In preparation for Saturday’s showdown between the Kentucky Wildcats and the Ohio Bobcats, Saturday Down South is taking a look at the key matchups that may decide this weekend’s contest.

Kentucky rushing attack vs. Ohio linebacker Jovon Johnson

Ohio Bobcats’ linebacker Jovon Johnson picked up Saturday where he left off last season, flying from sideline to sideline to lead the Bobcats’ defense in tackles. He was fourth on the team with 61 tackles in 2013, and led Ohio with 11 tackles, including two for loss, in last weekend’s opener against Kent State. Ohio held the Golden Flashes to just 31 yards on the ground on 22 carries, an average of less than 1.5 yards per carry, after Kent State averaged five yards per carry as a team last season.

Kentucky considers its stable of tailbacks a strength of its offense, even though offensive coordinator Neal Brown’s Air Raid offense is predicated on a pass-heavy approach out of primarily the shotgun formation. The Cats used their quick, athletic tailbacks to their advantage last week against UT Martin, rushing for more than 200 yards and six touchdowns on the ground.

Starter Braylon Heard took his two carries a total of 116 yards for two touchdowns before tweaking his ankle. Mikel Horton had 45 yards and two touchdowns against the Skyhawks, and Jojo Kemp added 31 yards and a touchdown of his own.

Most of UK’s touchdown runs came between the tackles, but most of their backs are capable of gashing opposing defenses on the perimeter as well.

Johnson, who is somewhat undersized but exceptionally quick for a linebacker, is not easily fooled in the run game. Kentucky will need to scheme around him, and establishing a threat through the air early in the game could help neutralize the star linebacker. Johnson has two career passes defended and one career interception, so attacking him through the air with a tight end like Steven Borden could open lanes for the Cats’ tailbacks to run to daylight the way they did against UTM.