Spurrier is really sharp and picked up on some things, and Stephen Garcia was able to throw some really perfect passes. Nobody, and I mean nobody, can defend a perfectly thrown football.
But every team who has played us has found out that Trevard Lindley and David Jones are very tough, and Lindley is absolutely one of the best pass defenders in the nation. South Carolina went at Lindley maybe 3 times last week, and all they got for their trouble is watching him take the ball away from the receiver and walk 20 yards into the end zone for a touchdown. Lindley is simply too dangerous to throw the ball anywhere near, and Jones has played very well this year. Our depth hurt us a little last week, but as I say, perfect passes are simply indefensible.
Overall, Arkansas has struggled mightily this year, but is coming off a morale-boosting win at Auburn and is now set to play a team that, at least at first glance, resembles the Tigers: struggling offense, strong defense. What worries you about Saturday's game, and what is your prediction for the final score?
Petrino's offense always worries me. He is one of the great offensive minds in the game, and he knows how to score points and move the football. I think our defense is up to the task unless our offense fails to give them a break, as they did last week. UK spent too much time with the defense on the field, and the result was predictable. That could happen against the Razorbacks, too, but fortunately, the Razorback's defense isn't as strong as South Carolina's. That should help our offense some.
But we aren't taking anything for granted -- how could we? We lost a winnable game last week and have yet to win an SEC game. When you're 0-fer in the conference, you can't be sanguine about anything. Our fear has to be that Arkansas will outscore us.
I'm going to pick the 'Cats in a relatively close game, 21-14.
Before we go, a light-hearted question: Because of their time at Louisville, we're guessing that neither Rick Pitino nor Bobby Petrino are high on your holiday shopping list.. Which of the two would the folks over at A Sea of Blue most like to send a bag of switches and ashes?
I don't know about the rest of my readers, but I have made no secret of my loathing for Bobby Petrino, so he's the one for me. If I had to guess about them, though, I would say that Rick Pitino would win that poll -- he isn't known as "Traitor Rick" around these parts for nothing!