Battle of teams going in different directions
For the first time since 2019, the Kentucky Wildcats will host Louisville at Kroger Field. It’s not just about the “Governor’s Cup”, but both teams are trying to end the negative streak. Let’s look at each roster and give you a prediction as Kentucky tries to stem their relegation.
positive in a loss
Back on October 1, Kentucky sat at 4-0 and ranked number seven in the country. Since then they’ve hobbled home at 2-5. No manager will ever speak of “moral victories” but Mark Stoops’ club did just that against Georgia. Additionally, Brad Whites The defense kept UGA under 20 points, their previous low was 26 against Missouri. This happened with three starters out.
On the other side of the ball, the offensive 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 last seen on a milk carton. After being so successful in 2021, his rushing skills were non-existent in 2022. Another key to victory is a great game by Chris Rodriguez. In two games against the Cards, he averaged 123 rushing yards.
Maintaining the ball is important for the Wildcats on Saturday. The Cardinals rank fifth in the country with a +11 turnover margin forcing 28 errors while committing just 17. Most notably, they forced Sam Hartman and Wake Forest into eight turnovers during a 48-21 win. 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 errors is an important key.
climax at the right time
Five games into the season, Louisville prevailed 2-3 after a heavy loss to Boston College. They hadn’t quite parked the moving trucks 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 at Clemson. In fact, they landed at number 25 in college football this week.
Quarterback Malik Cunningham is leading the U of L’s offense. So far he has thrown for 1,552 yards and eight touchdowns. He also leads the roster 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 stepped in for him in the 25-10 win over NC State and posted some decent numbers. He’s not as dangerous as Cunningham, but he’s an efficient passer.
Jawhar Jordan leads running backs at 555 yards a year. When the cards are tossed, Tyler Hudson is the number one target. That 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 turnover margin, but Louisville also leads the nation with 41 sacks, is seventh in red-zone defense and 12th in tackles for a loss. Linebacker Mohamed Sanogo is the leader on the roster with 79 tackles and 3.5 sacks. Another linebacker, Yasir Abdullah, leads the conference with eight sacks and four forced fumbles.
Saturday marks the 34th all-time meeting between the two schools. Kentucky leads the series 18-15 and has won three straight. Before that, Louisville won six of the previous seven. In fact, the cards have led the series 15-12 since the series restarted in 1994. During Britain’s current winning streak, the Cats have topped the map 153-44.
Last year the Cats had an easy time at 52:21. Levis had a career night on the ground, rushing for 113 yards and four touchdowns. Overall, the Cats gained 513 yards, 364 of them on the run.
This year’s game pieces will be much closer as Kentucky tries to halt its slide. The question is, can they?
Who wins on Saturday?
As we mentioned earlier, this is the first time Kentucky and Louisville have played in Lexington since 2019. 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 planned.
On paper, any strength in the Cards is a weakness for the Cats. The cards lead the nation in sacks, while Kentucky is fourth-worst at 40. In fact, they’ve allowed three or more in nine of the 11 games. However, looking for positives, they wouldn’t allow Georgia, arguably the best defense in the country, to be sacked.
You’ll have to go back to Stoops’ first season in 2013 to find out the last time Kentucky lost three straight home games. In case you haven’t heard, the British boss has signed a new contract extension keeping him in Lexington until 2031. A win over your state rivals would go a long way in easing this disappointing season. This one will likely go to the wire and the cats will find a way to win.
Thank you for checking out our preview here at Last Word On College Football. We’ll be back with a post-game recap as Kentucky tries to stem their relegation.
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