We all know the hype. A big armed quarterback from Miami in his junior year and senseless Cardinal fans wanting a Heisman trophy awarded already after watching Teddy Bridgewater tear apart defenses that belonged in an over 40 flag football league. Don’t get it twisted, Teddy is a good quarterback but by no means is he invincible (he seems to be quite fragile actually) and believe it or not Kentucky’s defense will be the toughest D Bridgewater has faced this year. While the defense for the Big Blue left a lot to be desired against Petrino’s boys two weeks ago, they have had time to improve and prepare for this dirty bird offense. The coaching staff seems to have the players in place where they want and have gotten to know their personnel much better than week 1. This D can take down Teddy in Commonwealth, they just have to make sure to get the recipe just right.
Two Parts Defensive Line
Those two parts specifically will be veteran Bud Dupree and the man, the myth, the legend, Za’Darius Smith. Big Z has become the big name on this defense even gaining some national recognition on Deadspin this week, and he will lead the charge to make Teddy eat some grass. Smith had three sacks last week against Miami (OH) and he will need at least one this week to help bring home the W. A big hit on Teddy could rattle him and he will be hearing those footsteps all day, but more important than one big hit will be constant pressure and shrinking the pocket. If Bud and Za’Darius can get in the backfield and keep Bridgewater from stepping up he could make some poor decisions that lead to turnovers in the secondary. Another opportunity for the defense will come from the pass rush forcing Teddy to scramble. If he has to leave the pocket and run for it he will be more susceptible to big hits and won’t be able to sit back and wait for receivers to get open. The secondary could have a rough day, but if the D-Line can force Teddy to move around and prevent him from being comfortable, a huge burden will be lifted from the shoulders of the defensive backs.
Three Parts Takeaways
What helps an underdog pull off an upset more than anything in the game? Takeaways. On the football field, turnovers are the great equalizer and that rings true more than ever for the Cats in this game. Bridgewater is a good passer when given time to go through his reads, but if pressured he has made mistakes in the past. We all know how quickly momentum can change in a game. If the Cats manage to pick off Teddy or force a fumble when he is forced to scramble, Commonwealth will be rockin’ and the Cats will feed off of that energy. Manage to get a second pick or a muffed punt? Then Stoops Troops are in business. A huge opportunity to win the turnover battle lies with the Special Teams unit. A blocked kick or punt can be a huge points swing and can make for short fields for Neal Brown’s offense. Khalid Henderson forced a fumble against the Hilltoppers that could have been huge for UK. Not only that, he continued to rip at the ball all game and made sure to get his hands on the ball at every opportunity. Watch for him to be a menace to Louisville’s rushing game and if a receiver tries to fight for extra yards he will be there and you could see him with another big forced fumble this week.
One Part Air Raid
The best way to keep a quarterback from beating you is to keep him off the field. Let Teddy fill up on Gatorade while our offense drives down the field. We could see a repeat of the Western game in which Neal Brown gave us the “ground raid” racking up 216 rushing yards to go along with 203 yards through the air. Whether air or ground the offense will need to score points and keep the Cardinals’ defense on the field. Raymond Sanders will have holes to run through and if he can gain consistent positive yardage, Louisville’s D could be in for a long day. As important as it will be for the Cats to force turnovers, it will be equally as important for Max (or Jalen) to take care of the ball. Max has been prone to interceptions in his tenure as quarterback at Kentucky and he will need to keep the ball in his teammates’ hands to give the Cats the best shot to pull off the upset. The offense is this team’s strength and the defense will need to be able to lean on them as much as possible. If the D is forced to stay on the field for extended drives and then the offense goes 3-and-out, it will be a long day for the Cats and will be easy pickins’ for Bridgewater. In this titanic struggle, a good offense truly is the best defense.