KEYS TO THE GAME
The Cardinals enter the season with a lot of expectations. U of L was picked as the Big East Conference favorite and there's been talk of a BCS Bowl bid.
But first – as head coach Charlie Strong has been saying – the Cardinals have to do something on the field. U of L won its final six conference games last season before losing in the Belk Bowl to North Carolina State.
The Cardinals return 18 starters, including 10 on defense, but still have a bunch of younger kids in the lineup. U of L played 11 true freshmen last season, including quarterback Teddy Bridgewater and receiver Eli Rogers.
The potential is there but now the Cardinals have to do it on the field.
"We're just not good enough yet to turn the switch on and off," Strong said. "We have to understand the expectations are high but preparation is the key to fulfilling those expectations. We have to pay attention to the small details.
The Wildcats are coming off back-to-back losing seasons in the first two years of the Joker Phillips-era and the pressure is beginning to mount.
Phillips needs to win this season to stay off the hot seat.
UK only has five starters back on defense, while sophomore quarterback Maxwell Smith will get the start after starting three games last season.
Offensive linemen Matt Smith and Larry Warford also return, along with tailback Coshik Williams and receiver La'Rod King.
"We're similar in a lot of ways," Strong said. "They have a lot of young guys that will be playing and we have a lot of young guys."
The game marks the 25th meeting between the two rivals.
Kentucky leads the overall series 14-10, but U of L has a 10-8 lead since the two schools resumed play in 1994.
U of L's 24-17 win last year snapped a four-game winning streak in the series by the Wildcats. U of L hasn't won at home since the 2006 game and is 3-6 at home against the Wildcats (3-4 at Papa John's Cardinal Stadium).
**The Cardinals are ranked No. 25 in the Associated Press poll. It marks the first time U of L takes the field as a ranked team since 2007.
**The Cardinals have a roster with just 10 seniors, which makes the Cardinals' senior class the ninth smallest in Division I football.
**The Cardinals are 10-4 in season-openers at Papa John's Cardinal Stadium and 49-39-5 overall in openers, including wins in 10 of the past 13.
**U of L sold a record 43,500 football season tickets and have a chance to break the stadium record of 55,327 in today's game.
**UK has an all-time record of 83-33-5 in season openers, including a 13-17-1 mark in season-openers away from home.
**UK has won five straight season-openers and a sixth in a row would mark the school's longest streak since eight in a row ended in 1994.
**UK's all-time record against ranked teams is 39-182-5. The Wildcats last win over a ranked team on the road came in 2002 at No. 17 Louisville.
**In two years under Phillips, UK is 8-1 when winning the turnover margin.
KEY INDIVIDUAL STATISTICS
**QB Teddy Bridgewater (191 of 292 passing, 2,129 yards, 14 TDs).
**WR DeVante Parker (18 catches, 291 yards, 6 TDs).
**S Hakeem Smith (84 tackles, 1 INT, 1 fumble recovery).
**QB Maxwell Smith (84 of 153 passing, 819 yards, 4 TDs).
**RB CoShik Williams (118 carries, 486 yards, 2 TDs).
**WR La'Rod King (40 passes, 598 yards, 7 TD).
WHO WILL GET THE WIN
LOUISVILLE WINS IF . . .
The defense is as good as advertised. The Cardinals held the Wildcats to 35 yards rushing last season and the defensive line is bigger, faster, deeper this time around. U of L will try to keep Maxwell Smith off balance and out of kilter. On offense, the Cardinals will be fine as long as Teddy Bridgewater stays calm, doesn't force the issue and just plays his game.
KENTUCKY WINS IF . . .
The Wildcats can contain the Louisville offense and win the battle of the trenches. Kentucky has to establish a running game and give Maxwell Smith a little time in the pocket. If UK can do that, it puts more pressure on the U of L secondary. On defense, the secondary has to keep DeVante Parker out of the end zone.
PLAYING IN THE RAIN
The weather is supposed to be wet but the U of L players said it really didn't matter. For the record, the surface at Papa John's is a FieldTurf surface.
"Defensive mind, it makes you think they're going to run it more," U of L linebacker Preston Brown said. "You just have to make tackles all wet and slippery. We can't miss tackles. Personally, I like it.
U of L head coach Charlie Strong: "The key thing for our football team is just to continue to work. Just don't get caught up in the noise in the system. The expectations are there, we can't hide from them. We just have to go play."
JODY DEMLING'S PICK
Louisville 24, Kentucky 10
ENJOY THE GAME!