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Auburn Tigers vs. Kentucky Wildcats Preview and Prediction

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Despite Auburn defensive coordinator Will Muschamp's best efforts to confuse everyone, today is indeed Wednesday and tomorrow is Thursday. Tomorrow, a rare phenomenon will take place. That being a Thursday night SEC game. While the conference usually schedules all games for Saturday, this one should be a fun mid-week contest.

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The awaited expectation of this game is the need to learn more about Kentucky. The Wildcats are 4-1, but have struggled just to get by UL Lafayette and Eastern Kentucky. Yet at this point, Kentucky is the closest contender on the heels of Florida in the race for the SEC East crown. 

Auburn, on the other hand, is not going to compete for its division. It has been a humbling and disappointing season for the Tigers thus far. The team struggled mightily to fend off Jacksonville State in Week 2 and is still winless in the SEC, despite possessing one of the conference's most explosive offenses. Or, so we thought. 

This game is huge for momentum. For Auburn, it would get them back in contention for a bowl game. For Kentucky, it would provide more substance to their claim of being for real this time. The Tigers lead the all-time series, 25-6-1 and won the last meeting between the teams in 2010.

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Auburn at Kentucky

Kickoff: 7 p.m. ET (Thursday)

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TV Channel: ESPN

Spread: Auburn -2

Three Things to Watch

1. Can Auburn's offense finally establish itself?

In Auburn's last game against San Jose State, Peyton Barber accounted for 147 yards and five touchdowns on the ground. It was nice to see, especially considering that Auburn's run-first system under Gus Malzahn hasn't worked very well all year. However, we must keep in mind the opponent didn't exactly field the nation's best defense. Even with that, it was a step in the right direction for the run game. Now, Auburn just needs to figure out the quarterback situation. The Wildcats are improved defensively this year, but they have shown signs of weakness which have carried over from last season. This could be a major opportunity for War Eagle to showcase its offensive weapons. 

2. Is Kentucky for real this time?

The 'Cats started off last year 5-1 and still managed to miss out on a bowl game when all was said and done. This year's team is more seasoned and better overall, but it still doesn't mean we should all be sold on Kentucky just yet. Their schedule has set up nicely to this point, but they still face major tests down the road in Mississippi State, Georgia and Tennessee. A win over Auburn on Thursday in Lexington could help Kentucky with the confidence it needs moving forward to more difficult opponents on the schedule. 

3. Which team took advantage of the bye week?

Auburn and Kentucky have had ample time to get ready for each other. The Tigers were probably a little more in need of the break, but now that both teams are refreshed, which one will come out ready to play? These two squads look similar on paper. Both are allowing quite a few yards through the air and neither has been efficient in the passing game. Oddly enough, the best game plan for both teams might be to get it moving on the ground. If so, it's difficult to say which team that strategy favors. Look for Barber and Stanley "Boom" Williams to both be significant factors in the outcome. Williams was held out in the 'Cats' last game but is expected to return this week. 

Final Analysis 

Nobody thought this game would have mattered much before the season started. At a time when Auburn was seemingly loaded, who thought the Wildcats would have a chance? Kentucky is the popular pick in this one, especially when looking at the general way these two teams are trending. The Wildcats will come out looking to make a statement. A win would be yet another signature nod for head coach Mark Stoops, almost guaranteeing the Wildcats a spot in a bowl game. But the stakes are a little higher on the other side. Auburn is capable of far more than what we have seen so far. If they get the run game going, they will walk out of Lexington with a victory. It's time for War Eagle to turn the tables.

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Prediction: Auburn 34, Kentucky 28 

— Written by Cody McClure, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and a radio host and lead SEC Writer for Three Point Stance Magazine. Follow him on Twitter @CodyMcClureCFB.