I'm a straight shooter. Not a guy who's ever going to beat around the bush.
If I tell you that I'm not in a good mood, leave me be for a couple of hours. If I tell you I'm chucking something at your head, you better grab a helmet. If I tell you you look fantastic in yellow, well, I might be lying because people really seem to take my opinions on appearance to heart and I'm actually more of a "don't want anybody to feel badly about themselves" guy than I am a straight shooter.
But, when significant feelings aren't involved, I'm a straight shooter.
This being the case, I have something to tell you before we begin this exercise: the following is misleading.
When you compare the different units for Louisville and Kentucky, there are areas in which the Cardinals are stronger and areas in which the Wildcats are stronger. The problem that doesn't come through without a disclaimer is that, generally, where UK is stronger, they're a lot stronger and where Louisville is stronger, they're just a little stronger.
Had to say it. Because I'm a straight shooter.
Of course you look great in shorts.
Mike Hartline may not be leaps and bounds ahead of where he was this time a year ago from a physical standpoint, but his psyche is unrecognizable...you know, if you could psyches had any sort of physical appearance...I''m sorry, that was awful but I'm trying to get stuff posted at a time when people might actually read it.
Hartline is now the unquestioned QB1; no longer looking over his shoulder at Randall Cobb or the pair of blue chip signal callers Rich Brooks signed a year ago. He was the MVP of Kentucky's Liberty Bowl win, a third team preseason All-SEC pick, and he tossed for 222 yards a pair of scores and zero interceptions in the Cats' romp over Miami of Ohio two weeks ago. Put simply, the man is going to be much better than he was in this game a year ago.
Justin Burke, on the other hand, is trying to serve as a pleasant surprise for Cardinal fans who were shown firsthand why Burke couldn't win the starting job at NC State when he struggled to hit open receivers in U of L's remarkably unimpressive victory over Indiana State. Not helping ease the nerves of the Louisville faithful is the fact that this will be Burke's first extended game action against an FBS opponent and his first extended game action of any sort since his senior year of high school.
If he struggles again, then Steve Kragthorpe likely won't hesitate to give still ailing JuCo transfer Adam Froman his shot.
Kentucky fans have been shaving tenths of seconds off Derrick Locke's 40 time since he arrived on campus. He could be 4th street girls after 3:30 fast and he still wouldn't be the complete package that Victor Anderson is.
This is perhaps the deepest unit both teams con boast. Bilal Powell has as much potential as any ball carrier who will see the field, but there's no telling how he'll react to playing in a game that admittedly rocked his confidence a year ago. Darius Ashley was the talk of practice in both the spring and fall, but he never got off the sidelines against Indiana State and wasn't shy about sharing his disapproval afterward.
After Locke, Joker Phillips can toss Alfonso Smith, Moncell Allen, Coshik Williams or Donald Russell into the game and feel confident. Each carried for at least 30 yards as the Cats rushed for just shy of 250 against the Redhawks.
UK will likely rush for more yards because of the guys they have up front, but I'll still take the backfield horses Kragthorpe has at his disposal if we're talking pure ability.
This is the most lopsided victory on the board.
U of L's front five isn't quite as inexperienced as some are making them out to be (of course they'd have more experience if Jeff Adams wasn't inexplicably running with the second team), but their resume pales in comparison with that of their counterparts.
Kentucky has nine returning offensive linemen who have combined to start 91 games in their careers, including tackle Zipp Duncan (27 starts), tackle Justin Jeffries (23), guard Christian Johnson (16), center Jorge Gonzalez (13), guard Jake Lanefski (4), tackle Brad Durham (3), tackle Billy Joe Murphy (3) guard Stuart Hines (1) and center Marcus Davis (1). The Wildcats gave up only 13 quarterback sacks last season and ranked fourth in the nation in fewest sacks allowed per game, and QB Mike Hartline wasn't touched in the season opener.
Perhaps the worst part about all this: all five UK starters are from the Commonwealth of Kentucky.
I won't argue that Cobb isn't the most explosive player occupying either roster, because he is. Chris Matthews also has the potential to be a fine player, but there just isn't quite the depth here to outshine the U of L corps.
Scott Long has all the natural ability in the world as well as a top-notch work ethic to compliment it, but luck has just never been on his side. He was stuck behind two of the best U of L has ever seen at the position, then he got hurt, then he got hurt again, and now in his senior year it looks like he might not have a signal caller capable of hitting him when he's open. Also bad luck: having to line up opposite Trevard Lindley.
Doug Beaumont broke out in the Kentucky game last year and has been as solid as anyone who hasn't tasted the endzone can be since then. Trent Guy, Josh Chichester and Troy Pascley are all also guys with significant experience.
Ross Bogue made his first career start against Miami, but it's fellow seniors T.C. Drake and Maurice Grinter who provide the biggest reason for the advantage. Drake, who caught 12 passes for 204 yards a season ago, was named to the John Mackey Award (nation's top tight end) watch list before the season.
Cameron Graham caught three passes for 43 yards in his first start as a Cardinal, but there's no telling how much playing time he'll get as last year's starter Pete Nochta and redshirt freshman Nate Nord recover from injuries.
Jeremy Jarmon's absence makes this gap much smaller than it would have been otherwise, but Corey Peters is still around and heads a unit that should match up well with Louisville's offensive line. The ends are extremely inexperienced, but always empathetic Ricky Lumpkin saw extended action at tackle in each of the past two seasons and rightfully maintains the mindset of a multi-year starter.
Louisville's front four has a slight advantage when it comes to experience, but no one is still positive why L.T. Walker, Joe Townsend, Tim High and Tyler Jessen were held out of the Indiana State game. Greg Scruggs, Will Savoy and Rodney Gnat provide great depth at end.
The Wildcat advantage here isn't nearly as sizable as some are making it out to be and that's one of the only reasons I'm holding out a bit of hope.
Louisville's JuCo transfers in the middle were arguably the most pleasant surprise of the '08 season, but UK still has Micah Johnson. Sam Maxwell and speedy sophomore Danny Trevathan may not be top-tier SEC calibre, but they're still awfully good.
Jon Dempsey is proving every game that his play is not a fluke, as is fellow JuCo transfer Antwon Canady. Brandon Heath is undersized, but his speed will be relied upon heavily when Kentucky busts out its Wildcat formation.
UK boasts the top NFL prospect on either team in Lindley, who is more than enough to provide the Cats with the advantage over Louisville's woeful secondary. Johnny Patrick is good, but he can't cover everybody.
Yes, I'm rushing.
Both teams appear very sketchy at the moment, but the track record of Cardinal special teams during the Steve Kragthorpe era keeps U of L from claiming a small victory.
I love Art Carmody.
On paper, it doesn't look good. But then again, neither do boogers. And you wouldn't eat boogers, would you?