LEXINGTON, Ky. – Sawyer Smith is doing all he can to hold on to the starting quarterback job for Kentucky, which will be home for the first time in nearly a month when it faces Arkansas on Saturday in an SEC game. The junior has battled injury and poor play but is said to be ready to help the Wildcats try to avoid an 0-4 start in conference play in the first meeting against the Razorbacks since 2012.
TV: 7:30 p.m. ET, SEC Network. LINE: Kentucky -6.5.
Smith was knocked out of Kentucky's loss to South Carolina two weeks ago with a leg injury but the bye has allowed for a quick recovery. More concerning for the Wildcats are his back-to-back dismal outings that saw him complete fewer than 36 percent of his passes for zero touchdowns and two interceptions. "He's banged up but the word I got from our trainer was the he is feeling significantly better," coach Mark Stoops told the media. "We'll proceed with Sawyer and anticipate him being the starting quarterback." Nick Starkel, who has as many interceptions as touchdown passes this season (seven), used the bye to recover from an arm injury that sidelined him during a loss to Texas A&M two weeks ago for the Razorbacks, who have dropped 13 straight and 18 of their last 19 conference games.
ABOUT ARKANSAS (2-3, 0-2 SEC)
If the Razorbacks want to end their SEC losing streak, giving the ball to Rakeem Boyd would be a good place to start. The junior from Houston is averaging just under 100 rushing yards per game (96.6) and will be facing a Kentucky defense that has surrendered 626 yards and nine touchdowns on the ground in its three SEC losses. Senior Devwah Whaley gives the Razorbacks a solid 1-2 punch at running back while Mike Woods and Trey Knox lead the receiving corps with a combined 42 catches for 600 yards and four touchdowns.
ABOUT KENTUCKY (2-3, 0-3)
Lynn Bowden, Jr., one of the conference's top receivers, took over at quarterback for Smith against South Carolina and is pushing to be named the starter for the Wildcats. The junior, who is a former high school quarterback from Youngstown, Ohio, completed his only two pass attempts and ran for 44 yards on six carries against the Gamecocks. "I am a winner," Bowden, who has amassed 30 receptions for 348 yards this season, told the media. "I don't like losing, so if I've got to go back there and play quarterback to win and get myself ready (for the NFL) that's what I got to do. I don't like losing."
1. The Wildcats hold a 4-3 edge in the series, which has seen all seven games contested between 1998 and 2012.
2. Bowden is 14th in the nation in all-purpose yards with 140 per game.
3. Kentucky will honor the late Jared Lorenzen, a former quarterback who set six NCAA records, four SEC standards and 11 school marks, and was the starter when the Wildcats lost a 71-63, seven-overtime thriller against Arkansas in 2003. Lorenzen died in July.
PREDICTION: Kentucky 24, Arkansas 23