week 13: Louisville at Kentucky preview, prediction
By Mike Gilpatrick November 22nd, 2017
Photo by Seth Spalding, River City Cards
Cards seek revenge against rival after 2016's surprise upset
Kentucky. Louisville. A rivalry so hot, it’s bound to spark an argument over turkey. And it continues this Saturday, 12 pm, at Kroger Field.
There are many interesting storylines this year, in addition to the rivalry. This game feels like a revenge game for the Cardinals. After being favored by 28 in late 2016, the Wildcats came into Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium, and walked away with a win. This may be QB Lamar Jackson’s final regular-season game. Many are projecting the Heisman winner to enter the NFL Draft.
But how will the game go for Jackson and company? Both teams have the same record, and similar defensive statistics. The deciding factor will be whichever team has the more potent offense.
Previewing the Kentucky Wildcats
Kentucky relies heavily on the rush, and understandably so. Benny Snell has the second-most rushing yards in the SEC, only behind Auburn’s Kerryon Johnson. The Sophomore has 11-7 so far, and is gaining an average of over 100 per game. He’s also reached the end zone 16 times. He’s had 227 attempts, almost three times more than the second guy on the list, QB Stephen Johnson.
Johnson is a dual-threat QB out of Cucamonga, CA. While not as explosive rushing as Louisville’s QB, he isn’t afraid to take off. Johnson has 352 yards on the ground in 87 attempts, with three touchdowns. He’s also completed over 62 percent of passing attempts, good for 1938 yards, 10 touchdowns, and four picks.
Johnson’s favorite target is another Johnson, Garrett Johnson. He’s received 46 passes, and the bulk of receiving yardage. But close to the end zone, It’s been CJ Conrad, whom leads the team in receiving touchdowns (4).
It’s uncertain if Conrad will play. The TE is listed first on the depth chart, but he suffered a scary-looking foot injury at Georgia last week.
This will be an interesting game. Kentucky will try and pass more than they usually do, testing Louisville’s secondary. The secondary has played better the past two games, but against bad opponents. I’m not 100 percent sold they’ll stop the pass. They’ve been better in the trenches. And while Kentucky’s offense has been based around Snell and the run game, The Cats will be forced to look to the air.
I also think Louisville will have a mix of run and pass. Kentucky’s defense isn’t great. The Wildcats have given up more than they’ve scored. Their star safety Mike Edwards may miss, after a hip pointer against Georgia. He leads the team in tackles and interceptions. If he misses, it will be a blow to the Cats defense.
I believe Louisville has the advantage in offense, and is comparable in defense. I think the Cards will find an answer to Snell, and make Stephen Johnson uncomfortable. In the end, I think it will be a closer game than the spread, but a good game nonetheless. The Governor’s Cup will come back to Louisville.