10. Fan Support
Though UK will have the home field advantage this Sunday, U of L fans are expected to flock to Commonwealth Stadium en-mass. Some estimates put the potential U of L crowd in Lexington near 15,000 strong. That support should boost the Cardinals on the field during what figures to be an emotional game.
9. Fewer Injuries
Offensive tackle Renardo Foster is the only player Louisville coach Bobby Petrino will be without against Kentucky. Fortunately for Petrino, the Cardinals proved they could win big without the 6-7, 320-pound junior last year. Kentucky, though, has some serious injury problems. Ricky Abren and Jason Leger will both miss Sunday's game, forcing two freshmen into the two-deep at defensive tackle. Running back Tony Dixon, UK's second-leading returning rusher, and tackle Micah Jones, a key reserve on the offensive line, also won't play.
Tinch should play a big role
Joshua Tinch, Broderick Clark, Montrell Jones will give the UK secondary fits all day. That trio combined to make 7 catches for 94 yards and a touchdown last year against the Cats and figure to make a greater impact this season. Mario Urrutia, a 6-6, 220-pound redshirt freshman has caught 8 touchdown passes during three preseason scrimmages and could be a major factor against Kentucky's smaller cornerbacks. Add TE Gary Barnidge, who made four touchdown catches last season, to the mix and Louisville's aerial attack will be a huge weapon for the Cardinals.
7. More Talent
U of L sent six players to the NFL last year. Doesn't matter, the Cardinals still have more talent than the Wildcats. With no fewer than five NFL prospects on defense, and as many as nine on offense, the Cardinals, on talent alone, should prevail. How many NFL prospects will Rich Brooks line up with this weekend? Safety Muhammad Abdulah is one. But check back later on this one because we're still searching for another.
6. Experience Counts
Louisville has beaten UK each of the past two seasons with plenty of true freshmen throughout its two-deep. That won't be the case this year as only one true freshman, cornerback Travis Norton, has played his way onto the two-deep. Rich Brooks, though, isn't as fortunate. Kentucky will open the season with 11 true freshman listed on the two-deep, including Braxton Kelly, who is listed as the starting middle linebacker. Eleven true freshmen + a Top 15 opponent = trouble for UK.
5. Butkus Candidates x 2
Two of U of L's starting linebackers – Brandon Johnson and Abe Brown – are among the best players at their positions in the country. Both have been nominated for the Butkus Award, given annually to the nation's top linebacker. They're both fast, mean and fly to the ball. Johnson also excels in pass coverage. They should help the Cardinals control the middle of the field, and limit UK's effectiveness on the corner.
4. Michael Bush
Bush might be the best pure athletic talent on the field this Sunday. The former Kentucky Mr. Football can do it all. At 6-3, 250-pounds, Bush will challenge UK's defense on the ground with his rushing ability and through the air with his ability to catch the ball out of the backfield. Last year, Bush rushed 14 times for 73 yards and caught 2 passes for 41 yards against the Wildcats. Expect those numbers to be significantly better this time around.
Brohm figures to make a major
impact on the field.
Though Brohm will be making his first start against UK, it's quite possible the former USA Today High School Offensive Player of the Year is the best quarterback this state has ever produced. Yes, Brohm led U of L to their first score against UK last year in his first game. Yes, Brohm completed 67-percent of his passes as a freshman. Yes, Brohm led U of L to a go-ahead score late in the game against Miami. Yes, that's all great stuff. But you haven't seen anything yet.
2. Trench Work
Louisville has one of the top offensive lines in college football, boasting All-American tackle Travis Leffew and future NFL draft picks Jason Spitz and Kurt Quarterman. The Cardinals OL is a big, athletic and experienced unit, averaging more than 315-pounds across the front. The problem for Kentucky? Their biggest defensive lineman is 6-1, 300-pound Myron Pryor – and he's never played a down of college football. Making matters worse for the Cats in the trenches is an offensive line that is still shuffling and searching for answers this week. That's a problem because U of L's defensive front is the unquestioned strength of Mike Cassity's defense. In other words, Kentucky QB Andre Woodson figures to get acquainted frequently with U of L DE Elvis Dumervil and DT Montavious Stanley.
1. Bobby Petrino
Regardless what you think about the way Petrino handles career advancement opportunities, he's without question one of America's best coaches – and probably the college game's top offensive mind. Besides an impressive 20-5 record in two years at U of L, Petrino guided the Cardinals to a #6 ranking last season and has them poised for another memorable season. And don't forget, he's 2-0 against Rich Brooks.