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September 16, 2011LOUISVILLE (1-1) at KENTUCKY (2-0)
Site: Commonwealth Stadium, Lexington, Ky. (67,606)
Game time: 7 p.m.
Coaches: Joker Phillips, Kentucky (8-7 overall, second year at UK and overall, 1-0 against UofL; Charlie Strong, Louisville (8-7 overall, second year at UofL and overall, 0-1 against UK)
Series history: Kentucky leads 14-9, has won four consecutive meetings
Last meeting: Kentucky won 23-16 on Sept. 4, 2010. The Wildcats jumped out to an early lead and went to the locker room with a 20-6 advantage. But the Cardinals stormed back thanks to an 80-yard run from Bilal Powell and pulled within a touchdown with just over three minutes to go after a field goal from kicker Chris Philpott. They wouldn't get any closer, though, as Kentucky ran out the clock to secure the win. Derrick Locke and Randall Cobb combined for 184 yards and three touchdowns on the ground on 27 carries to lead Kentucky.
Depth charts: Kentucky
Radio: UK IMG Sports Network, XM 201, Sirius 218 (Sirius Premier package), radio stream at UKathletics.com
Internet video stream: None
Kentucky will win if?
The Wildcat defense has shown it has the chance to be special - if it can avoid a handful of lapses. They escaped Western Kentucky without giving up a touchdown, but Central Michigan showed that with good blocking, a patient quarterback can find open receivers when the Wildcats dial up blitzes. Defensive coordinator Rick Minter will have to find the right mix to keep Louisville quarterback Will Stein off balance while also leaving enough players back to cover up holes in the secondary.
If the game is going to be won or lost in the trenches, UK will have a major advantage. Louisville is expected to be without starting center Mario Benavides, and the presumptive starting five has just 11 combined starts between them. It'll also be the first time they've started on the road together, and the noise at Commonwealth Stadium could play a major factor. Minter's blitz packages and personnel changes should give them fits and open up opportunities for the UK linebackers to pile up sacks and tackles for loss.
Kentucky's offense will miss running back Raymond Sanders early, but true freshman Josh Clemons is physical enough to wear down the Louisville's front seven enough to give the rest of the running back chances to break big plays in the second half. Quarterback Morgan Newton will need to be more accurate to give his receivers chances, but Kentucky's receivers
Louisville will win if?
Slow starts aren't an issue for the Cardinals. Charlie Strong's team has scored 31 of its 45 points in the first half through two games, and an early lead could spell trouble for the Wildcats. If UofL can carry a double-digit lead into the half, Newton and co. will have to come out throwing in the second half. That's not what Kentucky wants to do, given Newton's struggles on intermediate routes and his receivers' struggles catching the ball deep.
Stein doesn't have a dominant wideout, but Louisville's receiving corps is a bit more reliable than Kentucky's. If he can get the ball to some of his younger players, like DeVante Parker, he might be able to find some mismatches. The trouble will come in giving Stein time to throw and paving the way for running back Victor Anderson. Louisville's offensive line is among the greenest position groups on the team.
Louisville's defense is solid if not spectacular. There's an experienced defensive line, playmakers at linebacker in Dexter Heyman and Daniel Brown, and a strong tackler at safety in Hakeem Smith. Running the ball might be difficult, but the Wildcats will have to do it to ease pressure off Newton. This isn't likely to be a shootout like the 2006 or 2007 meetings. Expect a grind in which one team slowly pulls ahead and is never quite able to put the game out of reach.
Key matchup: Kentucky QB Morgan Newton vs. Louisville MLB Dexter Heyman
Heyman has played all over the field for Louisville in his career, but has settled in at middle linebacker. He'll have a ton of responsibilities on Saturday and will have a big part in setting up the defense, rushing the passer, holding the middle against the run and tracking down Newton when he takes off. Newton looked much more comfortable when he pulled the ball down and ran it last week, but Heyman can push him out of that comfort zone.
Cats Illustrated staff predictions:
Ben Jones, Staff Writer: Kentucky 21, Louisville 10
The Wildcats showed marked improvement last week, though still not enough to feel comfortable about their season overall. The good news is that shouldn't matter against Louisville, which struggled to beat Murray State before flopping at home in a loss to Florida International. If UK improves again, it could be a blowout. If both teams play at the level they did last week, the Wildcats should still be fine.
Brett Dawson, Publisher: Kentucky 21, Louisville 17
The Wildcats looked like the better of the two teams on paper in the preseason, and that's appeared to be the case through the season's first two weeks, though both squads have struggled. Louisville's inexperience on the offensive line is a bad sign against tricky Rick Minter and his multiple-look defense. The Cardinals should struggle to score, but UK's stuck-in-the-mud offense shouldn't erupt against a hyped-up Louisville defense. A special teams play here and a turnover there could swing the game either way, but the edge belongs to the home team here.
Steve Jones, Recruiting Editor: Kentucky 24, Louisville 14
The Cats should have an advantage in the trenches on both sides of the ball, and Rick Minter's UK defense is more complex and should bring more pressure than than either of U of L's first two opponents. Will Stein is a smart player who doesn't make a lot of mistakes, but count me among those who still question whether the vertically challenged U of L quarterback has the physical tools needed to be a top-notch major college player. The Cats will miss the intelligent, versatile play of starting running back Raymond Sanders, but it could be a blessing in disguise that freshman Josh Clemons will become the clear-cut featured back. His 87-yard touchdown run against Central Michigan last week showed that he might already be the team's best playmaker, so bumping his carries up to 20 or more is probably a good thing.
T.J. Walker, Staff Writer: Kentucky 38, Louisville 13
The UK offense finally clicks with a balanced rushing and passing attack. Josh Clemons gets his first career start (certainly not his last) and runs for 70-plus yards and a touchdown. With an efficient running game, life is easier for Morgan Newton and the passing game. The team that gets up early will have a big advantage. Expect the more experienced UK to do that at home thanks to a raucous crowd. UK's lead will force the inexperienced Will Stein to rely heavily on his arm. UK leads the nation in interceptions, averaging three per game, and Rick Minter's defense will meet its average as UK wins its fifth straight in the series.