Kentucky Visits Louisville In Bluegrass Rivalry

By: Michael Robinson | Friday, August 31, 2012

The college football battle between the Louisville Cardinals and Kentucky Wildcats may not be as good as the hardwood version, but it’s always a fierce matchup.

This contest takes place Sunday at 3:30 pm (ET) from the strangely named Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium in Louisville. The ratings should be pretty high on ESPN with two just Division I games that day and the NFL season still on hiatus.

The Don Best college football odds screen has Louisville between 13-13½ point home favorites. The total is sitting at 42.

The Cardinals are considered the best team in a weakened Big East that just lost West Virginia to the Big 12. Those two squads finished in a 3-way tie for the regular season crown last year (5-2 straight up), with West Virginia playing in the Orange Bowl due to a tiebreaker.

Coach Charlie Strong begins his third season at Louisville with the two previous years finishing 7-6. He is certainly encouraged by last year’s strong finish, 5-2 SU in the final seven, and bettors loved the 7-2 against the spread mark in the final nine.

Quarterback Teddy Bridgewater returns for his sophomore season after being the first true frosh to start for the team since 1976. The 6-foot-3 Miami native threw for an average of 220 yards his final five games ('over' 4-1) after 181.8 YPG in his first five ('under' 5-0) after becoming the starter on October 1.

Bridgewater has three of his four top receivers back from last year, but that was before Michaelee Harris (knee) was lost for the season earlier this month. It looks like a running back by committee with the starter still not announced, although junior Dominique Brown (533 yards last year) should have the inside track.

Strong made his name as a defensive coordinator at Florida and the 'D' was 10th in the country in rushing last year (100.5 YPG) and 23rd in total yards (327.9 YPG). Six starters are back, including the whole secondary, with safety Hakeem Smith the big name there.

Kentucky went 5-7 SU and 6-6 ATS in 2011, with one of those wins and covers against FCS Jacksonville State. The record in the SEC was 2-6 SU (4-4 ATS) and an even worse conference finish is predicted by many this year.

If there is improvement, it will have to come from the offense, ranked 118th out of 120 teams in total yards (259.8 YPG). Sophomore Maxwell Smith has been named the starter for Sunday and he played in eight games last year (starting three) and should develop after throwing for 819 yards last year.

Smith will benefit from having senior receiver La’Rod King (598 yards, seven TDs) back. Senior CoShik Williams leads the running back candidates, but there are questions along the left side of the offensive line.

The defense lost six starters (including all the linebackers) from a group that was 58th nationally at 377 YPG allowed.

These in-state rivals have met every year since 1994 and it’s been streaky. Louisville won last year 24-17 as 4½-point road ‘dogs. Kentucky took the prior four games (3-1 ATS).

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