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Game Day: Louisville vs. Kentucky

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Go Cards. Take back the state.

Kentucky v Louisville Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images

LOUISVILLE CARDINALS (6-5, 4-4) vs. KENTUCKY WILDCATS (8-3, 5-3)

Battle for the Governor’s Cup

Game Time: 7:30 p.m.

Location: Cardinal Stadium: Louisville, Ky.

Television: ESPN2

Announcers: Chris Cotter (play-by-play), Mark Herzlich (analyst), and Jalyn Johnson (sideline)

Favorite: Louisville by 3

All-Time Series: Kentucky leads, 17-15

Modern Series: Louisville leads, 15-11

Last Meeting: Kentucky won 45-13 on Nov. 30, 2019 in Lexington

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.

Series History:

Statistics:

Louisville Uniforms:

Kentucky Uniforms:

Louisville Depth Chart:

Relevant Videos:

Excitement Level: 9.4

I think the prevailing thought on this season from the Louisville fan base collectively comes down to what happens in this game. Plus, an opportunity to shut up Kentucky football fans at a time when they’ve never been more chesty.

Game Attire: Red “Kentucky’s State Bird” shirt under red Louisville sweatshirt

If need be, I will go back to the Lamar leap t-shirt at halftime. The pit crew will be ready for the change.

Pregame Meal: No idea

No idea. Sorry. Having a newborn and a toddler has ruined this section in 2021.

Bold Prediction: Louisville blocks a field goal

Two in a row would be a streak.

Justin Marshall TD Alert Level: Violet Red (not very good)

Exact opposite of last week.

Predicted Star of the Game: Malik Cunningham

No point in trying to get wild. Malik should be the best player on the field on Saturday night. If he isn’t, Louisville probably doesn’t win.

About Kentucky:

via Keith Wynne

OFFENSE

Mark Stoops went out and got himself one of them big-play offenses and Kentucky has a completely new identity this year. Stoops hired Liam Coen from Rams in the NFL and he has brought a more balanced and explosive offense to Lexington. Transfers were utilized to plug major holes on the offense and the Cats now have the ability to score with just about anyone.

The biggest transfer for the Cats is Will Levis. The 6-3/232 transfer from Penn State threw four touchdown passes in his first game and the offense has consistently made big plays with him under center. Levis has a big arm and he is mobile enough to extend plays and scramble for first downs. Levis is also really inconsistent when it comes to his accuracy and his decision-making can leave a lot to be desired. The majority of his 11 interce[tions this year have been on throws that he probably shouldn’t have made. As a runner, he also does well to run hard and fight for extra yardage.

Chris Rodriguez continues the tradition of UK having a running back that’s been there forever. The Cats are still a run-heavy offense and Rodriguez is putting up another really good season. Rodriguez is well over 1,000 yards on the season and this new offense takes some of the load off of him. He is only averaging about 18 carries per game this year and he’s making the most of them with a 6+ yard per carry average. He and Kavosiay Smoke combine to make up a very good duo in the backfield. The one issue is that Rodriguez fumbles the ball a lot. It’s a major issue for him that UofL needs to take advantage of.

The wide receiver position looked pretty grim for the Cats before Coen was hired. His hiring coincided with Wan’Dale Robinson transferring home to become Levis’ primary target. Robinson went over 1,000 yards this past weekend and he has a chance to break some UK receiving records this season. They utilize him in multiple ways and Georgia is the only team that’s been able to completely contain him this year. I expect Coen to work Robinson into the offense even more this week with plays that get the ball in his hands running off the edge. Jet sweeps reverses, or even lining him up in the backfield. UofL has had some issues on the edge and UK will try to exploit them.

Josh Ali is the other big factor in the UK passing game. Ali is a veteran receiver who has blossomed with improved quarterback play. He led the team in catches last year but his speed has been a bigger factor this season as the offense has schemed players open more often. Ali also enjoys less attention from defenses due to Robinson’s abilities. He’s made the most of it this season.

The tight end position also deserves some notice as Izayah Cummings has shifted over from receiver and Justin Rigg has become a reliable target who can score at any time in plus territory. Cummings runs well and he’s impressed me with his ability to get open. Rigg is just an all-around good player and he has reliable hands. Both of these guys get plenty of plays where they are the target. UofL can’t focus so much on the receivers that they forget about these guys.

The strength of UK’s offense over the last half-decade has been the offensive line. While the new offense has shifted the focus to the skill positions, the line is still the group that makes the offense go. The Cats still do a good job of avoiding negative plays and they are solid when it comes to protecting Levis. One thing that stood out to me this past weekend was New Mexico State getting free runners on blitzes. Levis was forced to improvise a lot against a very bad team. Maybe that is something UofL can build off of.

DEFENSE

Kentucky will bring a new offensive scheme into the Governor’s Cup this year but the defense will be something that has been a staple for Mark Stoops. The 3-3-5 scheme has contained most opposing offenses for the last handful of years and they have been good again this season. UK looks to stop the run on early downs and then keep everything in front of them in passing situations. While the defense isn’t complicated, it is effective.

All good defenses have strong play up front and UK gets exactly what they want from their defensive line. Marquan McCall is the key at his nose tackle spot. The 6-3/344 senior does a great job eating up blockers and keeping the linebackers clean. He also makes a lot of plays in the backfield that don’t always show up on the stat sheet. McCall has a knack for forcing runs outside of their lane by getting penetration. He doesn’t always make the play but he disrupts things and allows someone else to make the play.

Josh Paschal missed time during his career due to a battle with cancer but he has come back and hasn’t skipped a beat. Paschal is a big defensive end but he is a great athlete and his closing speed has helped him become a real force on his side of the field. With UofL running outside zone so often, Paschal will be a key for UK’s defense.

J.J. Weaver is one of the best players on UK’s defense and he will only get better with more experience. Weaver plays a hybrid outside linebacker/defensive end role and he has been really effective for the Cats this season. The Moore high school product leads the Cats in sacks and he is second in tackles for loss. He also has one of UK’s 5 interceptions on the season. His size is such an asset for him as he can bat down passes and make plays on the edge by utilizing his length. Paschal and Weaver will be big factors in the run game this weekend as they both beat blocks very well. UofL will have to have an answer.

The Cats’ veteran defense is led by Deondre Square and Jacquez Jones who transferred in from Ole Miss. The duo plays behind a line that keeps them very clean and they make the most of it by making a lot of tackles at or near the line of scrimmage. Square plays on the weakside and his athleticism has helped him rack up 9 tackles for loss and 3 sacks. Jones has made a few plays in coverage this year that have been impressive.

Kentucky lost some talent in the back end and they’ve been a little more vulnerable because of it. UK is ranked 89th in opponent passer rating and 116th in opponent completion percentage. Where the Cats have been solid is opponent yards per attempt. UK will give you completions but they do a really good job of containing things. UK is one of the best teams in the country when it comes to limiting big plays. While the secondary doesn’t make a lot of big plays, they get the job done.

The key player in the secondary is Yusef Corker. Corker is third on the team in tackles and he is ranked fourth in the SEC in PBUs. He is a guy that can play in the box as well as cover down the field. Louisville has been able to beat some safeties this year as well as take advantage of play action that moves the safety out of position. I’m not sure how much success they will have with veterans like Corker and Tyrell Aijan on the back end.

Where Louisville may have some success is on the outside against Quandre Mosely and Carington Valentine both have had solid seasons but neither have made a lot of plays on the ball this year. They have combined for 9 PBUs and 1 interception and opposing receivers have done pretty well down the field this year. The overall pass defense is focused on keeping things in front of them. UofL has to find a way to get behind them.

Notable:

—The team that has rushed for more yards has won 22 of the last 24 meetings in this series. Kentucky losing in 2014 and Louisville losing in 2016 are the two exceptions.

—Favorites have won seven of the last eight games and are 17-9 overall in the modern era of the Governor’s Cup rivalry.

—Kentucky has won 14 consecutive non-conference games, the second longest active streak in the country.

—Under Scott Satterfield, Louisville is 14-2 when winning the turnover battle, and just 2-14 when losing it.

—Louisville has gone three consecutive games without turning the ball over for the first time since 2010.

—After turning the football over 24 times in 11 games in 2020, the Cards have given away the football just 12 times in 11 games.

—Kentucky is ranked No. 25 in this week’s USA Today Coaches Poll, but unranked in the Associated Press Poll. The Wildcats have only faced Louisville one time (2018) while nationally ranked by the AP.

—Louisville has been nationally ranked in eight games against Kentucky, but none since 2016.

—Former Louisville catcher Henry Davis, the top pick in the 2021 MLB Draft, will be honored during the first quarter of Saturday’s game.

—The road team has won four of the last five and 16 of the 26 games overall in this series since it resumed in 1994.

—Kentucky is looking to win nine games in a regular season for just the second time since 1977.

—Louisville has scored on 10 of its 12 first-half drives in the last two games, scoring 35 points by halftime in back-to-back games for the first time since doing so in its first four games of 2016.

—Malik Cunningham is the only player in the ACC to rank in the top six in both rushing yards and passing yards.

—This is the second time since 1977 that Kentucky has posted a winning record in league play (also 5-3 in 2018).

—The Kentucky offense has scored a touchdown on its opening possession six times in 11 games this season.

—The team that has scored first has gone on to win 15 of the last 19 times these two teams have met.

—Saturday marks Senior Day for Louisville, and 14 Cardinal seniors will be honored during a ceremony before the game.

—Kentucky has allowed 30 or fewer points in 42 of its past 49 games.

—Kentucky has won the past two meetings in this series by a combined score of 101-23. In those two meetings, the Cats have rushed for 857 yards, including a school-record 517 in a 45-13 win in 2019.

—Over the last two seasons, Louisville has played eight games in which it has out-gained its opponent and still lost. No other FBS program has done this more than five times over the same span.

—In nine of its last 14 losses overall, Louisville has out-gained its opponent.

—Kentucky WR Wan’Dale Robinson has 85 catches this season, tied for second on the UK single-season list. He needs six against Louisville to set a new school record.

—Louisville is a 3-point favorite in this game according to DraftKings Sportsbook. The Cardinals are 5-1 straight up as a favorite so far this season.

—The team that has won the turnover battle has won 15 out of the last 21 games in this rivalry series.

—Louisville and Kentucky didn’t play against one another last season for the first time since 1993.

—Kentucky RB Chris Rodriguez is second in the SEC and 14th nationally in rushing yards per game (104.6), and sixth in the SEC in all-purpose yards (109.7).

—No team has won three consecutive games in this series since Louisville won five straight from 2011-15.

—U of L will be honoring the accomplishments of legendary coach Howard Schnellenberger with a number of celebratory activities throughout the evening.

—The Cardinals have been honoring Schnellenberger, who died on March 27, with a helmet sticker that has been worn for the entirety of the 2021 season.

—Louisville is 6-0 under Scott Satterfield when scoring 40-49 points, and 3-0 when scoring 50 or more.

—In eight seasons as a head coach, Scott Satterfield’s teams are 57-7 when scoring 30 or more points. Louisville is 16-4 in such games under Satterfield.

—Kentucky is 6-5 against Louisville in games played at Cardinal Stadium.

—Kentucky head coach Mark Stoops is 3-4 in games against Louisville.

—Louisville is 158-171-52 all-time during the month of November, with Scott Satterfield posting a 5-5 mark in his first three seasons during the calendar’s 11th month.

—The Cards are 98-79-2 all-time in November home games.

—Louisville is 0-7 under Scott Satterfield when being held to 21 points or fewer.

—Louisville is 0-13 under Satterfield when trailing at the end of the 3rd quarter.

—Louisville is currently riding a consecutive game scoring streak that spans 272 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 11th-longest nationally.

—Louisville is 195-14 all-time when scoring 35 or more points in a game. The Cards are also 6-120 all-time when allowing opponents to score 40 or more points.

Quotable:

“I’ve only played (Kentucky) one time, and the first year I didn’t really know what to expect. didn’t know what kind of rivalry that was, really. I do now.” —Scott Satterfield

—“I don’t know if an L down is going to offend them. There’s going to be a lot worse in this rivalry over time.” —Kentucky head coach Mark Stoops

—“We’re just trying to get that payback for 2019. That was the last chance we got to play them, and we’re just ready to get out there and play.” —C.J. Avery

—“Coach Stoops is doing a great job of letting those younger guys know that this is a rivalry game, and we are doing so as well.” —Kentucky DE Josh Paschal

—”I feel like this whole team knows that this is going to be a dogfight on Saturday. We are ready to compete, and ready to get back to owning the state.” —Kentucky DE Josh Pachal

—”They’re better in all areas than the last time we played them. A good dose of our team, the past two classes haven’t played Louisville, so this rivalry needs to be introduced to a few our players that haven’t been exposed to it and it’s a totally different team than two years ago. We’ll have some ways. We’ll show them some things.” —Kentucky head coach Mark Stoops

—“I know we’re in the state of Kentucky, but hopefully it’s gonna be the state of Louisville on Saturday when we go out there and play.” —Scott Satterfield

GO CARDS