How Kentucky and Louisville match up

mstory@herald-leader.comSeptember 1, 2012 

  • Tennessee at Kentucky

    When: 7 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 30

    TV: ESPNU

    Records: Kentucky 2-9 (0-7 SEC); Tennessee 4-7 (1-6)

How Kentucky and Louisville match up for Sunday's game at Papa John's Cardinal Stadium:

Quarterback

Pressed into action last season as a true freshman, Maxwell Smith showed promise by throwing for 769 yards and four TDs (with two picks) in his last four games. The California product could take a major step forward in 2012. A ballyhooed recruit, Louisville's Teddy Bridgewater came off the bench as a true freshman against UK in 2011 and threw for two touchdowns to lead the U of L upset. Bridgewater (2,129 passing yards; 64.5 completion percentage) will look to cut down on interceptions (12) in 2012.

Advantage: Louisville

Running back

Diminutive veterans CoShik Williams and Raymond Sanders and true freshman bruisers Dyshawn Mobley and Justin Taylor give Kentucky a versatile stable of backs. A season ago, Louisville's Dominique Brown (91 yards) hurt UK out of the Wildcat formation and Jeremy Wright ran for 54 yards against the Cats on only seven carries.

Advantage: Even

Wide receiver

La'Rod King (40 catches, seven TDs in 2011) is UK's only proven wide-out entering 2012. Senior E.J. Fields played the best game of his UK career (seven catches including a TD) against U of L last season. Cats coaches have talked up the big-play ability of smallish sophomore Demarco Robinson since spring practice. Even without injured Michaelee Harris, U of L wide-outs, led by sophomores Eli Rogers (41 catches in 2011) and DeVante Parker (six TD catches), are expected to be a team strength.

Advantage: Louisville

Offensive line

Right guard Larry Warford gives Kentucky an All-Southeastern Conference candidate, and senior center Matt Smith brings experience and savvy to a line with three new starters. Louisville senior center Mario Benavides anchors a front that has four starters back but needs to improve after surrendering 42 sacks in 2011.

Advantage: Even

Tight end

Kentucky's Tyler Robinson has good hands and is a physical blocker. UK coaches say redshirt sophomore Ronnie Shields has a chance to be a play-maker. After the graduation of Josh Chichester, Louisville's tight end situation is unsettled. Senior Nate Nord (eight career receptions) is expected to start.

Advantage: Kentucky

Defensive line

Led by massive tackles Mister Cobble and Donte Rumph, the Kentucky front is expected to be a team strength. Louisville got a big game in Lexington a season ago from ex-Bryan Station standout Roy Philon (2.5 tackles for loss). Former quarterback Marcus Smith has turned into a pass-rushing specialist (team best 5.5 sacks in 2011) at defensive end.

Advantage: Louisville

Linebacker

With Danny Trevathan and Winston Guy gone, Kentucky expects middle linebacker Avery Williamson and hybrid linebacker/rush end Alvin "Bud" Dupree to emerge as stars. Louisville WLB Daniel Brown had six tackles against UK last season. MLB Preston Brown had 84 tackles in 2011.

Advantage: Louisville

Secondary

Kentucky's Martavius Neloms has moved back to cornerback (where he started in 2010) after a strong campaign at safety last season. True sophomore Ashely Lowery could be a potential standout. Louisville returns two All-Big East performers in senior cornerback Adrian Bushell (three pass breakups in 2011) and junior strong safety Hakeem Smith (84 tackles, nine pass breakups).

Advantage: Louisville

Special teams

Senior Craig McIntosh (23 of 29 field goals) gives Kentucky a proven place-kicker with good range (8-for-12 from 40-yards plus in career). True freshman Landon Foster will do UK's punting. The Cats hope Demarco Robinson can put some life into what was a dismal return game in 2011. U of L has named true freshman Josh Appleby its punter and kickoff specialist but has not chosen a place-kicker between redshirt freshman John Wallace and sophomore Matthew Natatani.

Advantage: Kentucky

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