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Game Day: Louisville vs. Kentucky

Go Cards.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: SEP 01 Aflac Kickoff Game - Louisville vs Georgia Tech Photo by Rich von Biberstein/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

LOUISVILLE CARDINALS (10-1, 7-1) vs. KENTUCKY WILDCATS (6-5, 3-5)

Game Time: Noon

Location: L&N Stadium: Louisville, Ky.

Television: ABC

Announcers: Joe Tessitore (play-by-play), Jesse Pamer (analyst) and Katie George (sideline reporter)

Favorite: Louisville by 7.5

All-Time Series: Kentucky leads, 19-15

Modern Series: Louisville leads, 15-13

Last Meeting: Kentucky won 26-13 on Nov. 26, 2022 in Lexington

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.

Statistics:

Louisville Depth Chart:

Louisville Uniforms:

Game Day Guide:

Promotions:

Motivational Tweets:

Relevant Videos:

Excitement Level: 9.4

Once again, this feels like more of a fusion of excitement and anxiety than strictly excitement. There are plenty of reasons to feel all the emotions in this moment: Trying to snap the longest UK winning streak of the modern era, trying to beat the Cats at home for the first time since 2014, trying to complete the third 11-1 regular season in program history, trying to extend the 11-game home winning streak, trying to avoid all of the annoyance that would come with a loss. We’re dealing with a lot of serious shit here.

Game Attire: Red Louisville football sweatshirt under red rain jacket

It’s the only red U of L jacket I own. It’s also what I was wearing for the 2014 game.

Gotta do what you gotta do.

Pregame Meal: Trader Joe’s breakfast bar, Cardinale

This will be a very rushed pregame meal.

Bold Prediction: Jack Plummer rushes for a touchdown

Could not have had a bigger miss last week (sorry, Brock), but overall, it’s been a good year for the bold prediction. Let’s finish the regular season strong.

Jeff Brohm Tick Play Alert Level: Neon Carrot (solidly above average)

We keep waiting for the moment, and it just hasn’t happened recently. It feels like these next two weeks should provide ample opportunities.

Predicted Star of the Game: Devin Neal

The only Lexington native on the roster has been a ball hawk all season long. He seals this one, Gerod Holiman style.

About Kentucky:

via Keith Wynne

OFFENSE

Mark Stoops has established a specific identity as Kentucky’s football coach. He wants to win with a strong defense and a strong running game. That hasn’t been the case very much this year as the offense has been more pass-heavy than usual and the defense has struggled against good teams. Liam Coen was brought back to Lexington to get the offense back to where it was two years ago. To say that’s been a failure would be an understatement.

Devin Leary was brought in at quarterback to help continue the success of Will Levis. The former NC State signal-caller has had a rough go of it this year, however. Leary has thrown as many interceptions this season as he had in his last two years at NC State. His completion percentage and other numbers are essentially as bad as they’ve been since his first year as a starter.

It’s hard to pinpoint what the issue is for Leary but I’ve been surprised by how inaccurate he has been. He always impressed me in the past with how he pinpointed throws and made good decisions. This year he has missed on a lot of easy throws and he seems very indecisive in the pocket. The creativity in this offense hasn’t seemed to be what it was during Coen’s last stint but I would be surprised if that doesn’t change this weekend.

Louisville will face another good running back this weekend in Ray Davis. The Vandy transfer has been electric at times for UK. His 280-yard game against a then-ranked Florida team is the type of performance the Cats need to do big things in the conference but he has tailed off since that game. The lack of carries for Davis has been a real issue for the offense as he has only been handed the ball 24 times over the last two games when he got 26 against the Gators.

If there’s one thing I would actually place a bet on, it would be Davis getting more touches this week. The offense has fallen off of a cliff after a solid start to the season. The major reason, in my opinion, is the lack of carries for Davis.

The Cats have a lot of talent on paper at the wide receiver position but this group has not performed well this season. Drops have been a big issue with the timing of the drops really standing out. The receivers also haven’t made many big plays throughout the season which makes it a bit easier to defend the run from a defensive standpoint. With the speed and size that this group has, you would just expect more.

With that being said, these guys have genuine talent and can be dangerous when they get the ball. Barion Brown is still super fast and he has shown that he can get behind a defense. Dane Key is the deep threat with his size and ability to make contested catches. Tayvion Robinson is the veteran possession guy but he is very quick with the ball in his hands and can turn a short catch into a long one. I think this group is where the creativity will come from. I’m expecting speed sweeps, reverses, and trick plays to get the ball in their hands to make plays.

The Kentucky offensive line has been a major part of the offensive identity under Stoops but for the second straight year, the group has not lived up to expectations. The Cats added players from the portal this offseason but they still aren’t where they had been a few years ago. Leary is under pressure a good amount with some of that being of his own doing. The run blocking has impressed me but they do have a lot of plays stop at the line or for a loss. I’m not sure there’s much of an advantage for Louisville here but the Cards’ run defense needs to revert back to what it was before the Miami game.

DEFENSE

As Mark Stoops worked to develop an identity on the offensive side of the ball, he carved out a specific way of doing things on the defensive side of the ball. Stoops wants to stop the run and he wants his defense to keep everything in front of it in the pass game. The first part of that equation has been pretty solid this year but UK’s pass defense has struggled to stop just about anyone. Louisville will be another team that has the tools to test this defense.

Stoops has invested in one thing throughout his time at Kentucky and that’s massive defensive tackles. Deone Walker may be the best he’s had yet. Walker leads UK in just about everything but tackles and watching him play is like watching the kid who was always way bigger than everyone else in Pop Warner. He bulldozes offensive linemen on a regular basis and he has the speed and quickness to chase things down once he’s in the clear. It will be a fun matchup between him and UofL’s interior line.

J.J. Weaver is the key player on the edge for Kentucky and the veteran pass rusher has fallen off a bit after a strong season in 2021. Weaver has 5.5 tackles for loss on the season and 4 sacks. However, you’d like to see his numbers improve after his breakout sophomore year.

The middle of the UK defense has been exceptional again this year with D’Eryk Jackson leading the way. He and Trevin Wallace make a lot of plays in the run game but they’ve also done really well in pass coverage as well as pursuing plays after the catch. Jackson had a very nice pick-six a few weeks back and Wallace made a big hit on a short pass early in the season that led to a fumble recovery for a score. These guys are super active and they can run well.

The top player on the Kentucky defense this year is Maxwell Hairston. The Sophomore cornerback leads the SEC in interceptions and he is second in the country with five on the season. He has also returned two of those picks for touchdowns. Hairston is a big corner with exceptional ball skills and instincts. With UK’s scheme, he doesn’t have to have great speed but his length has definitely helped him in coverage down the field.

The opposite side of the field is not so great for the Cats. Andru Phillips is putting up some horrendous numbers in coverage. He’s allowing 71% of targets against him to be completed with 4 touchdowns given up and he’s only forced two incompletions per PFF. This is a matchup that Louisville has to exploit.

The safety position is pretty young for UK but Zion Childress has been a productive player. Childress has been good in run support as well as in coverage and he fits what they like to do with their safeties jumping routes across the middle and breaking up or picking off passes. I would expect him to be a factor this week if UofL continue to try to include the tight ends as they did against Miami.

Notable:

—Louisville has won 11 consecutive home games. It’s tied for the third-longest home winning streak in program history and the fourth-longest active home winning streak in the country.

—A win over Kentucky would make Louisville 7-0 at home for the first time in program history. A 12th straight home victory would be the second-longest streak in program history.

—Louisville is one win away from the third 11-1 regular season in program history, and its first since 2012.

—Kentucky has won 19 consecutive regular season games against non-conference opponents. The Wildcats haven’t lost a non-bowl game to a non-SEC opponent since their loss to Louisville in 2017.

—Kentucky has won the past four meetings in this series by a combined score of 179-57.

—Kentucky has never won five consecutive games in the modern era of the rivalry.

—Louisville’s longest streak in the rivalry is five consecutive wins from 2011-15.

—During its 11-game home winning streak, Louisville has covered the spread in all but one of their victories (two weeks ago against Virginia).

—The home team in this series is 3-10-1 against the spread over the last 14 meetings.

—Favorites have won eight of the last 10 games and are 18-10 overall in the modern era of the Governor’s Cup rivalry.

—Louisville has four come from behind victories this season, its most in a season since 2012.

—The road team has won five of the last seven and 17 of the 28 games overall in this series since it resumed in 1994.

—Louisville is 5-8 all-time in home games against Kentucky and have lost three straight against the Wildcats at L&N Stadium, The Cards have not beaten UK at home since 2014.

—Kentucky is ranked fourth in the SEC and 40th in the nation in total defense, 347.8 yards per game. The Wildcats are second in the SEC and 20th nationally in run defense, allowing 109.6 yards per game.

—Kentucky has four defensive touchdowns this season, tied for fourth in the nation.

—Louisville is No. 10 in this week’s College Football Playoff rankings and No. 9 in the AP top 25 poll, marking the 10th time 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 team that has scored first has gone on to win 17 of the last 21 times these two teams have met.

—Louisville has won five one possession games so far this season, its most in a season since 2015.

—Louisville is 11-15 all-time in games on the ABC Network, and 2-0 this season (Notre Dame and Miami).

—Kentucky is 6-5 against Louisville in games decided by eight points or less.

—Louisville has held each of its last 14 opponents scoreless on their first offensive drive of the game. The Cards have scored on their opening drive eight times in that span, seven times with a touchdown.

—Kentucky has held eight of its last 12 opponents under 100 yards rushing.

—The team that has rushed for more yards has won 23 of the last 26 meetings in this series. Kentucky losing in 2014 and Louisville losing in 2016 and last season are the three exceptions.

—Louisville is 11-15 all-time in games on the ABC Network. The Cards defeated Notre Dame, 33-20, on the network earlier this season.

—Louisville is a 7.5-point favorite in this game, according to DraftKings Sportsbook. It’s the 10th time in 12 regular season games that the Cards have been favored. Louisville is 8-1 straight up as a favorite so far this season.

—Kentucky has six players from the city of Louisville on its roster: TE Izayah Cummings, DBs Elijah Reed and Jackson Schulz, LB J.J. Weaver, RB La’Vell Wright and FB Jack Varga.

—Louisville has just one player on its roster from the city of Lexington: Safety Devin Neal.

—Kentucky RB Ray Davis is ranked first in the SEC and third in the nation with 17 total touchdowns in 2023.

—Davis is 10 rushing yards away from 1,000 yards rushing in 2023. Should he reach that mark, he would be the 11th Wildcat in program history with 1,000 yards rushing in a season.

—Louisville RB Jawhar Jordan became the school’s 23rd 1,000-yard rusher when he eclipsed the mark during last week’s win over Miami.

—Kentucky DB Maxwell Hairston has five interceptions, which leads the SEC and is tied for second in the nation.

—Kentucky QB Devin Leary, a transfer from NC State, is 1-1 as a starting quarterback against Louisville. He has never faced the Cardinals at L&N Stadium.

—The team that has won the turnover battle has won 17 out of the last 23 games in this rivalry series.

—Kentucky ranks 100th nationally in penalties.

—Louisville is 21-42-1 all-time in games against SEC opponents.

—Louisville has lost three in a row against teams from the SEC, with its last win coming in 2019 — a 38-28 win over Mississippi State in the Music City Bowl.

—Louisville wide receiver Kevin Coleman has caught a pass in 11-straight games — the only player on the roster to do so this year.

—Kentucky head coach Mark Stoops is 5-4 in games against Louisville after beginning his career 1-4.

—This will be Louisville head coach Jeff Brohm’s first game as a head coach against Kentucky. Brohm also never faced the Wildcats during his time as a quarterback for U of L.

—After taking Purdue to the Big Ten Championship Game last season, Jeff Brohm became the first coach in college football history to take two different Power Five programs to conference championship games in consecutive years when Louisville locked up its spot in the ACC title game last weekend.

—Louisville has outscored its opponents 83-21 in the first quarter so far this season. Pitt and Miami are the only two Cardinal opponents to score in the opening frame.

—Kentucky is 51-213-5 all-time against ranked opponents.

—The Wildcats are 1-3 against top 25 foes so far this season, and 0-2 against top 10 opponents.

—Kentucky is 4-5 all-time against ranked Louisville teams.

—Louisville is 48-8 all-time and 4-0 this season in home games when playing as a team ranked in the AP top 25 poll.

—Louisville is 19-0 over the past five seasons when shutting out its opponent in the first quarter.

—Louisville has held five of its last seven opponents to under 100 yards rushing.

—Louisville has won 32 of its last 33 games when holding teams to less than 300 yards of offense. Its only loss in such a situation came earlier this season against Pittsburgh.

—Kentucky is second in the SEC and 20th nationally in run defense, allowing 109.6 yards per game. The Wildcat defense has allowed the third fewest explosive run plays in the country.

—Louisville is 119-45 all-time at L&N Stadium.

—Louisville is averaging 38.2 points per game at home this season.

—The Louisville defense is allowing just 12.5 points per game at home and has shutout two opponents.

—Louisville is 163-174-52 all-time during the month of November.

—Louisville has gone over 400 yards of offense in four of its six home games this season.

—Louisville is 84-29 all-time and 5-1 this season when playing as a team ranked in the AP Top 25 poll.

—Louisville has won 14 straight games when holding its opponent scoreless in the first half.

—Jeff Brohm is the first coach in Louisville football history to win 10 games in his first season.

—Louisville’s six plays of 70 yards or more this season are the most of any team in the country.

—Louisville has won the coin toss in nine of its 11 games so far this season. The Cardinals have deferred and gotten a defensive stop after all nine coin toss victories.

—Since 2019, Louisville is 26-4 when winning the turnover battle, and just 4-19 when losing it. The Cardinals have lost the turnover battle jus twice this season: In their lone loss of the year (at Pitt) and in last week’s win at Miami.

—Louisville is currently riding a consecutive game scoring streak that spans 298 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 201-14 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.

Quotable:

—“It’s a one game season and I think we all know what’s coming up. It’s a rivalry game against a really good, talented opponent that’s well coached and that’s won a lot of games against our program over the last four years. So we’ve got to get back to work and really understand what this game means. It means a lot to not only our team, but to our fan base and to our program, and we’ve got to find a way to have a great week of practice and work really hard to try to come out with a win.” —Jeff Brohm

—“I never liked Louisville, even while I was getting recruited. just don’t like the Cardinals. Their fans are kind of snobbish. Their players act entitled. A lot of pent up aggression toward them.” —Kentucky DL Deone Walker

—“Our players really have to be disciplined. The intensity level is always elevated. We have to handle that. The bottom line is execution. We have to execute in critical moments. The intensity level will be there. I want us to play well.” —Kentucky head coach Mark Stoops

—“It was a big thing for us accomplishing one of our goals for the season, but I think Coach Brohm has done a really good job of instilling in us this one game season (mindset), and just being able to kind of reset our focus after we get back on campus or after the game is over. We celebrated it, and we’re really happy about the game, but I think we’ve already turned the page and really have all our focus on this next game.” —Bryan Hudson

—“It’s one of those things I think there’s probably a mutual respect for where both teams are at because of us winning the majority of the games recently but them having a better record and ranking ... We need to go in there and focus on us and compete. But also, we need to go in there with our hair on fire and have the right mentality and attitude of going in, on the road again, to go play a very quality opponent.” —Kentucky offensive coordinator Liam Cohen

—“After we let the last win (at Miami) sink in, we had to explain to our team yesterday in a lot of different ways that that needs to be erased for a full week and the full focus needs to be on this game, because in my opinion, this is the most important game of the rest of the season. So we can talk about it all we want, this is the most important game, and our guys need to understand that preparing and trying to win this game needs to be the complete focus. If we want to make our fans happy, and give them a good Thanksgiving, we’ve got to go win the game.” —Jeff Brohm

—“Well, it’ll be a big win for us. It’s the last game of the year. It’s been a tough stretch, without a doubt, but this is another game. It certainly doesn’t salvage some of the things that we’ve done or anything like that, we don’t look at it that way, we look at it like it’s another opportunity. We play a lot of big games here. This one, I’ve said it from the moment I walked in here that it was important. I know the importance of it to our fan base and to the community and I’ve acknowledged that for 11 years.” —Kentucky head coach Mark Stoops

—“Within a rivalry game it’s also about keeping composure. You’ve got to play smart, you’ve got to execute, but having a little fire in the belly is a good thing.” —Kentucky defensive coordinator Brad White

—“I’m looking forward to Saturday’s game. I would desperately like to keep that trophy here. It has been here for a while and I hope it stays here.” —Kentucky head coach Mark Stoops

—”If you live in this city, if you live in this town, if you live in this state, this game is the most important game of the year. The University of Louisville hasn’t won this game in the recent past, and it’s time that we try to find a way to win this game. This fan base wants to win against Kentucky. It’s a rivalry that is probably more powerful than people think outside of this state. And we have to find a way to win.” —Jeff Brohm

Card Chronicle Prediction: Louisville 31, Kentucky 23

It’s time.

Odds/lines subject to change. T&Cs apply. See draftkings.com/sportsbook for details.