The Wildcats are seeking their 9th win in a season where bowl eligibility was a preseason goal, and Louisville has given up 50+ points on six different occasions in route to dismissing their head coach before season’s end.
Neither fan base could have predicted these outcomes for their teams in August. But as Mark Stoops said this week, “Throw the records out the window.” When you get into a rivalry game, all bets are off and anything can happen.
What will happen on Saturday in
Papa Johns Cardinal Stadium when the Wildcats and Cardinals batter for the Governor’s Cup? The staff writers here at A Sea of Blue have made their predictions.
For the first time in recent memory, Kentucky is a heavy favorite in a football game that will be played in Louisville. That feels odd and awesome at the same time.
Kentucky’s defense has been struggling a bit in the last two weeks, but really stepped up late against Middle Tennessee State last week to seal the victory. Louisville’s offense has been fairly inept outside of garbage time this season, posting no games with a running back carrying the ball for more than 100 yards.
Conversely, Louisville has given up an astronomical number of points this year. And as we all know, the Wildcats’ offense has struggled mightily down the stretch. This seems like the case of a stoppable force meeting a movable object.
Regardless of the match-up, I think Kentucky will be motivated this week to send this special group of seniors out with a bang and to get that illusive 9th win that Kentucky football has not seen since 1984. The season will end with back-to-back wins and a historic record, and many will forget the frustrations of falling short to Georgia and Tennessee.
Prediction: Kentucky 28, Louisville 13
In the regular season finale, Kentucky will travel to Louisville and face the Cardinals for the Governor’s Cup. Although Kentucky has slowed down over the last few weeks, not many teams have struggled more than Louisville.
Terry Wilson has been up and down all year long, yet Jawon Pass has one less TD total and five more interceptions. Benny Snell Jr.’s numbers have tripled Malik Cunningham’s total carries and touchdowns, and has nearly tripled his total yards. Lynn Bowden Jr. has more receptions, yards, and touchdowns than Jaylen Smith.
The most telling difference is on the defense. Kentucky held its first eight opponents at or under 20 points, while holding all its opponents to an average of 16.8 points a game. Louisville’s defense hasn’t looked like it could stop me, someone who has never played a snap of official football, all season. The Cardinals defense has allowed four 50 point games, a 66 point game and a 77 point game. They’ve allowed an average of nearly 60 points over their last 4 and have allowed an average of 43 points over their season.
If you have a team with a struggling offense, pray that you play the Cardinals. I could try to make an argument for Louisville to have a chance, but Kentucky leads almost every statistical category I’ve looked at between these two. Louisville is the home team and will have a fire lit under them for this rivalry game, but I think Kentucky wins big before they head into bowl season.
Prediction: Kentucky 43, Louisville 24
Isn’t it nice seeing Kentucky be the team favored by almost 20 points heading into the Governor’s Cup for once? The all-time series between Kentucky and Louisville might be tied, but lately it’s almost been all Cardinals as they’ve won six out of the last seven meetings.
However, with Lamar Jackson out of the picture the Cardinals have had a disastrous season. CBS Sports came out with a ranking of the 128 FBS teams and Lousiville was the second lowest rated power-five team only in front of Rutgers. That’s how bad it is for the 2-9 Cards. The Wildcats will still need to bring their A game because like both Mark Stoops and Lorenzo Ward said, in a game like this you can throw records out the window.
However, it’s very unlikely the Cats blow this game. The Cardinals defense is horrible and the Cats should run all over them. Expect huge games for Benny Snell and Terry Wilson on the ground. For Snell, the 207 yards he needs to become the UK all-time leading rusher should be very much in reach Saturday when the Cats will likely roll over the Cards in Louisville.
Prediction: Kentucky 38, Louisville 16
It’s time for the annual Governor’s Cup and it should be a fun one or UK fans this year. A win on Saturday would give UK its first nine win season in decades.
Louisville has a whole lot of.....well, nothing. Head coach Bobby Petrino was just fired, so Lorenzo Ward is serving as interim head coach. Multiple players have transferred. And they haven’t even decided on a starting QB for Saturday. So, I think it’s easy to say UK should have the edge in this one.
Louisville’s starting QB the majority of the year has been Jawon Pass. “Puma”, however, has not lived up to his four-star hype. For the season, he’s completing a lowly 54% of his passes to go along with 1,960 passing yards, eight touchdowns, and 12 interceptions. He’s a big QB that figured to be a solid threat passing out of the pocket, but he just hasn’t put it all together this year.
The other QB UofL will consider starting on Saturday is Malik Cunningham. Cunningham is basically a poor man’s version of Lamar Jackson. He doesn’t throw well whatsoever, so the majority of his damage is done on the ground. He’s carried the ball 74 times this season for 408 yards, which equates to 5.5 yards per carry. He’s dangerous in the open field, but with virtually no passing skills, the offense is too one dimensional when he’s in.
The Cards also have a couple decent RBs in Hassan Hall, Trey Smith, and Dae Williams. However, none of them have been good enough to take the position, which indicates their mediocrity. Not to mention, they’re running behind a terrible offensive line. In addition, Louisville is most dangerous at WR, which includes Jaylen Smith, Dez Fitzpatrick, Tutu Atwell, and Seth Dawkins. This is the position Kentucky has to be most worried about going into Saturday. This group of WRs is good...if the QB can get them the ball.
Finally, the Louisville defense is pathetic. Their passing defense isn’t terrible as they rank 36th nationally in passing yards allowed, but their run defense ranks 124th. This is exactly where the Cats can dominate the Cards. Louisville allows over 270 rushing yards per game.
All in all, Louisville is simply a bad team. They’ve played nine Power-5 teams this season and the average final score in those games was 49.9-19.6. They’re minus-14 in turnover margin, 127th in points per scoring opportunity offensively, and 126th in points per scoring opportunity defensively. This team is bad all around. And to add salt to the wound, Louisville ranks dead last in the FBS in “havoc rate allowed”, which includes sacks, TFLs, forced fumbles, INTs, and PBUs. Meanwhile, UK’s defense ranks 16th in that category meaning the Kentucky defense will have plenty of big play opportunities.
It’s a rivalry game, so it’s hard to project a blowout. Kentucky is miles ahead of Louisville, but if there was one game they might get up for all season, it’d be this one. With that being said, Kentucky’s just too good to let Louisville even keep this one close.
Prediction: Kentucky 52, Louisville 20
Louisville has fallen on hard times on both sides of the ball, and they have nothing to play for other than pride Saturday. Meanwhile, Kentucky has to win this game to go to what would likely be the Citrus Bowl, a very big bowl that would be a major accomplishment to make.
However, there’s an outside chance Kentucky can sneak into a bigger New Year’s Six bowl if they win and get help elsewhere. Then you’ve got the fact Louisville has embarrassed Kentucky in two of the last three times they’ve played, and all of this should be all the motivation this clearly-superior Kentucky teams needs to beat what should finish out as a 2-10 Louisville team.
But this rivalry typically sees some unexpectedly close games in what look like big mismatches. Then you’ve got the fact Kentucky is favored by as many as 18.5 points in this one, yet are 0-5 against the spread this season when favored, and we all know how bad they’ve been ATS under Mark Stoops.
Until this team shows it can live up to hype and actually dominate the teams it’s supposed to, I’ll continue to expect games that are closer than expected. But in the end, this is a game Kentucky should have comfortably at hand in the fourth quarter.
Prediction: Kentucky 30, Louisville 16
Well, here we are. The Governor’s Cup is upon us. However, this season it has a different feel to it. Lamar Jackson is off to the NFL, Louisville has only 2 wins on the year, Bobby Petrino has been fired, and the Kentucky Wildcats are 8-3.
While Kentucky has not been dominant, especially of late, their offense has more than enough firepower to take down the Cards. Louisville has looked lost on defense all season long and they have not found a suitable replacement under center for Jackson. If the Cats can just put 21 points on the board, that could be enough to put the Cardinals away.
The Cats should run away with the victory on Saturday, but I’ve got a strange feeling we could see a game similar to 2016 when the Cards were a three-touchdown favorite and eventually lost to Kentucky on a game-winning FG by Austin MacGinnis. Only this time I fear the outcome could be reversed.
I do not expect Louisville to fold early, but I think UK will pull away late and walk out of Cardinal Stadium with the victory.
Prediction: Kentucky 31, Louisville 20