They haven't yet and they may never overcome that status. There are reasons for that and it doesn't have anything to do with Kentucky in particular. It has more to do with the Louisville and the Louisville fans. With Saturday's game on the horizon, Louisville fans will be feeling the pressure. The pressure isn't just about winning the game. They are going to have to win big. Let me emphasize BIG.
A few weeks ago in August, I made the statement that I would not be shocked if Kentucky beat Louisville. More Louisville fans than Kentucky fans, possibly, made comments in the comments section. It became clear that I struck a nerve. Over on Card Chronicle, I was dubbed an idiot. I've been called worse.
I spent most of Sunday pulling up the NCAA stats, including Louisville’s for this article. Sunday afternoon, the NCAA removed Louisville’s stats for the EKU game. I suppose the NCAA thought Louisville held a scrimmage as opposed to a real game since their opponent was a FCS team (Div. I-A).
That little move by the NCAA changed all the numbers that I had recorded earlier. Other teams who had faced Div. I-A teams had the same thing happen. So, all the numbers were skewed. Finally, by Sunday night the NCAA had fixed the problem and the rankings changed back to where they were originally. So, I had to re-do them a second time. Such is the life of a stat geek.
Anyway, what confronts us on Saturday? One team is untested and one team looked bad in their first game and bounced back in the second game. Louisville is, of course, 2-0 and is ranked #19 in the Sagarin Ratings. Kentucky stands at 1-1 and is ranked #80 by Sagarin. Oddly enough, Louisville, through last Saturday, has played the tougher schedule according to Sagarin. Their SOS rating by Sagarin stands at 159th after playing Ohio (#92) and EKU (#132). Kentucky, on the other hand, has played the 160th toughest schedule after playing WKU (#98) and Miami (#160).
We can compare offenses, but the offenses don’t play against each other. The same can be said about the defenses.
We know what UK’s offense has done: total yards 1,094 on 134 plays for an average of 547 yards per game. Of those, 239 yards per game has come on the ground and 308 yards per game in the air.
Louisville's defense has limited their opposition to just 479 yards on 117 plays (239.5 yards per game). Of those, 94 yards per game came on the ground and 147 yards per game came through the air.
Louisville’s offense is impressive with Heisman candidate (Touchdown) Teddy Bridgewater. Louisville’s offense is predicated on the passing game and they’ve accumulated 1,090 total yards on 133 plays for an average of 545 yards per game. Of those, 138.5 yards per game has come on the ground and 406.5 yards per game in the air. I expect the Cards to try to establish their running game against the Cats.
Kentucky’s defense has "held" their opposition to 690 total yards on 132 plays for an average of 304.5 per game. Of those, 157.5 yards per game came on the ground and 147 yards per game was through the air.
Louisville has looked good in both of their wins while Kentucky looked not so good (awful) against WKU, but then rebounded well against Miami. Louisville's defense has allowed only 14 points in two games.
The trouble is neither team has played anyone noteworthy. We were led to believe that WKU was a good, if not a great, team. They, however, got killed in Knoxville which made Kentucky look even worse than they are and made WKU look like the mid-major team that they are.
While we can make excuses for the loss to WKU, the bottom line is we just didn’t have a good game in Nashville. Conversely, while Louisville won big against Eastern Kentucky, EKU made a decision to stop the Louisville ground game and they did. EKU held the Cards to 78 yards on 28 carries for an average of 2.8 yards per carry.
The fact is for both teams is that you can throw out the first two games for each school. This is a rivalry game. Kentucky has nothing to lose and everything to gain if they win. Louisville has everything to lose and nothing to gain if they win. They are supposed to beat Kentucky and they have to beat the Wildcats by a significant margin if they want to claim that they are relevant on the national stage. The pressure is on the Cards, not the Cats. WKU fans should hope the Cats win because that will make the Hilltoppers the best team in the state. You know...WKU beat UK, UK beat UL kind of thinking. Kentucky fans can't begrudge that line of reasoning.
Kentucky’s schedule gets harder after this game. Louisville cannot make that claim in any fashion or form. Louisville has to face such toughies as Florida International, Temple, Rutgers, Central Florida, South Florida, Connecticut, Houston , Memphis and Cincinnati. Houston is the only team of this bunch who stands undefeated after two games. None of Louisville’s future opponents are in the A/P top 25 poll and aren’t likely to be at the end of the season. Houston could be the exception, but they have to beat the Cards.
Kentucky has to face(#19) Florida, (#13) South Carolina, (#1) Alabama, Mississippi State, Alabama State, Missouri , Vanderbilt,(#9) Georgia and an improving Tennessee. Enough said.
Louisville’s schedule, win or lose on Saturday, keeps them as UK’s little brother. They can run the table and go to a BCS bowl and beat Florida once again, but that schedule still keeps them at the little brother status. Louisville fans can stomp their feet, pull their hair, beat their chests and scream all they want about how much better Louisville is, but when your toughest regular season opponent is a 2-10 Kentucky team, that's a sure sign you are a little brother.
Having Kentucky on your schedule as a must win game is not on the agenda of any of the SEC teams we'll face this season. Does anyone believe that Alabama fans view the Kentucky game in the same manner that Louisville does? How about Georgia? Florida? How about Vanderbilt or even Missouri? Tennessee? Certainly not.
Deep down, Louisville fans have in the back of their collective minds, two games that they were supposed to win, yet lost: 2002 and 2007. The 2002 game was at the pizza pit and the 2007 game was at Commonwealth. Those two games, plus the beat-down received in the first game ever played at Papa John's stadium insures a little brother status that the Louisville Cardinals can never overcome.
No one expects Kentucky to win on Saturday: no one with any intelligence, that is, and certainly not me. No one is even expecting Kentucky to have a winning record at season’s end. If Louisville wins Kentucky fans can say, "Big Whoop."
If the Cardinals lose a single game with that pitiful schedule, they have to be considered a dismal failure and that’s why I won’t be shocked if Kentucky wins this game. The pressure mounts on the Cards and their fans with each passing day.
Even if we lose, we can still make fun of their schedule and we can make fun of their core values that are posted in their locker room: You can see for yourself at KSR.
2. Treat women with Respect
3. No Drugs
4. No Stealing
5. No Guns
If you can't laugh at that, what can you laugh at? Just one among many things that make Louisville a little brother.
Here's some videos to remind our little brothers that the team who is supposed to win, doesn't always win.
UL has to do this to Kentucky this year in order to make any futile claim of being a legitimate contender for a BCS championship game.