On Saturday Kentucky will take on Louisville for the first time in the Mark Stoops era. The Cardinals are heavily favored over the Wildcats this year and while Kentucky is in the midst of its rebuilding process, Louisville is flying high and is a consensus top 10 team in the national polls. Here are a few things to look for in Saturday’s noon kickoff.
When Kentucky has the ball:
The Wildcats will attempt to build on their performance against Miami last week and put the debacle against WKU further behind them. While the team’s implementation of the air raid offense should make the scheme skew slightly towards the past, it will be important for Kentucky not to become one-dimensional against Louisville. An improved performance should help give Kentucky’s young off dive line confidence against Louisville and this could help page the way for Raymond Sanders and company to provide that balance on the ground. If the line can keep Maxwell Smith’s jersey clean and give him time, he has the potential to carve up the Louisville defense through the air. If they don’t, the Cardinal’s secondary is talented enough to capitalize on forced passes and could have multiple interceptions on the day. One key for Kentucky’s offense will be its ability to isolate its young playmakers in space. If these guys can make the first tackler miss, then the offensive momentum could give the Wildcats the advantage they need.
When Louisville has the ball:
The Cats just simply must tackle. After a subpar outing against Western Kentucky University, the defense stepped back up against Miami and played well. They followed their assignments and set the edge on running plays, which in turn allowed the defensive line to get pressure on passing downs. Even if they don’t get a sack, pressuring Teddy Bridgewater will be crucial to the team’s effectiveness.
The players you need to know for Louisville:
#5 – Teddy Bridgewater – QB
Bridgewater is a Heisman contender and for good reason. As much as he is touted as a scrambler, he is actually a much more polished passer than he is a runner. He is averaging 376 yards passing a game at just under a 77% competition percentage and has the talent to carve up Kentucky’s secondary if given the opportunity.
#9 – Devante Parker – WR
The Louisville offense spreads the ball around, but Parker makes the most of his targets. With only nine catches on the season, he has still amassed 207 receiving yards and three touchdowns. Look for Bridgewater to target Parker anywhere inside the 20.
#2 – Preston Brown – LB
Brown has quietly put together quite the career at Louisville. The senior linebacker is built more like a defensive end at 6’2 and 260 pounds but plays with the speed of a safety. In the first two games this season, Brown either leads or is tied for the team lead in tackles, tackles for a loss, sacks, QB hurries, and forced fumbles.