Louisville enters tomorrow's Governor's Cup game against Kentucky pretty substantial favorite. By the time kickoff arrives, Louisville will be a 14 or 15 point favorite. This is college football, however. A Louisville win is anything but automatic. Louisville fans know what it's like to be told you have no chance to win a game and have the team prove people wrong. That being the case, here are three positions that, if they play well, should carry Louisville to its third consecutive victory over Kentucky.
1. Defensive tackle - Last year in the opener against Louisville, Kentucky unveiled a spread, no-huddle offense that was rather effective against the Louisville defense. In particular, Kentucky had success with simple inside zone running plays (not zone reads either, because Max Smith is no threat to run). Louisville's defensive tackles, Roy Philon and Brandon Dunn, have looked great through the first two games. They'll need more of that not only to slow down Kentucky's inside running game, but to also get pressure directly in Max Smith's face as well. Smith isn't going to elude many rushers, the tackles beating Kentucky's guards and center would help slow Neal Brown's offense way down.
2. Tight end - Kentucky struggled mightily against Western Kentucky, especially when the Hilltoppers used two tight ends. Gerald Christian and Ryan Hubbell have proven to be a formidable pass catching tandem. You can add BJ Butler to this mix as well since all the tight ends occasionally shift from tight to fullback. Kentucky is still experimenting at outside linebacker and you'd like to think that Christian and Hubbell can win that battle in the passing game. In some situations they'll be called upon to help with Kentucky's pass rushing expert Za'Darius Smith as well. A solid game from them, both blocking and receiving, should mean the Louisville offense is balanced and able to do whatever it wants.
3. Outside linebacker - Last year, when Kentucky had a lot of success against Louisville with lateral throws and quick wide receiver screens, Louisville's primary outside linebacker was Daniel Brown. Nothing against Daniel Brown, but, there's a reason he was nowhere to be found by year's end. The play of sophomore James Burgess through the first two games has easily been the highlight of the defense. Burgess has been great making individual tackles in space, which is something he's going to have to do all day against Kentucky. He's going to be matched up with receivers in the slot, tight ends, and backs out of the backfield. He's got to play extremely well or else two yard plays become six yard plays which become first downs. The return of Keith Brown should also help given just how many plays Kentucky would ideally like to run.
Those are the three positions that, if they perform well, will portend a Louisville victory. I'm presuming Teddy and the receivers will play well given what we've seen from them the past two years. But if Louisville gets a good game from the defensive tackles, the tight ends, and the outside linebackers, it should have no problem holding on the Governor's Cup another year.