Kentucky running back Kavosiey Smoke (0) celebrates with quarterback Will Levis (7) after a Smoke touchdown during the second half of an NCAA college football game against Youngstown State in Lexington, Ky., Saturday, Sept. 17, 2022. (AP Photo/Michael Clubb)

No. 8 Kentucky Wildcats To Host Northern Illinois

The No. 8 Kentucky Wildcats will look to keep their hot start rolling by playing host to the Northern Illinois Huskies for the first time in program history. Kentucky is an undefeated 3-0 this season after an opening week win against Miami (Ohio), knocking off the Florida Gators in the Swamp in week two and shutting out the Youngstown State Penguins last week. The Wildcats have outscored opponents 94-29 so far.

They will face a Northern Illinois squad that arrives in Lexington, Kentucky, with a 1-2 record. The Huskies took down Eastern Illinois on opening day 34-27 and have suffered back-to-back defeats to Tulsa on the road, 38-35, and at home to Vanderbilt, 38-28. This matchup against Kentucky will be Northern Illinois’ last against SEC opponents this season.

Scouting the Kentucky Wildcats

While the Huskies will look to create the upset, they will have a difficult time against a Kentucky defense that has been impenetrable as of late. UK has not allowed a single point in six quarters, dating back to the start of the second half against the Gators in week two. However, the Wildcats will be without leading tackler JJ Weaver, who sustained an arm injury last week against Youngstown State.

Wildcats quarterback Will Levis has thrown for an impressive 882 passing yards this season, an average of 294 per game, to go along with six touchdowns. In a running back room that took more than a few hits in the first few weeks, Kavosiey Smoke has done his best to fill the gap, recording 178 yards on 39 carries. Chris Rodriguez, the second-leading rusher in the SEC last year, has been out all season but is expected to return next week against Ole Miss, per Kentucky head coach Mark Stoops. The receiving game has been led by the duo of Dane Key and Tayvion Robinson, who have both garnered more than 200 yards each.

Scouting the Northern Illinois Huskies

The Huskies are the defending Mid-American Conference champions and have not beat a non-conference AP-ranked opponent since defeating No. 21 Alabama on the road in 2003.

Northern Illinois used a quarterback combination of Rocky Lombardi and Ethan Hampton in last week’s loss to Vanderbilt. Lombardi has gotten the majority of the snaps, throwing for 530 yards and five touchdowns across the first three games. Antario Brown is the Huskies’ leading rusher (207 yards, 41 carries), while Cole Tucker paces the wide receivers with 278 yards on 15 catches.

Stoops Speaks

Ahead of Saturday’s game, Stoops said he would like to see improvements in his team’s mental mistakes.

He also praised the passing game of Levis and the contributions of the defense and special teams.

Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. Saturday at Kroger Field.

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