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Which Way Will It Go?

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Don’t look now, but at noon eastern, approximately the same moment that this post is bestowed upon the world, we will sit just 48 hours from kickoff of the Kentucky – Louisville football game.  As the remaining hours until kickoff slowly creep by, I become more and more aware of an internal conflict as to how I believe this edition of the Kentucky football “dream game” will play out.  At one moment, I think Louisville is miles ahead of the Cats in terms of the development of their program.  Charlie Strong has had three years to construct his Cardinal squad, and has turned Louisville into a legitimate top ten team led by a Heisman Trophy candidate at quarterback.  At the very next moment, I am dismissive of the Cards, viewing them as little more than a paper tiger. In those moments, I believe that the Cats have a sneaky chance in this game despite some clear limitations. I had truly hoped that at some point prior to writing this post that I would be able to reconcile my feelings, and provide some legitimate insight as to whether the optimistic or pessimistic view of this game was more supported by the evidence.  Unfortunately, I’ve been unable to decide.  Therefore, I’m just going to argue both sides.  (Being a lawyer in my day job, I’ve always found integrity to be a bit overrated anyway.)

 

WHY KENTUCKY WILL LOSE ON SATURDAY: (The Jerry Tipton perspective)

 

The Louisville Cardinals will roll into town on Saturday as the seventh ranked team in the nation.  The Cardinals began the 2013 season fresh off an eleven and two year in 2012, capped by a convincing win over the Florida Gators in the Sugar Bowl.  Through two games this season, the Louisville offense, led by quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, has averaged 47 points per game. Bridgewater, a likely NFL top five overall pick after the season, has completed 80% of his passes with 9 touchdowns compared to just one interception so far this season. Bridgewater has a deep and experienced receiving corps and an outstanding stable of running backs at his disposal. Defensively, the Cardinals have given up only a single touchdown in each of their first two games.  Head coach Charlie Strong, a life-long defensive coach, has put together another in a long line of athletic and aggressive defenses.

In seeking evidence that Saturday will be a red day in Commonwealth Stadium, one need look no further than the 2012 match-up.  In that game, Bridgewater picked Kentucky apart with precision passing, completing 19 of 21 attempts for 232 yards.  However, it was the Louisville running game that really doomed the Cats.  The Kentucky defense gave up 219 yards on the ground to the Cards. Unfortunately for the Big Blue, many of the players who victimized the Cats in 2012 are back for the return engagement.  In addition to Bridgewater, running back Senorise Perry returns after rushing for 108 yards and a touchdown on just 16 carries against the Cats last year.   Louisville’s leading two receivers from the 2012 game, Damian Copeland and DeVante Parker, will both be in the starting lineup on Saturday.  The two have already combined for 6 touchdown catches on the young season.  Incidentally, Louisville also adds transfer running back Michael Dyer, a firearms enthusiast who also happened to once be offensive MVP of the BCS Championship Game while an Auburn Tiger before transferring to a myriad of other institutes of higher learning, one of which may have been Nashville Auto Diesel College.

In short, Louisville will bring a highly talented and experienced team to face a young and somewhat thin Kentucky squad in the infancy stage of the Mark Stoops’ building project. In some ways, Stoops’ status entering Saturday’s contest is reminiscent of Charlie Strong’s first game on the Louisville sideline, in which he was in full rebuild mode after the Steve Kragthorpe debacle.  Joker Phillips’ Cats beat Strong handily that day.  It was evident Strong would improve the program, but that it would take some time.  Mark Stoops may well experience similar growing pains against a full-grown Louisville team on Saturday.

 

WHY KENTUCKY WILL WIN ON SATURDAY: (The John Short “yes indeedy” perspective)

 

Louisville is extraordinarily overrated, and a closer view of their results shows that they are a mediocre team artificially boosted by a soft schedule and a very good quarterback.  While it is true that Louisville went 11 and 2 last season, let’s take a closer look at their results before comparing them to the 1995 Nebraska Cornhuskers.  While Louisville did defeat a clearly disinterested Florida team in the Sugar Bowl, they also lost to both Syracuse and UConn.  Syracuse, a decent but unspectacular team, handled the Cards 45-36.  The Orange put up 524 yards against the vaunted Charlie Strong defense, including 278 yards on the ground.  Louisville was held to 48 yards rushing, likely due to Syracuse’s trademark 2-3 zone defense.  UConn, who managed to go 5 and 7 and 2 and 5 in the now-defunct Big East, defeated Louisville at Papa John’s Stadium.  Even the games Louisville managed to win last season reveal that they are vulnerable.  Louisville beat perennial powerhouse Florida International, who went 3 and 9, by 7 points.  They then beat Southern Miss, who failed to win a single game all season,  by four, and slipped by 3 and 9 South Florida by two.  Their wins over Cincinnati, Rutgers and UNC were by a combined 11 points.  The point is that Louisville is not Alabama, who won by an average of four touchdowns per game last season against infinitely stronger competition.  If Louisville can lose at home to UConn, there is absolutely no reason to think the Cats can’t beat them in Commonwealth on Saturday.

Kentucky is a different team than the one Louisville saw last September in the last lifeless season of the Joker Phillips’ era.  The program has been rejuvenated by Mark Stoops, and more importantly, has added talent at key positions.  The last time Teddy Bridgewater dropped back to pass against the Cats, he did not have to concern himself with Za’Darius Smith, the nation’s current leader in sacks. Similarly, when Max Smith threw passes against the Cards in 2012, he did not have Ryan Timmons or Javess Blue on the receiving end. While it is true that the season opener was a disappointment, Kentucky’s quantum leap from week one to week two, on both sides of the ball, demonstrates that Stoops and company have the attention of their team.  The young Cats are not a finished product, but they will be a hungry and dangerous squad on Saturday.

 

HOW WILL WE KNOW?

 

If history is any indicator, it will not take long before we know whether the positive or the negative forecast wins out.  Specifically, though Saturday’s game promises to provide no shortage of aerial fireworks, it will be the more efficient ground game that wins the day. The single most remarkable stat in the Kentucky-Louisville series is that in every game since 1996, the team with the most rushing yards has won the game.  This point is underscored by Louisville’s results from last season.  Almost without exception, the games in which Louisville struggled were those in which they abandoned their ground game, and relied solely on Bridgewater’s arm.  If Kentucky is to pull off the upset, they must make Louisville one dimensional.  They also must continue to run the ball effectively as they have in their first two games.  Do this, and history says the Cats pull it off.

 

Let me know in the comments section whether you are of the glass half empty or glass half full point of view for this game.  Go Cats!

 

Article written by Duncan Cavanah

22 Comments for Which Way Will It Go?



  1. DLN
    12:18 pm September 12, 2013 Permalink

    I see this game being a lot closer than people think. If UK pulls off the upset, it’ll be in the waning miutes of the game on a TD pass or a field goal. Za’Darius will get to Bridgewater twice but will pressure him all game.

    The Cats have nothing to lose and everything to gain, and Louiville gains almost nothing from a win but a loss seriously derails their season. This is the classic upset recipe, and I think UK is hungry for some cooked up cardinal.



  2. Kaboom
    12:21 pm September 12, 2013 Permalink

    Nice article Duncan, now I see our class plying out something like this. We land Ullis tomorrow, get both Booker and Blackmon for the 2 but since Blackmon is capable running the offense too. This means Lyes would be coming too. Then the magic, we go out and pull Stanely Johnson out of the west coast and he becomes a Wildcat. Then if no other big guys commit and all, with the exception of maybe Lee, this years big men go pro, it will be then that we might land Mr. Okafor. Hope he’s still available that late in the game.



  3. Sammydog
    12:21 pm September 12, 2013 Permalink

    Louisville should win this game unless something extraordinary happens. On paper they are the better, more experienced team. They know their schedule is very weak and will be looking to make a statement with a blowout win. Charlie won’t take a knee.



  4. Scott
    12:32 pm September 12, 2013 Permalink

    Dirty birds 44-17. Cats hang for a while but fade in second.



  5. jpg
    12:37 pm September 12, 2013 Permalink

    3, history shows different! The underdog has faired pretty well in this rivalry. They also looked very underwhelming against D-II EKU last week, in which they rushed for roughly 75 yards. The good thing is that Charlie has not faced this team with the new schemes on both sides of the ball.

    The thing is, UL’s schedule provides them with ZERO statement games! If they beat UK by 30, it means nothing, because UK is not expected to be good this season.

    I just hope our secondary gets in faces of UL’s receiving core, so our front 4 can get a pass rush.



  6. Rockfield, KY
    12:39 pm September 12, 2013 Permalink

    I just hope we can hang tight and go score for score with them. Then maybe we’ll have the chance for a tired UL defense at the end of the game. If we can somehow pull out a couple key stops, then we have a chance at the end. That’s all I could ask for. NO BLOWOUTS.



  7. Dacci
    12:47 pm September 12, 2013 Permalink

    I doubt we can win, but I think we will at least compete. My worry is exactly what #3 said. If UL proves to be the superior team, which is a good possibility, they will run up the score as much as possible. They are looking to get the best BCS rating possible. A narrow victory over us wont help that much.



  8. Katdaddy
    12:49 pm September 12, 2013 Permalink

    Cats are in trouble! Strong will keep his foot on the paddle.



  9. RICK
    12:56 pm September 12, 2013 Permalink

    Things have kind of changed this year, a win over the cats for the cards doesn’t help much but a loss is a killer.I think the cards win and should win but hope like heck the Cats pull the upset.



  10. Heisenberg
    12:59 pm September 12, 2013 Permalink

    No, we are going to lose, even though it is at home.



  11. Man O War
    1:01 pm September 12, 2013 Permalink

    Cats are outmatched! Cards 56 Cats 10. Bridgewater throws for 420+ and 5 TD’s.



  12. Hubris and Butter Fingers
    1:05 pm September 12, 2013 Permalink

    UL should win. This is their year. UK is starting over. Still, UK can win if: (i) UL comes in over-confident and under-motivated; and (ii) UK wins the turnover battle. Favorites don’t always win. That’s why they play the game on the field and not on paper. Go Cats!



  13. Highway119
    1:08 pm September 12, 2013 Permalink

    The fact that louisville (tried to spell with a capital letter, but just can’t…at least I didn’t put loserville) is a huge favorite could play right into our hands. I have always been a HUGE proponent of deferring to the second half (nothing is more demoralizing than being down against a team at half and having to give them the ball to start out, or being up at half and have them come out and score on you), but to me, if we come out and win the toss, I like the idea of getting the ball and going right at them. If we score early, they may get flustered and try to do too much. This is the closest they have to a statement game this season, so if we can get the jump on them, they may fold under the pressure of expectations. Regardless, I don’t see them running us out of the stadium. Go Cats!



  14. Teachable Mo'
    1:13 pm September 12, 2013 Permalink

    As professional writers, why are you uninterested in keeping the distinction between “disinterested” and “uninterested”?



  15. kadizkat
    1:30 pm September 12, 2013 Permalink

    “Jerry Tipton” v “John Short” — Classic!



  16. MacGruber
    1:32 pm September 12, 2013 Permalink

    I believe the game will be close, until the 4th quarter. Then the Louisville players will lose sight of the core values and start pistol whipping women with stolen firearms while high on crack. The game will be the cats before Charlie has a chance to call timeout and reinforce the core values.



  17. Randy Frederick
    2:01 pm September 12, 2013 Permalink

    34-25 Cats!!! Javess will get loose inroute to three touchdown catches. Max Smith throws for 320 while Jaleen rushes and throws for a combined 200 yards. The air raid will be in full force Go Cats!!!!



  18. Johnny Short
    2:02 pm September 12, 2013 Permalink

    Cats by 40 biggens over Louisville, by 50 over Florida, by 60 over South Carolina, and by 30 over Alabama
    You all are great Americans



  19. Tim from Hendo
    2:19 pm September 12, 2013 Permalink

    I still believe in 6 wins for the season. A competitive loss on Saturday is a big step toward 6 wins. A win is possible. Too many times the underdog has won this game. I am just wanting to see improvement. Go Big Blue.



  20. "Where is Wyoming?"
    2:40 pm September 12, 2013 Permalink

    Traditionally the underdog has faired well in this series so that is a plus. However, one issue that will hurt the cats is lack of depth. A fast paced offense leads to a lot of time for the defense. If the cats are successful on offense, then that can aide in protecting the lack of depth on both sides of the ball. That being said, I believe the cats have a shot in this. With a good game from the offensive line, and defensive front, this game becomes a toss up. The ground game will be pivotal considering the winner of the game has had the most run yardage as pointed out in this, or an earlier post. Looavul’s weak schedule has not allowed for any realistic predictions on their abilities as a football team. Honestly, had Kentucky had their schedule the last few years, we would be coming off BCS bowl appearances as well. Plus losing to Syracuse? IN FOOTBALL? That alone gives me hope that in front of a large home crowd the young cats can pull off an upset.



  21. "Where is Wyoming?"
    2:41 pm September 12, 2013 Permalink

    Why is my comment still awaiting moderation?



  22. Where's Larry?
    7:19 am September 13, 2013 Permalink

    UK should fair well in this game. UL has play no serious competition this year or last. I watched all UF’s games last year (live in FL) and beating them was not a surprise. Cards are good but well overrated.