college football picks Akron at Kentucky 9-18-10

September 18, 2010

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DATE & TIME: Saturday, September 18th, 7:00 p.m. (et).

FACTS & STATS: Site: Commonwealth Stadium (67,530) — Lexington, Kentucky. Television: FSN-SW, Sun Sports. Home Record: Akron 0-2, Kentucky 1-0. Away Record: Akron 0-0, Kentucky 1-0. Neutral Record: Akron 0-0, Kentucky 0-0. Conference Record: Akron 0-0, Kentucky 0-0. Series Record: First-ever meeting.

GAME NOTES: The Kentucky Wildcats look to remain unblemished as they welcome the Akron Zips to Commonwealth Stadium for a non-league bout.

Kentucky is off to a 2-0 start in the Joker Phillips era following last week’s 63-28 thrashing of Western Kentucky. The Wildcats have won 18 consecutive regular season non-conference games, a streak that dates back to 2006. This will be their final tune-up before their SEC slate begins, as they’ll play at Florida and Ole Miss in the next two weeks.

As for the Zips, they are in search of their first win after dropping a 38-37 overtime game against Gardner-Webb a week ago. Akron opened its season with a 29-3 loss to Syracuse. This will be the first road game of the year for the Zips.

This also marks the first-ever meeting on the gridiron between these two schools.

The good news for Akron is that the ground game looks to be in working order, as Alex Allen and Nate Burney combined for 229 rushing yards in last week’s loss. Allen had 110 yards and three touchdowns on 20 carries, while Burney finished with 119 yards on 17 totes. The bad news is that as they found out last Saturday, the Zips need more than a running game to get into the win column. Allen drew first blood in overtime with a nine-yard TD scamper, however the extra point was blocked which opened the door for Gardner-Webb to steal the win. Quarterback Patrick Nicely finished the day 14-of-21 for 165 yards, with one touchdown and one interception.

Akron had a 31-17 third-quarter lead before Gardner-Webb clawed back into it with a pair of touchdown drives to force overtime. The Bulldogs then marched into the end zone on their only possession of the extra session to secure the win. Whereas some defenses tend to tighten up when they get backed into the red zone, the Akron defense did the opposite, as Gardner-Webb found the end zone on all five of its red-zone trips. The Zips also had difficulty trying to contain Bulldogs’ wideout James Perry, who compiled 10 catches for 125 yards and two scores. However, they did do a solid job against the run, holding Gardner-Webb to a combined 2.7 yards per carry as a team.

The Kentucky offense has run like a well-oiled machine thus far, leading the SEC and ranking 20th nationally with 43.0 ppg. Obviously, that number will go down quite a bit when the league schedule gets underway. But for coach Phillips, there hasn’t been much to complain about. Senior quarterback Mike Hartline is executing his reads about as well as can be expected, having completed 71.7 percent of his throws thus far. He currently ranks 13th in the nation in passing efficiency and is coming off a three-touchdown performance against WKU a week ago. Jack-of-all-trades Randall Cobb registered a passing touchdown, a return touchdown and a receiving touchdown in last week’s victory. In the backfield, Derrick Locke rushed for 102 yards and a score on 21 carries and is quickly closing in on 2,000 yards for his career.

Headlining the Kentucky defense is junior linebacker Danny Trevathan, who leads the squad with 17 tackles and is tied for the SEC lead with five tackles for loss. The top priority for Trevathan and the Wildcat defense will be stopping the running game after watching WKU’s Bobby Rainey carved them up for 184 yards and two scores. Without question, UK can expect a heavy dose of Akron’s two-pronged attack in Allen and Burney. The Hilltoppers reeled off 5.7 yards per carry as a team, and if Akron ends up in that territory, it will be a long day for the Wildcats. Kentucky must do a better job getting off the field on third downs, as WKU managed to put together a pair of 80-yard touchdown drives last week.

While the Wildcats have no doubt been impressive against some lighter competition thus far, perhaps the thing that stands out most is that they have yet to turn the football over. But while they can only play whichever team is lined up on the schedule, it’s worth noting that they just handed WKU its 22nd straight loss, the longest active losing streak in the Football Bowl Subdivision. Kentucky will eventually be tested, but not this week.


FREE COLLEGE FOOTBALL PICKS : Kentucky  -24

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