The Wildcats are favored over the Cardinals by 12 points going into Saturday's game. Most seem to think that Kentucky has the decided advantage at virtually every spot on the field, aside from special teams, where both teams appear to be even. However, Louisville does have talent at their skill positions and quarterback Justin Burke was a highly recruited player coming out of high school.
In their first game, Burke threw for 223 yards mostly to talented receivers Scott Long (68 yards) and Doug Beaumont (69 yards). Both Long and Beaumont are talented players who are capable of making big plays against the Wildcats. Long is the prototypical tall receiver that will make plays on jump balls and by stretching the field for the quarterback. Beaumont can line up in the slot and make life tough for the Wildcats' safeties and linebackers if the matchup materializes.
In the backfield, the Wildcats will have to contend with running backs Victor Anderson and Bilal Powell who combined for 169 yards on 29 carries against the Indiana State Sycamores. Anderson is a smallish back, but if he can bounce it to the outside, he is capable of picking up big yardage. Powell is more a power back who'll pick up yardage between the tackles, but is also capable of reeling off big runs.
Kentucky's defensive backfield will have to continue its outstanding play to hamper any big play opportunities that the Cardinals have. The defensive line will need to stop the run both up the middle and especially to the outside. Kentucky holds an advantage up the middle with Ricky Lumpkin, Corey Peters and Micah Johnson at middle linebacker. The Cardinals will likely test the inexperienced defensive ends by bouncing outside. Sam Maxwell, Danny Trevathan and the corners need to have a big game. The Wildcat defensive ends need to contain the outside runs and push them back inside.
Kentucky will also need a better pass rush than was shown against Miami. Kentucky cannot give Justin Burke time to throw the ball and build confidence in himself and his offense. If the Wildcats can get a consistent pass rush, then it could be a long day for the Cardinal offense.
Offensively the Wildcats need to see Mike Hartline continue to show confidence in his downfield throwing. Receivers Chris Matthews, Randall Cobb and Gene McCaskill all have to continue to make plays for the junior quarterback. Kentucky also needs to keep Mike Hartline's jersey as clean as possible. The senior laden offensive line did a great job against an outmanned Miami team. And the return of Jorge Gonzales will do nothing but help the line against a Louisville defensive line with a lot of questions. While Louisville does return L.T. Walker to the front, how much of a difference will he make?
Not only will pass protection be key for the Wildcats, but run blocking is a must. Kentucky offensive line needs to blow the Card defenders off the ball and open holes for running backs Derrick Locke, Moncell Allen and Alfonso Smith. Louisville needs to find a way to keep Smith and Locke from advancing to the second level of their defense. If they cannot, the Wildcats running game could see some big rushing yardage in this contest.
Kentucky will have a talent advantage over their rival Saturday morning and offensively the Wildcats looked very explosive against the Redhawks. Louisville struggled early against Indiana State, but they managed to pull away before getting a bye-week of their own. All the talk in the media has been about Kentucky dominating the Cards. Louisville will be motivated and if Kentucky comes out sluggish, it could be a close game.
In the end, the home field and the talent level will be too much for Kragthorpe's team.
UK 33 - UL 13
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