Kentucky CFB Rivalry: Kentucky Wildcats at Louisville Cardinals

BOOM is one of two Kentucky backs to rush for over 1,000 yards this season.
BOOM is one of two Kentucky backs to rush for over 1,000 yards this season.

Time: 11 AM (CT)
Spread: LOU -26
Total: 72.5

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Louisville suffered just its second loss of the 2016 season last week in falling 36-10. The loss knocked the Cardinals down from a No. 5 AP ranking to a No. 11 in a single week, crushing any hopes the Cards at at the BCS playoffs. Be that as it may, it will face instate rival Kentucky this week at home as 26-point favorites as it makes the best of what has now been something of an anticlimactic season for the 9-2 Cardinals.

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Houston really put the clamps on Lamar Jackson. The Heisman candidate threw just 20 of 43 for 211 yards and his usually successful rush attempts were thwarted entirely by the Cougars defense. Jackson had just 33 yards on 23 carries, and though the Cardinals did gain 101 rushing yards, its defense was less successful in allowing 298 passing yards to Houston, with the Cougars also rushing for 64 yards and a rushing-TD. Greg Ward Jr. lit the Cardinals up for 25 of 44 passing and 233 yards and two passing TDs, and Linell Bonner threw one 50-yard TD pass.

For Louisville, no one really got much going offensively except Jaylen Smith, who rushed for 49 yards on six carries and caught three passes for 49 yards. Cole Hikutini contributed the lone touchdown on one of his four receptions, as he finished third on the team in yardage with 30 receiving yards. The Cardinals have been a dominant offensive team all season, but it just did not happen last week.

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Louisville still ranks No. 15 in the nation in passing yardage (303.9 yards per game) and No. 12 in rushing (254.6) while scoring the most in the nation (46.0), but it came up short in one of its most vital games of the season and it will undoubtedly sting well into next year, even if the Cardinals close the season strong with wins over Kentucky and whichever team they happen to draw in their Bowl selection.

Kentucky has had one of its stronger seasons at 6-5 with a 4-4 mark in SEC play, but the Wildcats dropped back-to-back contests to Georgia and Tennessee before recovering with a 49-13 victory over Austin Peay last week. The Wildcats struggled early in falling behind the Governors, not even an FBS team, in the first period 0-7, but Kentucky would recover to take a 21-13 halftime lead before shutting out the Governors in the second half.

Kentucky relied heavily on the rush, gaining 281 yards on the ground, paced by Benny Snell Jr’s 152 yards on 14 carries and two TDs. Jojo Kemp also had 54 yards and two TDs, and Stanley “Boom” Johnson contributed 47 yards and a TD. Quarterback Stephen Johnson attempted just nine passes, but he completed five of them for 101 yards and a pair of TDs, with Garrett Johnson and CJ Conrad being the recipients of those passes. Johnson is facing some knee issues this week, but he is expected to play.

Kentucky picked up just 129 receiving yards, but it knew it had such a strong advantage on the ground against Austin Peay’s weak defensive line, and the Wildcats simply exploited that edge further as the game wore on. While the Wildcats did suffer a brief scare they were going to lose to lowly Austin Peay, they avoided that infamy and now have a chance to try to steal one as huge underdogs against Louisville.

Kentucky is 5-2 at home this season and it has gotten it done this year largely with its rush attack. The Cats have just a 0.3 point differential, as its defense has lost some games for it this season, but in averaging 242.2 rushing yards per game the Cats have put together one of their better seasons.

Boom Johnson has had plenty to do with it, leading the team with 1072 yards, but Snell has rushed for over 1,000 in his own right, and he has the edge in TDs with 12 compared to Williams’ six. Kemp has served mostly as a short-yardage performer, but he also has six TDs and a respectable 5.1 yard per attempt average. As a team, Kentucky averages 5.5 yards per carry, and it has 27 rushing TDs (with just 13 coming via the pass). Kentucky is a dangerous team on the ground, but it really is not much else, when being honest.

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