LOUISVILLE CARDINALS (7-4, 4-4) at KENTUCKY WILDCATS (6-5, 3-5)
Battle for the Governor’s Cup
Game Time: 3 p.m.
Location: Kroger Field: Lexington, Ky.
Television: SEC Network
Announcers: David Neal (play-by-play), Deuce McAllister (analyst) and Andraya Carter (sideline)
Favorite: Kentucky by 3
All-Time Series: Kentucky leads, 18-15
Modern Series: Louisville leads, 15-12
Last Meeting: Kentucky won, 52-21, on 11/27/21 in Louisville
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.
Louisville Depth Chart:
Excitement Level: 8.5
Pregame Meal: Thanksgiving leftovers
We’re still going strong over here.
Bold Prediction: James Turner hits three field goals
Don’t ask me how I knew about last week. I just knew. Don’t worry about it.
Rance Conner Interception Alert Level: Gold (low)
You’d think gold would be good, but don’t question the alert level’s methodology.
Predicted Star of the Game: Yasir Abdullah
He’s been this team’s best player all season long, so it would only be fitting.
Mark Stoops has Scott Satterfield’s number over the last few years, mostly due to his offense performing at an insane level. The Cats haven’t had an overly-impressive offensive system compared to other opponents on the Cards’ schedule but when this game arrives, they look like Steve Spurrier is calling the shots. The Cats have been inconsistent on offense this year and flat-out bad at times but all of that goes out of the window with the rivalry.
We’re going to hear about Will Levis all week so I guess I should just get it started. Levis is an NFL talent with prototype build and arm talent. He also has the type of athleticism that teams are looking for as he can extend plays and pick up first downs with his legs when needed. Levis has been talked about as the potential top pick in the draft this spring and his tools are why that hype hasn’t gone away. However, he hasn’t had the season most expected.
Levis has had issues with turnovers this season and his accuracy has been an issue in key moments. Levis has also battled injuries which we will hear about nonstop on Saturday and those injuries have been a factor in his play. He hadn’t been able to run the ball much before the Georgia game last week but Mark Stoops confirmed that they are back to calling designed runs for him. Levis is also playing behind a poor offensive line which has made it hard to take advantage of his big arm.
The expectations are high for Levis but just because he hasn’t met them doesn’t mean he can’t have a big game this weekend.
Kentucky had some sort of NCAA issue this summer and Chris Rodriguez was at the center of it after his DUI arrest in the spring. Even though he had these off-the-field issues, there was no question that he would be a part of the team this year. He came back after a suspension and he has picked up where he left off last season. Rodriguez is averaging just over seven missed tackles forced per game per PFF. He is the best power back in the country and he makes it very hard to contain him because he can break tackles and take off for big gains.
The UK running game struggled without Rodriguez but they do have serviceable backups. Kavosiey Smoke is a veteran option and JuTahn McClain has good speed and they can do enough to spell the starter in their backup roles.
Kentucky has been very good at the wide receiver position over the last few years with at least one NFL-level talent to rely on. That hasn’t been the case this year, but the group as a whole has been very effective and they are very fast and explosive. Barion Brown is the top threat in the group and he has legit track speed that he has shown off plenty of times this year. He is fifth in the country in all-purpose yards per play and a lot of that comes from his skills as a kick returner. UofL should literally kick it out of bounds instead of kicking to him if needed.
Dane Key and Tayvion Robinson round out the group and both can take the top off of a defense. Key is the big outside threat and he has made a handful of contested catches this year. Robinson has stepped into the slot role that has been so productive and he has been solid. Any of these guys can go off for a big game so UofL will have to continue to contain the big plays in the passing game.
The UK offensive line has been known for great play for years now but they have struggled after losing their coach to a head coaching position. Having to replace their starters with a new coach coming in seems to have caused an issue as the Cats haven’t blocked the run extremely well. They are also pretty abysmal when it comes to pass blocking as they have given up 40 sacks o the season. This group has had flashes of being able to help the offense move the ball but the bad moments have been quite bad. UofL should have an advantage here but the rivalry makes this game unpredictable.
Kentucky has been known for its defense during the Mark Stoops era and that is no different this year. Brad White has done a great job of taking this defense from being good to very good during his time as the defensive coordinator and I am fascinated by how he does it. UK has flat-out poor havoc numbers but they are still fielding one of the best past defenses in the country. The Cats have some flaws as they have given up some big rushing performances, but this defense keeps them in most games.
Kentucky has stockpiled a defensive line full of big guys who can eat up blocks and make it to get movement from your offensive line. This year’s team hasn’t been as impactful from a havoc standpoint but they allow the linebackers to run free and make plays. This group only has a few tackles for loss on the year and I think it is an issue that plays a big role in the overall performance of the defense. Teams that have been able to get positive yards running the football have come away with wins.
The linebackers are the most impressive group, in my opinion. They have a veteran group with solid depth that is led by J.J. Weaver on the outside. The 6-5/242 edge has been a very good player for the Cats even though his numbers are down this season. He provides a long and athletic edge defender who can help contain speedy players. Jordan Wright is on the opposite side of the defense and these two combine to make up a really good edge duo who can do a bit of everything.
Wright is going to be a key player in this game as he plays to the field side which is where UofL will likely run more outside zone. He is also used frequently as an edge rusher in passing situations as well as the third down lineman in their nickel package. At 6-5/231, he is another long athlete that is hard to get around on the edge.
Deandre Square has missed some time this year but he is this week’s winner of the “He’s Definitely Going To Be Healthy For UofL” award. Square is on the depth chart this week after being out for the last three games. He is the best player on this defense from a production and experience standpoint and he is the type of vocal leader this defense can feed off of. Square is perfect in this defense because he can run and he doesn’t miss a lot of tackles. With the defensive line eating up blocks, he can make a lot of plays.
The leading tackler for the defense is D’Eryk Jackson. He and Trevin Wallace provide some very good depth and playmaking ability in the middle. Wallace is one of the highest-rated recruits in UK history while Jackson is a steady player who has great size and tackles extremely well.
Kentucky has been extremely consistent in the secondary during Stoops’ time in Lexington. They have fielded a group of big corners who can be physical in coverage and safeties who can tackle well. Carrington Valentine and Keidron Smith are two of the most experienced corners that UofL have seen this season and they both have shown that they can make plays for the defense. Smith is a transfer from Ole Miss who had seven tackles against the Cards last year. He is a long player who doesn’t have great speed but he does know how to use his length to his advantage.
Safety is another deep position for the Cats with Jordan Lovett pushing his way into the starting lineup as a redshirt freshman. Lovett was one of the recruits that I really wanted to see UofL get out in the state but he didn’t show much interest. He was a ballhawk in high school but he has racked up a lot of tackles for the Cats this season. Tyrell Aijan is the veteran of the group and provides a solid all-around option in the back end.
—Kentucky enters Saturday’s game with a 19-game win streak against non-conference opponents, the longest active streak in the nation.
—The team that has rushed for more yards has won 23 of the last 25 meetings in this series. Kentucky losing in 2014 and Louisville losing in 2016 are the two exceptions.
—Louisville leads the nation in sacks with 41 after recording five in its win over NC State last week. The Cards need 10 more sacks in their final two games to break the school mark of 50 set during the 2000 season.
—Favorites have won seven of the last nine games and are 17-10 overall in the modern era of the Governor’s Cup rivalry. Louisville was a slight favorite in last year’s game and lost by 31.
—Kentucky has won the past three meetings in this series by a combined score of 153-44.
—In those three wins over Louisville, the Cats have rushed for 1,219 yards, including a school-record 517 in the 45-13 win in 2019. That’s an average of 406.3 rushing yards per contest.
—The Kentucky defense enters Saturday ranked 19th in the nation in both scoring defense and total defense.
—Louisville leads the country with an average of 2.55 turnovers gained per game. The Cards have forced 28 in 11 games this year.
—Louisville is 3-0 this season when holding the opposition to less than 300 yards of total offense and 10-0 during Scott Satterfield’s tenure at Louisville. The Cards have won 27 games in a row when holding teams to less than 300 yards of offense.
—Louisville is No. 25 in this week’s College Football Playoff rankings, marking the ninth time (and the first time since 2016) the Cardinals have carried a national ranking into the Battle for the Governor’s Cup.
—Kentucky has been nationally ranked for two games against Louisville — in 2018 and 2021.
—The road team has won five of the last six and 17 of the 27 games overall in this series since it resumed in 1994.
—The Kentucky roster has 12 players from the city of Louisville TE Izayah Cummings, OLB J.J Weaver, CB Elijah Reed, DB Jackson Schulz, RB La’Vell Wright, FB Jack Varga, LS Jordan Morrow, DT Alex Bascom, DT Richard Bascom, OT John Young, OL Kiyaunta Goodwin and WR Tae Tae Crumes.
—The Louisville roster has no players from Lexington.
—The team that has scored first has gone on to win 16 of the last 20 times these two teams have met.
—Louisville is outscoring its opposition 164-89 in the second half of games this season, including 85-38 in the third quarter.
—Louisville is tied for 10th nationally in interceptions with 15.
—Louisville is a 3-point underdog in this game according to DraftKings Sportsbook. The Cards are 7-4 against the spread this season and 2-2 straight up as an underdog.
—The team that has won the turnover battle has won 16 out of the last 22 games in this rivalry series.
—Under Scott Satterfield, Louisville is 19-4 when winning the turnover battle, and just 3-17 when losing it.
—The Cards have turned the football over nine times in their four losses this season and seven times in their seven victories.
—Kentucky RB Chris Rodriguez Jr. needs 350 yards to move into first place on Kentucky’s career rushing yards list.
—Louisville is 160-173-52 all-time during the month of November, with Scott Satterfield posting a 7-7 mark in his first three seasons during the calendar’s 11th month.
—Kentucky will honor 28 seniors during pregame Senior Day ceremonies.
—A fourth straight win for Kentucky would equal its longest winning streak during the modern era of this series. Louisville’s longest streak is five consecutive wins from 2011-15.
—Kentucky has held 14 of its last 15 opponents to 24 points or fewer.
—Over Scott Satterfield’s first four seasons at Louisville, 15 of his 45 games have been decided by one possession or less. The Cardinals are 5-10 in those games. Louisville is 2-7 under Satterfield in games decided by five points or fewer.
—Kentucky QB Will Levis is ranked fifth in the SEC and 27th in the nation in passing efficiency (150.1 rating points), while he is seventh in the league and 29th in the nation in completion percentage (65.91).
—Louisville is 1-17 under Scott Satterfield when trailing going into the fourth quarter. Their lone victory came last month when they outscored Pitt 17-0 in the fourth quarter on their way to a 24-10 win over the Panthers.
—Louisville is 22-6 when leading after three quarters under Satterfield.
—Louisville is 10-9 all-time against Kentucky in games played in Lexington. The Cardinals have won five of their last six meetings against the Wildcats at Kroger Field.
—Kentucky head coach Mark Stoops is 4-4 in games against Louisville.
—Louisville head coach Scott Satterfield is 0-2 against Kentucky.
—Louisville is 8-0 under Scott Satterfield when scoring 40-49 points, and 3-0 when scoring 50 or more.
—Louisville is 1-10 under Scott Satterfield when being held to 21 points or fewer, with their lone win coming earlier this season in a 20-14 triumph over UCF.
—Louisville is currently riding a consecutive game scoring streak that spans 285 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 10th-longest nationally.
—Louisville is 197-14 all-time when scoring 35 or more points in a game. The Cards are also 6-121 all-time when allowing opponents to score 40 or more points.
—”We hear about it throughout the whole year. No matter where we go, if there’s some fan from either side, they will a lot of the times make a comment about it. It’s obviously a huge game and one you want to try to go get so we don’t have to hear some of that stuff again all season.” —Scott Satterfield
—“They are playing very confident, they’re playing together, they’ve got a lot of veteran players who have played together for a while up front. They’re playing very well. Outside of Clemson, people have really struggled against them.” —Kentucky offensive coordinator Rich Scangarello
—“Most people around the facility know this is a big rivalry. They’re going to try to do a lot of extra stuff, just don’t let that get to you. Just put your performance on the field. That’s how you talk back to them.” —Kentucky linebacker Jordan Wright
—“It’s going to be about composure. And that’s, whether it’s Senior Day, whether it’s rivalry, the team that can stay composed, stay focused on the job at hand and not let their emotions get the best of them, they can let those emotions fuel them but not overtake them.” —Kentucky defensive coordinator Brad White
—”I think anytime you get overly emotional in a situation like this, it takes away from the play. We have to worry about us, we have to worry about our guys and play for the ones beside you. That’s who we’re playing for. Focus on your job and not anything else. Let’s let the fans and everybody else do all that stuff. Let’s focus on what we have to do, which is our job each and every play, and play focused. So, we’re talking about that this week, but I know guys are going to be emotional. We have to channel it in the right direction. I thought we got sideways on that one last year and kind of got us out of our game.” —Scott Satterfield
—“This year, we most definitely have played up to the standards that we’re looking for (in terms of physicality). Hopefully that can continue this week. We’re just going out and competing each and every day, and each and every down, and I think, schematically, our players are in the right spots majority of the time. Hopefully we can continue that this weekend.” —Bryan Brown
—“It means a lot for me, an in-state kid. You’ve got to win it. The fans care about this game right here, so we’ve got to win it.” —Kentucky LB JJ Weaver
—“We’re in the state of Kentucky. There’s a lot of people running around this state that bleed that color, blue, and there’s people in this city that bleed that color, blue. We represent all the people that bleed red and Cardinal Nation and so, there’s a lot of things that go into that game.” —Scott Satterfield