The Battle for the Governor’s Cup resumes this week when Kentucky and Louisville clash in the Derby City.
The Wildcats enter this game as a major underdog with the Cards being 26-point favorites going into Saturday's game at Papa John's Cardinal Stadium.
Few are giving the Cats a chance to even stay close in this one. ESPN’s FPI gives UK just a 4% chance of winning. I tend to agree, but looking at the position comparisons of both rosters, you can see the possibility of an upset Saturday.
If the Cats are going to upset Louisville, here is how they need to do it.
‘Limit’ Lamar Jackson
Of course, this is the first key to any team beating Louisville. Every game the Cards have won this season, Jackson has been the main reason for that, passing for 3,109 yards and 28 touchdowns as well as rushing for 1,367 yards and 19 more scores.
Jackson only had 211 passing yards while completing only 46 percent of his passes during the Cardinals loss to Houston. He also only had 33 yards on the ground with 25 carries (that's only averaging 1.3 yards-per-carry).
He isn't Superman. He can be stopped, though doing that has proven to be more difficult to do than defending any other college player this season. UK’s defense will need to be nearly flawless to hold Jackson to ‘just’ around 300 total yards and three scores, two marks he’s hit in all but three games (Houston, Duke, Wake Forest) this season.
Boom and Benny Control The Clock
UK’s defense will be able to do only so much vs Louisville’s high-powered offense, so it will be up to the ground game to control the clock and limit the Cards’ offensive possessions.
Stanley "Boom" Williams and Benny Snell are the first duo of running backs to rush for over 1,00 yards a piece in school history and top-5 of all-time in the SEC. If those two All-SEC backs can rack up 200+ yards of rushing, the Cats will be in position for the huge upset.
The Cardinals lost to Clemson when they rushed for over 200 yards and Duke rushed for 152 yards against the Cards and honestly should have won. Kentucky has an advantage at guard and center, in my opinion, so they should be able to penetrate that front seven of the Cards.
Receivers Step Up
The Kentucky receivers have dropped at least six passes in the previous three games, some of which that have turned into six points on the other end. The Cards are 0-2 when the opposing team quarterback throws for 295 yards or more.
If Johnson can get 250 through the air and the Cats rush for over 200, the Cards are very beatable.
Defensive line has to force pressure on Jackson. The Louisville Cardinals offensive line gave up 11 sacks in the 36-10 loss last week to Houston. The Cardinals are ranked 120th in the country in sacks given up, giving up over four sacks-per-game.
I expect Denzil Ware to have a big game as well as Josh Allen and Jordan Jones. This Wildcat defensive line has improved dramatically, and I actually do expect that to show this Saturday at noon in Louisville.
Stop Brandon Radcliff
When teams have limited Lamar’s rushing output, Brandon Radcliff has often burned them for big runs. The senior running back has rushed for 787 yards and six touchdowns on the season thus far.
Radcliff adds a lot to the Cardinals offense, the biggest thing is just making Lamar Jackson's job a bit easier, by making defenses actually stop both, Radcliffe and Jackson.
Two weeks ago vs Wake Forest, Lamar was struggling to find any offensive rhythm vs the Demon Deacons, but that allowed Radcliff to erupt for 141 yards and three scores, all of which came in the second half after UofL trailed 12-3 at halftime.
Limiting Lamar is one thing. Limiting him and keeping Radcliff from making big plays has been key to stopping the Cards’ offense.
The Cats really have nothing to lose in this game. If they win, they go to a better bowl, but either way, they are going bowling for the first time in six years. The Cards have everything to lose in this game; if they don't win, they lose any hope that they have left of making the playoff, and they'll almost certainly miss out on a BCS bowl as well.
Here is everything you’ll need to watch and follow Kentucky vs Louisville.
Kentucky Wildcats (6-5) at No. 11 Louisville Cardinals (9-2)
When: 12:00 PM on November 26th
Where: Papa John’s Stadium in Louisville, Kentucky
Online Stream: Watch ESPN
Odds: Louisville opened as a 24.5-point favorite and are now favored by 26, according to Odds Shark.
My Prediction: Kentucky 35, Louisville 34
(Yes, this is my real prediction, not wishful prediction)