It’s the annual battle of the Red State and the Blue State in the Commonwealth on the first Sunday of NCAA football betting action, and that means that the Kentucky Wildcats and the Louisville Cardinals are set to do battle.
The Wildcats are going to be challenged offensively once again this year in all likelihood. Head Coach Joker Phillips is going to be going with QB Maxwell Smith to start off the year as his starting quarterback, and that just doesn’t thrill most in Lexington. Then again, there really aren’t a lot of great options coming back for a team that averaged just 259.8 yards and 15.8 points per game in the rough and tumble SEC. Smith threw for 819 yards and four scores against four picks in split duty with one of the men that he beat out for the starting position this year, QB Morgan Newton. Defensively, the Cats had their moments last year, but they just weren’t all that spectacular, ranking No. 56 in total defense at 376.3 yards per game and No. 53 in offense at 24.7 points per game. These are stats that are going to have to improve and improve in a hurry if UK is going to stand a chance of turning the Commonwealth blue on Sunday afternoon.
Meanwhile up the road in Louisville, hopes are high for the Cardinals this year. QB Teddy Bridgewater is considered a potential All-Big East quarterback this year, and with the West Virginia Mountaineers out of the conference, a BCS bowl bid might not be out of the question. Louisville is a fringe Top 25 team at the moment, and winning this game would probably put it in the Top 25 in both polls. Bridgewater has a lot of work to do offensively though, as well. This unit didn’t have a single rusher account for more than 539 yards or four scores, and there wasn’t a receiver that even touched the 500-yard mark. Bridgewater did show some more promise as his freshman campaign wound down, and he ended the year completing 64.5 percent of his passes for 2,129 yards with 14 scores against 12 picks. He’ll be the man once again for Head Coach Charlie Strong, who finally looks to have the combination of players that he wants to have going forward in this, his third year with the Cardinals.
Louisville is clearly the better of these two teams, but laying 13.5 is just too much to account for. These rivalry games are almost always competitive, and this should be no exception. The Cardinals might look to be the dominating team, but a 10-point victory seems to be about all that we can count on in what should be yet another offensively challenged game on both sides. Louisville 20 – Kentucky 10