Louisville at Kentucky - Saturday, September 17, 2011 - 7:00 - ESPNU
Commonwealth Stadium - Lexington, KY
Point Spread: Kentucky -6
In one of the least anticipated editions of a fierce in state rivalry, Louisville will head on the road to face Kentucky in the annual battle for the Governor's Cup. Kentucky has won the last four meetings and is looking to become the first to win five in a row since the rivalry was renewed. Neither team has looked particularly good in the first two weeks of the season and with the conference season left to play, the loser will be in danger of missing
Louisville 1-1 (0-0)
Through two games, Kentucky hasn't done much to instill confidence in its fans. After the offense produced almost nothing against Western Kentucky, the Wildcats were lackluster through three quarters with Central Michigan before the offense came to life and pulled away for a 27-13 win. Morgan Newton has been inconsistent and his receivers haven't done him any favors with numerous dropped passes plaguing the offense in both games. The result? Kentucky averages just 105 yards per game through the air and Newton is completing just 44% of his passes. The positive development for Kentucky has been the emergence of true freshman Josh Clemons. Clemons had a 14 yard touchdown run against Western Kentucky and sparked the offense with an 87 yard touchdown run against Central Michigan. The Wildcats have outrushed Louisville in each of the four wins and will need to continue that if they hope to extend the streak to five.
For Louisville, 2011 was expected to be a transition year. With new starters at cornerback, running back, quarterback, and the entire offensive line, the Cardinals expected to struggle early on. No one expected the Cardinals to struggle enough to lose at home to FIU, but that's what happened. Will Stein has played well when he has time to throw. The problem is, he almost never has time to throw. Stein was rushed on almost every throw against FIU and was sacked six times. The running game has also struggled as Louisville has played two freshmen and two seniors that has never started a game before along the offensive line. The Cardinals' defense gave up two long touchdown passes to TY Hilton in the second quarter and beyond that has played very well. With Greg Scruggs and Brandon Dunn expected back at full strength and BJ Butler returning to practice this week, the defensive line will finally be at full strength. Louisville will need that defensive line to pressure
Anyone who says they have an idea how this game will play out is lying. The two teams haven't looked good for more than a quarter in any of the first two weeks. Saturday night's game will most likely come down to one of two factors: which team runs the ball more effectively and which team scores first. The team that scores the first touchdown has won the last 10 meetings and the team that rushes for more yards has won the last seven. Kentucky will be without starting tailback Raymond Sanders, so Josh Clemons will get the bulk of the carries. Will he be up for getting all of the carries in the game? In the first two games he's benefited from being the change of pace back for Sanders. For Louisville, can they find some way to get a little bit of a running game going? And can they find a way to protect Will Stein? Running the ball more effectively would help Stein, but protecting him and allowing his receivers some time against the Kentucky secondary that gave up almost 300 yards through the air to Central Michigan last week gives Louisville a chance to move the ball through the air. Will it be enough?
Prediction: Louisville 20 Kentucky 16