Kentucky football: 5 things I want to see in the Belk Bowl
Kentucky’s 4th consecutive bowl appearance will be the school’s 1st appearance in the Belk Bowl … and since it’s (apparently) the last edition of the Belk Bowl, there are plenty of opportunities to make history. There’s also a wealth of potential breakout guys to keep an eye on, and so in Kentucky’s last game of the 2010s, here are 5 things I want to see in the Belk Bowl.
1. A big day for Bowden
Lynn Bowden is already 6th in UK history for single-season rushing with 1,235 yards — astounding when considering that 1,136 of those yards came in the past 7 games after he shifted to quarterback. Moe Williams’ school record of 1,600 rushing yards is probably out of reach — but 215 yards would push Bowden into 2nd on that list, and 262 total offensive yards would move him to 4th all-time at UK in that category. Incidentally, the Belk Bowl record for rushing touchdowns in just 2.
2. A fast finish for Calvin Taylor
A year after Josh Allen wrecked the UK record book with a pass-rushing flurry, one thing was clear — nobody could replace him in 2019. Except that UK defensive end Calvin Taylor is sitting at 7.5 sacks this year, tied for 2nd in the SEC. Granted, he’s a sack and a half behind Florida’s Jonathan Greenard, but with a big game against Virginia Tech, Taylor could either claim sole possession of 2nd place or possibly tie for or take the lead in the SEC’s sack battle in 2019. Meanwhile, Kentucky followed its breakout defensive season in 2018 by being nearly as good in 2019, and the Wildcats have 32 sacks, 1 behind Ole Miss and potentially within range of 2nd-place LSU as well (depending on how badly the Tigers rough up Trevor Lawrence in the national title game).
3. A successful (or little-used) game for Max Duffy
Granted, it’s a nerdy stat even for the number counters, but Max Duffy, who won the Ray Guy Award as the nation’s top punter, leads the SEC in punting by almost a yard over A&M’s Braden Mann and South Carolina’s Joseph Charlton. With Mann’s bowl game over and Charlton not playing in one, even a decent game for Duffy should help him hold the lead as UK’s first SEC-leading punter since Tim Masthay in 2008.
4. Under 30 again?
Virginia Tech averages 30.8 points per game and is fairly consistent about it, too. Seven times this season, the Hokies reached 30 points, but they never scored more than 45.
Kentucky hasn’t allowed an opponent to score 30 since Georgia’s 34-17 win at Kroger Field on Nov. 3, 2018. Mark Stoops is 38-18 at Kentucky when holding the opponent under 30 points, so staying under that threshold is a chance to keep a streak going and provides an excellent chance at victory. Obviously, given the limitations of Kentucky’s offense, avoiding giving up a large number of points is a key not only strategically, but systematically, the Wildcats don’t want to be stuck trying to hurry up and move in a hurry.
5. The continued emergence of Jamin Davis
Kentucky linebacker Jamin Davis had a huge game in the Wildcats’ season-opening win over Toledo with eight tackles and a sack. After that, Davis had just six tackles in the next eight games. But the sophomore linebacker stepped up after injuries to DeAndre Square and Kash Daniel and he had 19 tackles and another sack in Kentucky’s past 3 games. The Belk Bowl will be Daniel’s final game at Kentucky and if he continues his superb play from the last few games, Davis might go from a player who risked getting buried on the depth chart to a potential starter in 2020.