I am sick and tired hearing from UK fans about how worried they are with the UL game. It’s seems to me that 2 things are happening:
(a) People are still stuck in UL in the Orange Bowl mindset, and think UL is right on the verge of being back. I don’t think people truly understand how badly Steve Kragthorpe destroyed that program with recruiting and attitude. Those players didn’t think they could win and didn’t give the effort to win most of his 3 years. It will take Charlie Strong a long time to repair that damage.
(b) People are terrified of Charlie Strong. Let’s be real here, Strong has some pretty damn good players on his Florida defense. It’s not like they only looked good because of his schemes. He freaking had talent all over the field and could have essentially just told them to play and they would have dominated. That’s not saying he isn’t a great coach, because I think he will be. But, the talent gap between Florida and Louisville is like the talent gap between Elin Woods and Roseanne. He’s not a magic man folks.
Point being, stop your freaking worrying. I feel EXTREMELY confident UK will win this game, and with an early spread of -7, I feel fairly confident UK will cover that spread. Everybody that is worried, pull the thong out of your butts, and look at these 5 main reasons UK will win this game.
1) QUARTERBACK PLAY
-Some people would argue that Kentucky has some real QB issues. Not knowing who is going to be the starter, and each of the candidates having flaws has some fans nervous. But hear this: Our QB situation when it comes to this game is so SIGNIFICANTLY better than for Louisville. All signs are pointing to Mike Hartline being the starter for the first game of the year. And signs coming out of UL say that Adam Froman will be the opening day starter (not confirmed yet). Let’s compare each of those player’s experience in the UK-UL rivalry:
Mike Hartline (2 games): 36-58, 325 yds, 1 TD, 1 INT (2 WINS)
Adam Froman (0 games): No stats (0 WINS)
So we have a quarterback who has played this game twice, won it each time. They have a quarterback who has never played in this game and never won it. I would call this a SIGNIFICANT advantage for us.
2) WINNING EXPERIENCE
-Out of the 108 total players on the UK football team, only FOUR have experienced a loss to Louisville. Only four players even know what it feels like to lose in this rivalry. That has to bode well for the confidence of this team coming into this game. They have to think they have UL’s number and that this rivalry is firmly in UK’s corner these days. Think about the Tennessee-Kentucky football rivalry. When you have lost that many times in a row one team, you have to have this feeling that you just can’t get over the hump, and on the other hand Tennessee players have to feel they just can’t lose to Kentucky. Hopefully that is the kind of attitude of the UK players going into the UL game.
By the way, 107 of UL’s 112 players have never beaten UK.
3) NEW HEAD COACH ADVANTAGE
-Let’s be honest: Charlie Strong is likely going to be a serious upgrade to Steve Kragthorpe. But, as far as this season’s game goes, he is installing an entirely new offense and defense, with it’s first test being against Kentucky. While Joker Phillips is going to be running a very similar system to Rich Brooks, meaning the players should be more than comfortable with the system before the game. Keep an eye out for illegal formation and illegal shift penalties on the UL side of the ball.
Plus, how a coach acts during a game and during a practice are two separate things. The UL players will be experiencing Strong’s temper and actions, his play calling style, and his general attitude for the first time. The UK players already know what to expect from Joker. Overall point of all this is that the UK players have an advantage in that their comfort level with the head coach should be higher than on the Cards side of things.
4) DEPTH DEPTH DEPTH
-I remember back in the early days of the Rich Brooks era and he continually said for UK to compete at the SEC level they needed to improve one area: depth on the offensive and defensive lines. The players in those years would get so worn out because of a lack of quality backups, that UK would continually get crushed in the 2nd half of games. Well, Louisville has the exact same problem this season. They are so depleted on both of their lines that I look for Kentucky to be VERY successful in the 2nd half of this year’s game. At the skill positions, Louisville and Kentucky are not that far apart. But ask any football person and they tell you the game is won and lost on the lines and with turnovers. The lines open the holes for the skill players and good pass protection prevents turnovers.
Look for Derrick Locke to be THE KEY of this game. I look for him to get 20-25 carries as Kentucky attempts to really wear down the defensive line of UL. And by the 2nd half of the game, I fully expect Locke to take it over, with a smaller dose of Randall Cobb in the wildcat.
5) FINDING THE ENDZONE THROUGH THE AIR
-Quick question: How many current UL wide receivers caught touchdown passes last season? I’ll give one guess. The answer is pretty simple: ZERO. Not a single touchdown catch in the entire group. UL’s top receiver, Doug Beaumont, has caught all of ZERO touchdown passes in his CAREER. Now, on the other hand, UK is returning 10 total touchdown catches from last year, comprising of a total of 4 players.
If UL needs to late drive to tie the score or win, they don’t have the receivers to throw the ball to. They don’t have the receivers that know how to get in the endzone. And frankly, when you are in Year 3 of the Doug Beaumont era and he has yet to find paydirt, that wouldn’t make me confident as a UL fan. UK has Randall Cobb and Chris Matthews. And Matthews has the height advantage to throw it up to. UL has nobody like that now that Josh Chichester is gone moved to tight end. Point being, UL better hope to grind the game to a halt with the running game, because if they are forced to throw much, UK’s chances of winning going up by a factor of 10.