It is looking to be a beautiful Sunday afternoon for football when the Louisville Cardinals and the Kentucky Wildcats battle for the Governor’s Cup in Papa John's Cardinal Stadium. The game starts at 3:30 p.m. ET on ESPN. The weather will depend on which direction Tropical Storm Isaac goes.
Both teams come into the season with different expectations. Louisville is expected to dominate the Big East conference and perhaps head to the Orange Bowl in January. Kentucky, on the other hand, is predicted to struggle through its tough schedule. Athlon Sports Magazine predicts the Wildcats to be last in the SEC East with a record of 4-8.
Kentucky fans are also not very confident in their team; the university returned over 2,000 tickets for the game from their allotted 5,500. Louisville fans later bought the unused tickets in less then 20 minutes.
Sophomore star quarterback Teddy Bridgewater will lead the Cardinals offense with several weapons at the wide receiver position. Bridgewater came into last year's UK game as the backup quarterback, he entered the game after Will Stein went down with a shoulder injury and threw for 126 yards and two touchdowns.
Bridgewater will have a healthier and more talented offensive line protecting him compared to last year. The line will be lead by senior center Mario Benevides, who is up for some of the NCAA's most prestigious awards.
The Cardinals o-line is made up of two seniors and three sophomores. UK's Mister Cobble will be the U of L's biggest worry. The 330-pound defensive tackle is very quick for a big guy and has no trouble using his big body to clog up holes. Louisville's starting offensive line weighs an average of 312 lbs.
Kentucky will come into the game with a lot of issues in the secondary. Freshman Shawn Blaylock, who was expected to get a lot of playing time, had to have season-ending knee surgery, and red-shirt freshman Marcus Caffey is ineligible due to academic issues. Kentucky's defensive coordinator has had to do a lot of moving around position wise.This will be something that U of L's offensive coordinator, Shawn Watson, will be able to exploit through out the game.
Dominique Brown will be the one to watch at the running back position for the Cards. Last year against the Wildcats, he rushed for 91 yards, averaging 6.5 yards a carry. Brown, who was recruited to Louisville as a quarterback and then moved to running back last year, spent the entire offseason working with the running backs. He has put on a lot of muscle and quickness in the offseason, gaining around 10 pounds.
The biggest strength for University of Louisville is their defense, especially on the defensive line." defensive coordinator Vance Bedford said of his guys up front. “Right now, we have a lot of depth. Our defensive line is moving around. For us to have a chance to be successful this year, we have to win up front. If we can do that and control the line of scrimmage up front with the guys we have, with the depth that we have, I am excited.”
Louisville's biggest issue could be the special teams. The Cardinals are very young at the kicker and punter positions. Freshman Josh Appleby is listed at the top of the depth chart as a punter, and it will either be red-shirt freshman John Wallace or Matthew Nakatani as the place kicker.
This year's game between the Cards and Cats has been festering during the offseason between fans and between players. With billboard wars, arguments on Twitter and also players making strong statements against the other team in interviews could cause players to play overly-aggressive and make foolish penalties to start the game.
Morgan Newton's comments about U of L having a soft schedule is taped up on the wall of Louisville's practice facility. Newton, who will be UK's second-string quarterback for Sunday's game, said:
"For Louisville, they don't have to go through the wear and tear that we go through week to week. So this is a big game for them because it's a non-conference game and it'll be competitive for them. You know, they'll end the season whatever and a couple of losses. They just don't play the schedule we play, so it's a big game for them for that reason."
Three Keys To A Louisville Victory
Run the ball! Louisville has four or five running backs that are very talented. If one or two of them are successful, it will make it a lot easier for Teddy Bridgewater to throw the ball.
Keep it simple. Last year, the Cardinals made a lot of mistakes when they got too fancy. They have the talent and the experience to play straight-up football, especially against Kentucky.
Keep the crowd in the game. Papa John's Cardinal Stadium will be packed with Cardinal fans, if U of L can make big plays early and get the Crunch Zone rocking, the noise might be enough to frustrate the visiting Wildcats.
Kentucky leads the all-time series with a record of 14-10. U of L has lead the series since 1994 with a record of 10-8.
Louisville is projected to win by 14 points, according to VegasInsider.com.