The Kentucky Wildcats are doing what they need to do this season. They get one last breather on their schedule before venting into SEC play in October and November. This is a tune-up game, a valuable time to get players into a rhythm which will hopefully lead to polished, precise performances down the road.
By Matt Zemek
Let’s look at what the Cats need to do against Northern Illinois.
1 – Study Vanderbilt game film
Kentucky will derive value form looking at game film of Northern Illinois’ most recent contest on Sept. 17 against Vanderbilt. This will be important because it’s the most recent game NIU played, but it’s also noteworthy because Kentucky can get a first look at Vanderbilt before facing the Commodores later in the season. That game involved two UK opponents, so it merits extra attention from Mark Stoops and his staff. They can take notes on both this week’s foe and on a team they will see down the line.
What did we see from that NIU-Vanderbilt game? The Huskies – as was the case last year – play exciting, high-scoring games. They can strike quickly, but they also give up big plays and will allow points in bunches. They can easily look like a well-oiled machine, but they can also lose focus when the flow of the game cuts against them. They led 28-14 in the third quarter and then gave up 24 straight points to lose the game. This should tell UK that NIU can play … and that it is also noticeably vulnerable. Strike first, keep the pressure on, and don’t let this team breathe.
2 – Will Levis down the field
Will Levis did not play particularly well against Florida, on a night when the Big Blue defense carried the day. Before SEC competition begins, Levis needs to establish full confidence as a downfield passer who can be a dynamic playmaker and producer for this offense. Playing an FCS opponent in Week 3 was little more than a glorified practice. This game against the defending MAC champion is a chance for Levis to build more of a rhythm with his receivers against comparatively better competition. He needs a polished, authoritative game to give himself and the Kentucky offense the fluidity they need before SEC action gets rolling in early October.
3 – Rotate on the defensive depth chart
Kentucky asked a lot of its defense against Florida, and everyone answered the call versus the Gators and Anthony Richardson. Before SEC play begins, Mark Stoops needs to make this a light game for the defensive starters, so that they have a full tank for what is to come. Aligning the defense so that every player is physically and mentally ready for the SEC gauntlet is a real need in this game.