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Kentucky Wildcats vs. Louisville Cardinals Prediction and Preview

Kentucky Wildcats vs. Louisville Cardinals Prediction and Preview

Kentucky Wildcats vs. Louisville Cardinals Prediction and Preview

A season to forget for Louisville can end on a slightly better note with a win over Kentucky in the Governor’s Cup on Saturday night. For the first time since 2009, the Wildcats will finish with a better record than their neighbors to the northwest. Even still, Kentucky would love to get a win — in a series currently tied at 15 wins apiece — which it has done only once since 2011.

Kentucky rebounded from a pair of losses to SEC East foes with a momentum-shifting win over Middle Tennessee on Saturday. The Blue Raiders threw everything they had at the Wildcats, as Brent Stockstill threw just three incompletions en route to a 30-for-33 outing with 293 yards and three touchdowns, but the Wildcats’ offense was up to the task as well. Putting up 17 points in the opening quarter and never looking back, Kentucky’s offense — piloted by Benny Snell’s 116 yards and two touchdowns — powered Big Blue to a 34-23 win.

Louisville has seen its defensive woes continue throughout the entire season, enough to rank third-worst in the FBS in scoring defense in scoring defense (41 points allowed per game). That includes outings allowing seven points to Indiana State and 17 to Western Kentucky ... ouch. More on the defense later, but its most recent shortcoming came in a 52-10 loss to NC State. There wasn’t much to like offensively either, with quarterback Malik Cunningham gaining more yards on the ground (100, including the only touchdown) than through the air (90).

Kentucky at Louisville

Kickoff: Saturday, Nov. 24 at 7 p.m. ET
TV: ESPN2
Spread: Kentucky -17

Three Things to Watch

1. Can Louisville finally stop someone?

Louisville has allowed at least 38 points in each of its last six games, and at least 52 in five of those. The point is, labeling the defense as porous is polite. Kentucky hasn’t exactly been on fire offensively as of late, but they won’t need to reinvent the wheel to put up a healthy serving of yards and points on Saturday.

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2. Welcome back, Benny

Throughout 2018, Snell has been one of the primary keys for Kentucky’s offensive success. In all but one of the Wildcats’ eight wins, Snell has rushed for at least 100 yards or a touchdown; in their three losses, Snell has been held to a total of 200 yards (66.7 yards per game) and just one touchdown. As he goes, so does this offense, so look for Snell to be utilized early and often on Saturday night.

3. Turnover battle

Much has been made about Louisville’s struggles this season. But in a rivalry game against an in-state foe, big plays can spark a change in momentum. And one of those types of big plays comes by way of turnovers. Unfortunately for the Cardinals, their turnover margin is not just bad, but in fact it’s the worst in the country. On average, Louisville is -1.27 in turnover margin per game (-11 for the year). If it can find a way to improve on this mark and turn over the Wildcats on Saturday, it might have a chance to steal one in the final game of the year.

Final Analysis

Sure, this is a rivalry game which means weird turns are always possible. But Louisville is just not playing up to par with its standards, while Kentucky — despite a pair of recent losses that eliminated the Wildcats from SEC East title contention — still can finish strong and look ahead to a warm-weather bowl with a win.

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Prediction: Kentucky 38, Louisville 13

— Written by Juan Jose Rodriguez, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and currently a senior at the University of Notre Dame. Rodriguez was an intern for Athlon during summer 2017 and works for a variety of media outlets on campus, including as the Editor-in-Chief of Scholastic Magazine. Follow him on Twitter @JuanJoseRG02.