Before the season, where various predictors looked over Kentucky’s schedule, one game that was generally expected to be a win was against Louisville. UK mauled a 2-10 Louisville Cardinals team in their own stadium to end the 2018 regular season, and U of L had a new coach and a very mediocre recruiting class. But Cardinal coach Scott Satterfield hasn’t sat on his laurels, and has improved Louisville into a dynamic 7-4 squad that figures to give 6-5 UK a run for its money at Kroger Field on Saturday.
Despite the reputation of Bobby Petrino as an offensive genius, the work that Satterfield has done in retooling Petrino’s horrid Cardinal offense of 2018 into an electric one suggests that he might be the real offensive genius.
Quarterback Micale Cunningham has been outstanding, passing for 1,708 yards and 19 touchdowns against only four interceptions despite starting for only part of the season. Cunningham also rushed for 374 yards and six touchdowns. Running back Javian Hawkins has amassed 1,278 rushing yards and seven touchdowns. Wide receiver Tutu Atwell has been a massive threat in the passing game, racking up 1,072 yards and 11 touchdowns via the air.
As good as news is for Louisville’s offense, it’s almost as bad for its defense. Kentucky hasn’t allowed more than 29 points in a game this season, while Louisville has allowed opponents to reach that level seven times, even allowing 50 points twice. The Cardinals score 34.5 points per game, but they have allowed 32.8.
The Wildcats continued to do what they’ve done in the second half of the season in their 50-7 win over UT-Martin. Kentucky rushed for a school-record 462 yards in the game, played well defensively, and couldn’t throw the ball well at all. If the story of Louisville’s season is that the defense has done just enough to get by, for much of Kentucky’s season, the offense has similarly been more about function than beauty.
Of course, the key player for the Wildcats is WR/QB/whatever Lynn Bowden, who is approaching 1,000 rushing yards in half a season, and who runs Kentucky’s RPO based offense about as well as is possible. If Kentucky runs against Louisville the way they have in their last couple games, it won’t matter whether the Wildcats pass the ball well or not.
With Kentucky’s run-heavy offense, getting ahead early has been key. That said, Louisville might be the only defense Kentucky faces that’s mediocre enough to render that less important than usual. Can Kentucky stop a tough Louisville offense, or at least slow it down? With some help from Mother Nature (100 percent chance of rain on Saturday at the time of writing), the Wildcats can.
UK 35, Louisville 21.
Other SEC Predictions
Clemson 41, South Carolina 17
Georgia 45, Georgia Tech 7
Alabama 38, Auburn 24
Tennessee 41, Vanderbilt 14
LSU 42, Texas A&M 24
Florida 38, Florida State 14
Joe Cox is contributing editor for KySportsStyle.com Magazine. He grew up in Letcher County and Bell County and has written eight books. His most recent, "A Fine Team Man: Jackie Robinson and the Lives He Changed," was released in February 2019 and can be ordered on Amazon or at many local bookstores. Joe is an attorney and lives in Logan County with his wife and children. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org