Battle Of Teams Heading In Different Directions
For the first time since 2019, the Kentucky Wildcats will host Louisville at Kroger Field. Not only is the “Governor’s Cup” up for grabs but both teams are trying to end negative streaks. Let’s look at each squad and give you a prediction as Kentucky tries to stop its slide.
Positives In A Loss
Back on October 1st Kentucky sat at 4-0 and ranked number seven in the country. Since then they’ve limped home going 2-5. No coach will ever talk about “moral victories” but Mark Stoops’ club did just that against Georgia.. They held the Bulldog offense to 363 yards, nearly 150 less than their season average. In addition, Brad White’s defense held UGA to under 20 points, their previous low was 26 against Missouri. This was done with three starters out.
On the other side of the ball, the offense showed some signs of life in the second half. Barion Brown had a monster game with 10 receptions for 145 yards and a score. Another big plus was the return of Will Levis running the ball, something that was last seen on a milk carton. After being so successful in 2021 his rushing skills had been nonexistent in 2022. Another key to victory is a big game from Chris Rodriguez. In two games against the Cards he’s averaged 123 yards rushing.
One important thing for the Wildcats on Saturday is holding onto the ball. The Cardinals rank fifth in the country with a +11 turnover margin forcing 28 miscues while only committing 17. Most notably they forced Sam Hartman and Wake Forest into eight turnovers during a 48-21 rout. For comparison, Kentucky ranks 88th in the nation with a -3 margin forcing 14 turnovers while committing 17. The forecast calls for rainy and windy conditions on Saturday so limiting miscues is a big key.
Peaking At The Right Time
Five games into the season Louisville sat a 2-3 following a bad loss to Boston College. They didn’t quite have the moving trucks parked at Scott Satterfield’s house but things were getting ugly. Since then the Cards have won five of their last six with the only loss coming at Clemson. In fact, they checked in at number 25 in this week’s college football rankings.
Quarterback Malik Cunningham heads the U of L attack. So far he’s thrown for 1,552 yards and eight touchdowns. In addition, he leads the squad with 556 yards on the ground and 11 touchdowns. However, his status for Saturday is up in the air with a shoulder injury. Brock Domann filled in for him during the 25-10 win over NC State and put up some decent numbers. He’s not as much of a running threat as Cunningham but is an efficient passer.
Jawhar Jordan leads the running backs with 555 yards on the year. When the Cards throw the top target is Tyler Hudson. On the year he ranks third in the ACC with 63 receptions and second with 951 yards. Behind him, Ahmari Huggins-Bruce and Marshon Ford have 29 and 28 catches respectively.
On the other side of the ball we talked about the turnover margin but Louisville also leads the nation in sacks with 41, is seventh in red zone defense and 12th in tackles for a loss. Linebacker Mohamed Sanogo is tops on the squad with 79 tackles to go along with 3.5 sacks. Another linebacker Yasir Abdullah leads the conference with eight sacks and four forced fumbles.
Saturday marks the 34th meeting all-time between the two schools. Kentucky leads the series 18-15 and has won three in a row. Before that Louisville won six of the previous seven. In fact, since the series was restarted in 1994 the Cards lead the series 15-12. During UK’s current win streak the Cats have outscored the Cards 153-44.
Last year the Cats had an easy time winning 52-21. Levis had a career night on the ground running for 113 yards and four touchdowns. Overall the Cats gained 513 yards, 364 of that via the run.
This year’s game figures to be much closer as Kentucky tries to stop its slide. The question is can they do it?
Who Wins On Saturday?
As we mentioned in the beginning this is the first time since 2019 that Kentucky and Louisville have played in Lexington. The 2020 game was canceled due to the SEC playing an all-league schedule during the COVID year. Last year they decided to play in Louisville as scheduled.
On paper, every strength of the Cards is a weakness for the Cats. The Cards lead the nation in sacks while Kentucky is fourth worst giving up 40. In fact, they’ve allowed three or more in nine of the 11 games. However looking for positives they didn’t allow a sack to Georgia, arguably the best defense in the country.
You have to go back to Stoops’ first season in 2013 to find the last time Kentucky lost three straight home games. In case you hadn’t heard the UK head man signed a new contract extension keeping him in Lexington through 2031. A win against your in-state rival would go a long way toward easing what’s been a disappointing season. This one likely goes to the wire and the Cats find a way to win.
Thanks for checking out our preview here at Last Word On College Football. We’ll be back after the game with a recap as Kentucky tries to stop their slide.