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What To Watch For: Kentucky Wildcats

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NCAA Football: Syracuse at Louisville Jamie Rhodes-USA TODAY Sports

LOUISVILLE MUST BE OPPORTUNISTIC ON DEFENSE

I can’t repeat it enough that Kentucky is starting a wide receiver at quarterback and they’re purposely doing so. Lynn Bowden is a dynamic runner but he’s a guy that played quarterback in high school as opposed to a converted quarterback, if that makes sense. Because of this he doesn’t have the traditional quarterback fundamentals down. That has led to some very errant throws and a propensity to not protect the football when he drops back to pass.

Louisville absolutely has to take advantage of some of these errant throws from Bowden. Both of his interceptions this year were on poor passes and the one he had last week was an unbelievably bad decision. UT-Martin made him pay by coming down with the pick and UofL will have to do the same.

LOUISVILLE PLAYERS HAVE TO AVOID THE TRASH TALK

This rivalry got pretty dumb over the last handful of years and that started when UofL was still dominating the series. Over the last few years, UK has shown that they will push the trash talking as far as they can and Louisville hasn’t always been great about not getting involved in it all. I think that some of that came with playing for a coach that was just as into the rivalry as the fans are. My hope is that that will have passed with the new coaching regime coming in.

UK still has a coach that encourages the trash talking and all that comes with that. I’m not judging because rivalries are dumb and dumb things come with them. The real issue is that he has a handful of players that will take the trash talking to a different level and they poke and prod opponents to try to get a reaction. UofL has to avoid that stuff from guys like Kash Daniel and Logan Stenberg. Scott Satterfield has a chance to get through to his guys and show that he will hold his players accountable if they get flagged and hurt their team.

LOUISVILLE HAS TO GET UK INTO LONG THIRD DOWNS

To take advantage of the errant passes I talked about above, Louisville has to put UK in passing situations. Eddie Gran would be perfectly fine turning into Georgia Tech and never pass the ball. He can only do that if they’re getting enough yards on first and second downs where he’s looking at short yardage on third downs. Kentucky has split their performances on third downs since Bowden took over at quarterback but they’ve mostly been able to run the ball.

Bowden is 3-17 on third downs throwing the football this season. You couldn’t ask for a better situation if you’re Bryan Brown. Getting them into those passing situations is tough with how well their offensive line plays but other teams have gotten them there. If UofL can force third and longs they should look to contain Bowden’s legs more than looking to pressure him with extra guys. He will run around in the backfield looking for options and he can pick up first downs that way. He has also run the ball much more often than he’s thrown it on third downs and most of those runs have been on third and 4+ yards.

LOUISVILLE RECEIVERS HAVE TO WIN INDIVIDUAL BATTLES

Kentucky replaced their secondary this year and I’ve been impressed by how sticky they are in coverage with their new guys. It’s one of the main reasons I think that they do so well with keeping teams out of the end zone. They make it tough to throw the ball anywhere past 5-8 yards down the field. They also mix in zone looks that can be hard to figure out before the pass rush gets there. So, UofL’s receivers have to win their matchups when they get single coverage.

I wouldn’t be surprised to see Scott Satterfield look to throw some of those short outs and comebacks that they used against NC State. Those throws work well against this defense and they pretty much let you have them. But once they get the running game going they should look to push the ball down the field and let their really good receivers work against this coverage. Make UK prove they can cover Dez Fitzpatrick and Tutu Atwell even though no one else has been able to.

KENTUCKY WILL LOOK TO STOP LOUISVILLE’S RUN GAME WITHOUT EXTRA DEFENDERS

Kentucky’s defense is built around the idea that they can let their linebackers run free because their defensive line will eat up blocks. That’s worked pretty well for them over the years and that’s why you always saw Jordan Jones and others flying all over the field making plays. Their line holds their ground well and it’s tough to not double them or to get off of those doubles to get to the second level block. That ripples through the defense as safeties don’t have to sneak up into the box to make plays. They’re allowed to play back and help in run support as edge players.

UK will hope to play with just seven in the box this weekend as Louisville has killed people all year by throwing the ball over the top once they add that extra player for run support. The issue for UK is that they’ll be defending UofL’s zone blocking scheme and those interior guys don’t excel in defending the types of run plays they’ll see. At least I haven’t seen that from them. Can they rely on those inside linebackers to get to Javian Hawkins without help from the defensive line to slow down the development of the play?

THIS GAME WILL LIKELY BE A SHOOTOUT

There’s nothing about these two offenses that says they will be slowed down by the opposing defenses. Louisville has struggled to avoid big plays on the ground and even when they have slowed down rushing attacks, they’ve still given up too many chunk runs and UK would kill to have those all day.

On the other side of he ball, UofL has been able to get a ton of big plays on everyone this year. UK doesn’t allow big plays but UK also hasn’t played any offenses that can manufacture big plays. Kentucky does things to stop those offenses but this isn’t Clemson where they scheme to take the things you want to do away from you. Louisville shouldn’t have problems running the ball against an average run defense and when they get that going, they will have the opportunities we’ve seen each week to get their passing game going.