It’s finally that time. The Governor’s Cup showdown is on Saturday, with all the history and pageantry that the humble state of Kentucky can build up for a football game. Kentucky leads the series all time, 14-11, and will look to get back to its winning ways over Little Brother after dropping the last two games.
There have been plenty of great moments in the history of this game, from both teams, on down through the years. From Andre Woodson to Stevie Got Loose, to Teddy Bridgewater coming off the bench to win the game. Dave Ragone getting planted by Dewayne Robertson as Jared Lorenzen led the Cats to victory, and Tim Couch opening up Papa John’s Stadium by putting up 68 points on the Cards. The rain game that went to Overtime, where Louisville scored on their first play to clinch the Cup. Lots of great memories, and plenty more to be made.
After this season, of course, the rivalry moves to the last game of the season, much to the chagrin of Tom Jurich, and to the delight of Kentucky fans everywhere. Now the rivalry gets its rightful place on Rivalry Saturday, along with Florida/Florida State, South Carolina/Clemson, etc.
On to this year’s game….
If Kentucky is looking for an advantage, look no further than the Louisville Offensive Line vs. Kentucky Defensive Line match-up. Although Louisville has only allowed 1 sack on the year, some of that has to be attributed to just how good Teddy Bridgewater is at manipulating the pocket. However, Louisville currently ranks 83rd in the country in rushing offense, despite having played against Ohio and Eastern Kentucky, and is only averaging 4.07 yards per carry. UofL especially had trouble running the ball on EKU, only averaging 3 yards per carry. Maybe our friend Patrick Graffree was just that dominant, but something tells me there’s more to it than that. Of course UK is only 71st nationally in rushing defense, so maybe it won’t be that much of an advantage at all, though WKU probably is a better rushing team than Louisville.
For Louisville, the advantage is a lot more obvious. It’s UofL’s Receivers versus the Kentucky Cornerbacks. While I will argue that Kentucky’s secondary isn’t quite as bad as people want to say they are (Kentucky is ranked 21st nationally in pass defense), it’s still a fair point to say Louisville has an advantage there (they are ranked #5 nationally in passing offense). And a significant one. If UK is unable to generate any sort of pass rush, or Louisville is allowed to run the ball well enough to set up play-action, it will be curtains for the Cats.
The match up I’m most interested in watching will be UK’s Offensive Line versus UofL’s Defensive Line. UofL is 21st in the country in rush defense, and UK is 32nd in the country in rush offense. UK has been averaging 239 yards per game on the ground, and 6.73 yards per carry. UofL is only allowing 138.5 yards per game, and less than 3.5 yards per carry. Still, most of UofL’s opponents have been playing from behind, forcing them to drop back and throw much more often. Can UK keep the score respectable enough to keep running the ball?
Something that UK needs to watch out for also, is early turnovers. The last few years, UK has come out and had a significant turnover, either an interception or drive killing fumble, in the first few series. That can’t happen on Saturday if Kentucky wants to have any chance. Honestly, they need to be the ones creating the turnovers.
The important aspect of that, at least for UK, is that the team who managed more rushing yards in this game has historically won the game. On the surface, that would seem to be good news for UK. Still, this series has seldom seen the likes of a Quarterback as good as Teddy Bridgewater.
The crowd size, and the proportion of UK fans to UofL fans will be interesting to watch as well. UK fans should sell out, however, that didn’t happen against Miami (OH), and there were still tickets for sale as late as yesterday for the game on Saturday. That’s certainly disappointing news for UK fans who will be in attendance, and who do believe in Coach Stoops. There will be over 100 recruits in attendance from the next 4 recruiting classes, all there to see UK’s fans in action. Trust me, Stoops will have them prepared to expect a UK loss, but they need to see the atmosphere for what it can be for big games. Not coming to the game just because you’re afraid UK may get killed, is simply inexcusable. Support your team. It will pay off eventually, if not this year. Recruits will see the passion, and they’ll want to play for UK if you’re in your seat yelling as loud as you can. Who knows, it may rub off on the players on the field as well.
As far as predictions go, I think UofL just has too much firepower for UK. However, UK will put up points of their own, and the game will be closer than the experts think.
UofL – 41, UK 30
I think Vegas would be pretty happy with that score line, considering that 93% of people have put money on UofL to cover the line, not just win.
Anyway, regardless, it should be fun. Look out for UK’s young receivers to make a splash in Saturday’s game. Guys like Jeff Badet and Ryan Timmons should figure to have big games.
Go Big Blue!