Playing against a Top 15 program, Brooks and his staff have very little room for error, especially playing on the road in a hostile environment.
Although the game is the first for the Wildcats, the Cardinals are in the same category in terms of game experience this season. Most coaches indicate that records don't matter. In this instance, the statement is relatively true. Both teams are anxious and ready to bang on someone else other than a teammate during two-a-day drills.
While moving the ball will be a priority, Kentucky's offensive line must protect quarterback Andre Woodson, who was sacked six times last season. Despite getting the brunt of Louisville's defense, Woodson threw for 278 yards against the Cardinals' defense last year. Now that Woodson knows he will be the starter, he no doubt he has confidence in what he can do against the Cards based on last year's totals. Woodson also helped spark a second-half comeback by the Cats, who trailed 24-7 at halftime.
Defense will likely be one of several keys for the Cats. Given Louisville's status as one of the top scoring offenses in the nation, Kentucky did limit the Cards to 388 yards off offense, with most of that yardage coming on the ground.
Led by Heisman Trophy candidate Michael Bush, who ran for 127 yards and a pair scores last year, Louisville ran past Kentucky's defensive line for 209 yards and a pair of scores by Bush. Another telling number a year ago was the fact that Bo Smith, a cornerback, led the Wildcats' defense with 15 tackles. Louisville converted 9-of-15 on third-down conversions.
While the statistical numbers reveal numbers on paper, the team's mental approach is just as important. Although an entire 12-game season doesn't hinge on the first game of the season, it's important that Kentucky performs at a high level and not faced with a massive deficit by halftime.
Last year, Louisville crossed the goal line during four of its first five possessions and built a 28-7 lead at the break.
The end result was a confidence-building comeback, but not a victory. Sometimes the mental approach is just as important as successful execution.