clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Louisville vs. Kentucky preview: Cards and Cats battle for state supremacy

New, 37 comments

Bragging rights, the Governor’s Cup, and so much more are on the line Saturday afternoon in Lexington.

COLLEGE SOCCER: NOV 11 ACC Championship - Louisville v North Carolina Photo by William Howard/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

LOUISVILLE CARDINALS (7-4, 5-3) at KENTUCKY WILDCATS (6-5, 3-5)

Game Time: Noon

Location: Kroger Field: Lexington, Ky.

Television: SEC Network

Announcers: Taylor Zarzour, Matt Stinchcomb and Alyssa Lang

Favorite: Kentucky by 3

All-Time Series: Kentucky leads, 16-15

Modern Series: Louisville leads, 15-10

Last Meeting: Kentucky won 56-10 on Nov. 24, 2018 in Louisville

Series History:

About the Governor’s Cup:

The Governor’s Cup was created in 1994 as the trophy for the winner of the Louisville-Kentucky game.

Donated by The Kroger Company at a cost of $23,000, the Governor’s Cup stands 33 inches tall and weighs 110 pounds. The trophy’s base and upright columns are hand-milled black marble. The glass components are optic-grade crystal. All metal parts are 23-karat, gold-plated brass. The cup itself is made of pewter with a 23-karat gold-plated finish.

It currently resides in Lexington.

Statistics:

Louisville Depth Chart:

Louisville Uniforms:

Relevant Videos:

About Kentucky:

via Keith Wynne

OFFENSE

Kentucky enters this week with their bowl status secured but the rivalry is always worth winning and they will have hopes to keep their makeshift offense going. Kentucky lost their top three quarterbacks this year and since then they have played Lynn Bowden under center and just made it work. Eddie Gran has been a master at just that and this year is maybe his masterpiece. He has essentially rolled back his offense and turned it into a high school system and it’s worked for the most part.

Bowden is a quarterback in name only. He is mostly running option plays or handing the ball off after the snap. He did have a very good game throwing the football against Vanderbilt and he does posses the ability to throw the football but he has been very inaccurate and has seen most of his success on easy throws down the field. He’s not taking a dropback and hitting guys on slants and comebacks. Bowden does have a strong arm with a decent ability to put air under it. He just hasn’t consistently shown the ability to put the right touch on the ball.

As a runner, Bowden is dynamic in tight spaces. He can run the option extremely well because he can cut on a dime. He has an ability that only a handful of option guys possess. He freezes you because he can make you try to tackle air. Lamar Jackson had that ability and we all know how he made defenders look on the edge. Gran runs some inside things with Bowden but I think he’s at his best on the outside. Especially with the stable of running backs he has to pitch to.

Speaking of the running backs, Kentucky has done a good job of utilizing multiple guys to replace Benny Snell this year. Alim Rose, Christopher Rodriguez and Kavosiay Smoke are averaging about 25 carries for about 150 yards per game. That’s essentially a wash from what Snell and Rose averaged last year. All three of these guys have long speed but Rose is the big play threat. He showed that in last year’s game and Bowden’s ability to run the ball so well ends up giving these backs a lot of space to operate. There are a lot of similarities to what we saw when Lamar Jackson was here. UK has just done a better job of spreading the ball between these backs and Bowden.

Kentucky’s receivers were the big question coming into this season to me because they were really inconsistent last year. As of now, they don’t really matter much because of the quarterback situation. Ahmad Wagner got a lot of attention earlier this year because he draws a bunch of pass interference calls but he has 10 whole yards since Bowden became the quarterback. There’s no one out of this group that worries you because of the quarterback. They have some talent though.

The skill guys are getting all of the attention but the offensive line is the reason this offense is working. These guys just move people off the ball and they make it look easy. UK uses a lot of counter draws and other plays that involve pulling a linemen and doubling inside. This line just kills with those types of blocks and they open up holes inside that Bowden can quickly get through. They also do a good job of getting to their second level blocks. That makes it hard for guys to shoot through gaps and slow down plays or get tackles for loss. How Louisville handles this line matters much more to me than how they contain Bowden. If they get pushed around by these guys, UK’s running game will be able to control the ball and get a bunch of short gains even if the defense contains the backs. They have to force the issue and get tackles for loss and no gain stops.

DEFENSE

Mark Stoops is a former defensive coordinator and the 2018 season finally showed that he knows what he’s doing. His veteran group led the team to one of the best seasons in program history and produced a couple of NFL draft picks. Those veteran guys are gone but his young group has been able to do a very good job of keeping teams out of the end zone in their absence.

Kentucky doesn’t have a bunch of studs up front but they do their jobs really well and that’s what this defense needs from them. UK runs a 3-4 and their line is tasked with plugging gaps and holding up blocks. They don’t get a ton of penetration but they will hold their ground and make it really hard for you to run the football. This is one of the biggest defensive lines that UofL has seen this year and they’re hard to move. Calvin Taylor is the best of the group and he’s 6-9/300. Taylor can use his length to push guys around and I’ve been impressed with how agile he is.

The line is big but I think they’re lacking a bit when it comes to their mobility. UofL loves their stretch runs and to defend them you have to be able to run. Taylor is a nice athlete but I’m not as sold on the other guys they have up front. We could see a lot of play action off of stretch runs this week.

Linebacker is the best overall group on this defense in my opinion. They Josh Paschel as a hybrid end and linebacker even though he’s 284 pounds but he’s been solid in that role. He will be key as that edge guy on stretch plays as well as the read on the option. Boogie Watson plays the other outside linebacker spot and he’s a play maker. Watson has 7.5 tackles for loss on the year on only 27 tackles. Both of these guys will be key as Louisville wants to work the edges of the defense. They are two of the best play makers on the defense so UofL will have to find ways to neutralize them.

In the middle, UK has two really good players in DeAndre Square and Chris Oats. Both of these guys can run really well and they chase down plays outside the tackles really well. Square is the more consistent player but Oats is a guy that has a bit of star potential down the road. I mentioned the stretch runs earlier and these guys could be key against them. They have the type of speed that makes those plays hard because they can shoot through gaps.

Kash Daniel is technically the starter over Oats and that’s a positive for UofL, in my opinion. Daniel is a good linebacker inside the tackles but he isn’t exceptional when it comes to tracking things down on the perimeter and he’s flat out bad in coverage. I wouldn’t be surprised to see UofL try to use more of their tight packages in hopes that they can get Daniel lined up in coverage against Marshon Ford or a running back. That’s an easy win for Louisville.

UK’s secondary is somewhat of an unknown because Kentucky hasn’t played many good offenses and when they have, they haven’t been very good at stopping the pass. Florida and Mississippi State both completed over 70% of their passes while Tennessee had no problem throwing the ball once they made a change at quarterback. I don’t know that they’ve played an offense that can do the things that Louisville does throwing the football. UT’s athletic receivers had their way with them and they really haven’t been tested much outside of that game since they played Florida.

UK was hit hard by graduation in the secondary. They had to replace all of their full time starters and didn’t have much experience to work with. They brought in Brandon Echols as a JUCO transfer and he’s played fairly well. He’s actually maybe at his best in run support which will obviously factor into the game. Cedric Dort and Jamari Brown have both played on the opposite side of Echols. Brown has been pretty impressive in coverage, in my opinion. These guys are all good at playing tight coverage and they don’t get beat for big plays too often. Even though they don’t make a lot of big plays, they have made the routine ones.

The safety spot for the Wildcats has been solid with Yusef Corker leading the team in tackles. Jordan Griffin and Quandre Mosely split time at the other safety spot. None of these guys are play makers, so I don’t know that there’s any real concern with these guys for the offense. There hasn’t been an opposing player that has been able to handle the way that UofL puts them in “conflict” this year and I don’t see that happening this week. Scott Satterfield throws a lot of eye candy at safeties and the way they’re able to run the ball makes it hard to not put your safeties in man coverage. That’s a tough assignment for anyone and none of these guys have played a large amount of snaps over their careers. I wouldn’t call it a weak spot on the defense but their strengths don’t really worry me.

Excitement Level: 9.1

Highest it’s been all year and for good reason. This has already been such an amazing ride, but beating Kentucky a year they smacked us, won 10 games and thought they became God’s gift to football would be the perfect cherry laced with happy drugs on top.

Game Attire: Red U of L pullover, red and white Louisville Cardinals hat

Gotta rock the primary color for rivalry games.

Pregame Meal: Cheese bagel, coffee

It has been a winning combination this year.

Bold Prediction: Louisville breaks Kentucky’s 15-game streak of holding opponents below 30 points

Ryan Chalifoux didn’t miss a field goal last week, so we’re riding a one prediction winning streak here. Don’t worry about how many he attended.

Ty Tyler Sack Alert Level: Laser Lemon (extremely bad)

The dream appears to be near its last breath. The Alert Level has never had so little faith.

Predicted Star of the Game: Javian Hawkins

He’s been doing it all year. With the weather we’re going to see in Lexington this afternoon, he’s going to need to do it one more time.

Notable:

—Louisville has not lost to Kentucky in Lexington since all the way back in 2009. The Cards have won four straight over the Cats in Lexington, and are 10-8 all-time in true road games against their arch-rivals.

—The road team has won four straight and 16 of the 25 games overall in this series since it resumed in 1994.

—The team that has rushed for more yards has won 21 of the last 23 meetings in this series. Kentucky losing in 2014 and Louisville losing in 2016 are the two exceptions.

—Favorites are 16-9 in the modern era of the Governor’s Cup rivalry.

—Louisville is 6-0 this season when scoring first, and 1-4 when allowing their opponents to score first.

—The team that has scored first has gone on to win 14 of the last 18 times these two teams have met.

—Kentucky’s defense is allowing just 324.8 yards per game, including just 178.5 yards through the air, which ranks 10th nationally.

—It’s Senior Day for Kentucky, which will honor 11 seniors in a ceremony before the game.

—Kentucky has held 15 consecutive opponents to fewer than 30 points. If the Wildcats hold Louisville under that number on Saturday, the streak will be tied with Iowa for the longest in the country.

—UK has also allowed 34 points or less in 25 straight games, the longest active streak in the nation.

—Kentucky’s rushing offense ranks second in the SEC and 12th nationally at 252.4 yards per game. The Wildcats have piled up more than 400 yards on the ground in back-to-back games and have reached at least 300 rushing yards in three straight games.

—Louisville RB Javian Hawkins has 1,278 yards for the season, setting a new U of L freshman record. He currently stands ninth on the school’s single-season rushing list and needs 324 yards in his final two games to break Lamar Jackson’s single-season rushing record of 1,601 yards.

—Louisville is 6-0 this season when winning the turnover battle, and just 1-4 when losing it.

—The team that has won the turnover battle has won 14 out of the last 20 games in this rivalry series.

—Kentucky has allowed just six passing touchdowns this season, tied for the fewest in the FBS.

—Louisville’s TuTu Atwell is the only player in the FBS with four receptions that have gone for 70 yards or more this season. He leads the nation in receptions of 50+, 60+, 70+, 80+, and 90+ yards.

—In six starts at QB, Kentucky’s Lynn Bowden has recorded five 100-yard rushing games and is averaging 142.0 yards per game on the ground (852 total rushing yards). In those six games he has tallied 852 rushing yards, the most by a Wildcat over a six-game span since Moe Williams in the final six games of the 1995 season (926).

—Bowden is the only player in the FBS to lead his team in both rushing and receiving yards this season.

—Louisville ranks 26th nationally in scoring at 34.5 points per game and 28th in yardage (453.4).

—Kentucky ranks 18th in scoring defense at 18.9 points allowed per contest.

—Kentucky leads all of FBS in running plays of at least 20 yards (39).

—Louisville is only the second team in the history of the ACC to go 0-8 in conference play and finish 5-3 the following season.

—Louisville is tied for the national lead with 27 scrimmage plays of 40+ yards and are second with six plays of 70+ yards this season. The Cardinals are tied for second with two passing plays of 80+ yards and are one of only 11 schools with a pass reception of 90 or more yards.

—Kentucky punter Max Duffy leads the FBS in punting at 48.9 yards per kick.

—Kentucky has won eight consecutive non-conference games.

—In his seven seasons as a head coach, Scott Satterfield’s teams are 47-3 when scoring 30 or more points.

—Louisville is 5-0 this season when leading at halftime.

—The Cards are 2-4 this season as an underdog.

—In seven seasons as a head coach, Scott Satterfield is 21-6 during the month of November.

—Louisville is currently riding a consecutive game scoring streak that spans 248 games dating back to a 31-0 loss to Florida State during the 2000 season. The streak ranks as the second longest in the ACC behind only Virginia Tech, and the 12th-longest nationally.

—Louisville is 188-13 all-time when scoring 35 or more points in a game. The Cards are also 6-115 all-time when allowing opponents to score 40 or more points.

Quotable:

—”We have talked with them about not getting caught up in any of the trash talking or anything like that. Sometimes you get so caught up in the hype of the game that you forget about my job is to block and tackle and throw and catch. To me, you have to focus on that. It’s not just another game. I mean we understand it’s bigger than that. It’s the rivalry game, it’s bragging rights. It’s there’s a lot of things involved with it. But you can’t lose the fact of what you have to do.” —Scott Satterfield

—”We will win. It’s like that.” —Kentucky DE Calvin Taylor

—”Who? We don’t say their name around here. It’s a rivalry. You gotta embrace it. That other team over there, they wear the opposite color of us.” —Kentucky QB Lynn Bowden

—“We have to consume ourselves with the daily process, like we’ve done all year, of ‘How can we get better today?’ If we do that, come game day we feel confident with the plan, and hopefully we can go out and execute it, but we can’t get caught up in the emotions of it.” —Dwayne Ledford

—“Coming into our territory, it’s definitely not a friendly game. It’s going to be tough, it’s going to be gritty, it’s going to be like every other year. Nothing’s changed.” —Kentucky OG Logan Stenberg

—“We’ve got to treat it like a regular game. Anytime you go away you’re going to be the underdog, so you’ve got to treat it like a regular week.” —Mekhi Becton

—“Generally speaking, the more disciplined team will win, and we haven’t always been perfectly disciplined in playing this group in the past and so we want to make sure I do a good job of coaching them up and getting them prepared to play. The talking and the chirping and all that does you really nothing, except hurt you at times. We want them excited and want them amped up and ready to go, again, with our preparation.” —Kentucky head coach Mark Stoops

—”Stay where y’all are at. Don’t come jumpin’ on our bandwagon.” —Kentucky QB Lynn Bowden on his message to Louisville

—“I know we have a bowl game hopefully, but this is bigger. This is bigger than a bowl game right now.” —Kentucky LB Kash Daniel

—“I don’t think there is any denying when you are playing a rivalry game that it is important. I have said that since Day One. I understand the importance to our fan base and our community and our state and our team. It is always important.” —Kentucky head coach Mark Stoops

—“You get one opportunity and one shot for bragging rights throughout the year. I think that’s probably the biggest thing because we’re both in this state and every time you go out in town, you’re potentially going to be around the other fan base. You always want bragging rights and I think it makes for a good offseason for whoever can win this game.” —Scott Satterfield

Card Chronicle Prediction: Louisville 30, Kentucky 27

Let’s shut these dudes up and end one of the most enjoyable regular seasons in a long time with one of the most enjoyable rivalry wins in a long time.

Go Cards.