Tis the season, my friends and foes. Giving thanks, sure. But giving grief, absolutely.
The week fans have had circled, underlined, and plenty of exclamation points leading up to opening weekend, because duh… It’s the most locally anticipated game of the season.
For one, the rivalry.
For two… Bowl eligibility.
Three, four, and five: bragging rights, bragging rights, bragging rights. The holiday get togethers might not be a time of just gathering anymore as the football game has been moved to Thanksgiving week. And basketball surrounding Christmas makes families obviously divide on which color they’ll sport for the yearly family photo.
But let’s hone in on the gridiron for now. The football game seems to be a toss up every year simply because it’s a rivalry and you never know what’s going to happen, never mind that Louisville is on a 4 game win streak against the Cats.
It’s been understood and anticipated that Kentucky must make a bowl this year under Mark Stoops third year as Kentucky’s head coach. With the football program in the shadows of Lexington, patience is wearing thin for the fan base.
Louisville has secured their 6th bowl appearance in a row as Bobby Petrino has had to rely on a youthful team that was ravaged by the NFL draft and graduation in May. I said it a couple weeks ago before eligibility…. The season is not successful unless Louisville beats Kentucky. After a devastating 0-3 start that looking back on, wasn’t as bad as it seemed, the team remained the talk of the town despite etching in the win column. I suppose I didn’t have record prediction in mind going into the season but now that we sit at 6-5 and finally bowl eligible, there are really only a few options left.
Louisville vs Kentucky
Louisville has been forced to test out the position in the rivalry game. 2011 with Teddy Bridgewater replacing Will Stein due to injury and then last year Kyle Bolin replacing Reggie Bonnafon due to injury. But that saga has been played out in the Cards’ first three games and Kentucky is just now shuffling their QB Cards (tehe) after losing 5 in a row at the wrong point in the season.
Their #14 out, ours in.
Patrick Toweles lost his starting position last week to redshirt freshman Drew Barker. More interceptions than touchdowns won’t please the coaching staff or even Towels himself. He’s been quoted saying that he wants his team to win, if he can’t get it done… Someone else deserves a shot. The maturity is refreshing.
Kyle Bolin deserves to take the first snap despite painfully losing to Pittsburgh and a spark, perhaps a little too late, from Lamar Jackson. we could potentially see another form of trickery from Coach Petrino in putting all three (Reggie Bonnafon, as well) in the backfield. I just hope the Cards don’t dig themselves in too much of a hole and have to unsuccessfully claw themselves out like they did against the Auburn Tigers to open the season and again last week verses the Pitt Panthers. But don’t count Lamar out to make an appearance at the QB position. If the Cards are up comfortably or frantically down, I believe he will take a few snaps.
What to watch; Louisville defense vs Kentucky offense; Who’s going to show up and show out?
Early kickoffs are nothing new for the Cardinals this season. The game against Kentucky will be the sixth for the Cards. However, it will be just the Wildcats’ second noon game and only the third before 7 p.m.
Louisville’s Achilles heal this season: missed tackles
When the opponent shined against Louisville, they were running the ball. Stanley “Boom” Williams is Kentucky’s most threatening offensive weapon and has been all season. We have to make them pass, regardless of Kentucky’s starting QB.
Kentucky’s Achilles heal this season: dropped passes
I expect the Louisville secondary to make a couple big plays, perhaps end up in the endzone. Josh Harvey-Clemons was the ACC Defensive Back of the Week following two picks against Auburn and his duo threat with Trumaine Washington just might be the difference maker for a Louisville win. Defend the pass, take the ball, find the endzone.
Who to watch; Stoops vs Petrino
Last year, Kentucky players exposed the middle finger to the early crowd and the two coaches got pretty heated in the opening huddle. And from what I understand, Kentucky players are not big fans of the ‘Ville.
Senior defensive tackle C.J. Johnson had this to say of the Cards. “Anytime you play a rivalry because they’re right down the street it’s like bragging rights,” he told the Courier-Journal. “You want to go out and fight, have a dog fight out there. We plan on making it like that this year too because I don’t like them.”
C.J. Johnson on UofL: "I only been here for a year, and I hate them already."
— Jon Hale (@JonHale_CJ) November 22, 2015
It’s no secret that Petrino doesn’t favor the Cats’ program no matter which institution he had coached against them.. we could be witnessing ‘changed Bobby’ in his new era with Louisville, but offense-minded Bobby will accelerate against Kentucky, who just might have everything to lose in this game. Defensive-minded Coach Stoops might be in the hot seat if the Cats can’t break their losing streak to Louisville and they fail to get to a 6 win season and bowl eligibility once again.
Should be a battle of who ‘sucks less’ because beyond the Bluegrass borders, this is elementary.