When most sports fans think about the Kentucky Wildcats and Louisville Cardinals playing they probably picture a game on the hardwood before one on the gridiron. In recent years, however, this rivalry has undoubtedly become more relevant in football. In 2014, this tilt was moved from being played annually near the beginning of the season to the traditional rivalry weekend following Thanksgiving.
We’ve seen some pretty exciting and high stakes games since it’s been moved to November. In 2016, the Cats defeated the soon to be Heisman winner, Lamar Jackson as 27 point underdogs on the road. Last season, Kentucky entered with an outside shot at a New Year’s Six bowl. Beyond this, these are two teams and fan bases that have an underrated vitriol towards each other. So what does 2019’s battle for the Governor’s Cup have in store?
Both teams come in already bowl eligible, but this is especially impressive for Louisville after their disastrous 2-10 campaign in 2018. First year coach Scott Satterfield has led the Cards to a 7-4 record to this point that almost no one predicted prior to the season. Two of those four losses were to top ten teams as well in Notre Dame and Clemson.
What Kentucky has done this season deserves some praise as well. After losing their first two QBs on the depth chart within the first five games of the season, the Cats have amassed a 6-5 record with converted wide receiver, Lynn Bowden Jr. under center. Eddie Gran has had to completely convert the offense to a power run scheme with option elements. Bowden has not attempted more than 15 passes in a game.
The forecast calls for a 90 percent chance of rain in Lexington on Saturday and this certainly favors Kentucky. Louisville likes to sling deep passes with Micale Cunningham, but this will obviously be challenging in rain and 10-15 MPH winds. Kentucky’s defense also ranks 10th in passing yards allowed per game. The Cards will likely be forced to lean on Javian Hawkins, who has quietly put up over 1200 yards on the ground this season.
Kentucky’s offense should be able to feast running the ball yet again. They’ve averaged over 365 yards rushing over the last four games with the primary combination of Bowden, A.J. Rose, Kavosiey Smoke and Chris Rodriguez. Louisville comes in ranked in the 100s in total defense and 88th in rushing yards allowed per game.
Now while a good amount of signs seem to be pointing to a comfortable Kentucky win, I’d be a fool to predict this. This is still a rivalry game. Also, UK’s field goal kicking has been downright dreadful at times this season. I do think the Cats slog it out in the end behind their ground game for their first home win over U of L since 2009. It will be anything but comfortable, however.
Prediction: Kentucky 28, Louisville 23
HOW TO WATCH
Time: 12 p.m. ET/11 a.m. CT
TV: SEC Network
Watch Online: WatchESPN/ESPN APP
Odds: Kentucky -3, O/U 52.5
(Odds via Odds Shark)