Scout.com/Jeff Drummond

Four Downs: How the Kentucky Wildcats can upset the Louisville Cardinals

Kentucky enters Saturday's Governor's Cup game against Louisville as a hefty 26-point underdog to the Cardinals, who are led by Heisman Trophy favorite Lamar Jackson at quarterback. In this edition of All Wildcats' "Four Downs," we take a look at four ways that UK could pull a shocker.

1. Ground & Pound

The best way to defend Jackson is not to rush him, spy him or cover his receivers. Everybody has tried that. With the exception of Houston, nobody else has come remotely close to stopping him, and many of those teams have equal or better defensive talent than UK. Fortunately for the Wildcats, they are equipped to slow Jackson down without relying solely on defense. It's an age-old, tried-and-true strategy: ball control. Led by dual 1,000-yard rushers Boom Williams and Benny Snell Jr., Kentucky enters the game with the nation's No. 17 rushing attack, much better than anything the Cardinals have faced this season. While UofL boasts the No. 6 rushing defense in the country, it should be noted that the Cards have yet to face anyone ranked better than No. 41 (Florida State) in rushing offense, and many of their opponents have abandoned the running game early after digging a deep hole against Jackson's quick-strike offense. Two teams that unexpectedly gave Louisville trouble this season -- Sagarin No. 67 Duke and No. 85 Virginia -- don't possess the rushing attack that UK does, but were able to control the ball for 37:12 and 32:18, respectively. The Cards average 75 plays per game, but had only 61 in the Duke matchup. Time of possession and total snaps are the key numbers to watch on Saturday.

2. Pressure The QB

That's easier said than done when you've got a quarterback as agile as Jackson, but Houston exposed the UofL offensive line last week with an eye-popping 11 sacks against the shell-shocked Cards. Louisville now ranks 120th out of 128 FBS teams in sacks allowed this season at over three per game. Jackson also showed some signs of wear and tear from a long season with a heavy workload. Consider this: Jackson has more carries this season (209) than both Snell (168) and Williams (146). That's a lot of mileage on a quarterback. Plays that he could have made in the first weeks of the season did not appear as easy in the 36-10 loss. Kentucky needs a huge game from outside backers Denzil Ware (5.5 sacks) and Josh Allen (6.5 sacks), and Mark Stoops needs to have some creative blitz packages ready to throw at the Cards' O-Line. Don't be surprised if the Cats bring multi-level pressure from their corners and safeties. Conventional defense will not get the job done this week. 

3. Win Turnover Margin

This one is a staple of any football analysis when it comes to gauging upset chances. It cannot be overstated. Coughing the ball up has plagued both teams this season. Louisville enters the game 104th nationally at minus-5 on the season; Kentucky is 113th at minus-8. The Cards have been dynamic enough to overcome the miscues in most of their games, but it's not a luxury that the Cats can afford on Saturday. If UK can play mistake-free (as Duke did against UofL) and wind up plus-3 on the day (as Houston did against UofL) the Cats will have a fighting chance. Remember, UK was a similar underdog to No. 1 Alabama and was in a very competitive game before turnovers leading into halftime. 

4. Limit Self-Inflicted Mistakes

Kentucky has been one of the "cleanest" teams in the SEC this season, as coaches like to put it, committing an average of five penalties for 45.7 yards per game. Meanwhile, Louisville ranks 120th nationally, averaging eight penalties for 74 yards in losses per game. Five times this season, the Cards have been in double-figure penalties. Four times, they've been over 100 yards in losses. Between this and the turnover margin, UofL makes a ton of mistakes. But that also tells you how deadly their offense can be. Jackson, on his own, is good enough to overcome a lot of those.


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