Game Time: Noon ET
Live Stream: WatchESPN
- 6-5 record
- 84th F+ ranking
- Key players: RB Stanley Williams, RB Benny Snell Jr, Kentucky’s offensive line, safety Mike Edwards, linebacker Jordan Jones
- 9-2 record
- 6th F+ ranking
- Key players: QB Lamar Jackson, RB Brandon Radcliff, linebacker Keith Kelsey, linebacker James Hearns, defensive tackle DeAngelo Brown
The Kentucky Wildcats will make the short drive west on I-64 to face the rival Louisville Cardinals on Saturday at noon. As one-sided as the basketball rivalry has become in Kentucky’s favor, the football rivalry is just as one-sided in the favor of Louisville. The Wildcats have not won the Governor’s Cup since the 2010 season.
In that same time frame, the programs have headed in vastly different directions. UofL’s hiring of Charlie Strong quickly paid dividends, culminating in a 2012 Sugar Bowl victory over Florida. Bobby Petrino has added to that foundation, and UofL was close to making the playoffs this year. In the last five contests, the Cards have easily dispatched its rival, winning by a comfortable average of 12 points.
This year, UK fields its best team since the late Rich Brooks era, and is led by one of the nation’s best rushing attacks. If UK has any hope of winning this game, it is to control the clock by running the ball efficiently thereby limiting Heisman frontrunner Lamar Jackson’s total possessions. UK has the ninth-best rushing offense according to S&P+, but unfortunately for the ‘Cats, UofL has the 21st-ranked rushing defense. UK will likely finds success running the ball, but it will probably be erratic. That probably won’t be enough to keep pace with Louisville’s high-scoring offense, unless UK’s passing offense finds success with play-action.
The wildcard may well be turnovers. Both teams are turnover-prone this season as UK has a -8 turnover margin and UofL has one of -5. Since Mark Stoops took the reins in Lexington, this rivalry has featured its fair share of sloppiness featuring a total of 15 turnovers since 2013. In fact, Kentucky has scored four defensive touchdowns in this game in the last two years, and standing by this season is a Wildcats defense that has forced eight turnovers in the last three weeks.
Louisville is clearly the better team, but if they beat themselves, Kentucky finally has the personnel to risk ending its losing streak.