Cats-Cards: Keys to Sunday's game

September 2, 2012 

Kentucky (0-0) at Louisville (0-0)

When: 3:30 p.m. TV: ESPN

Where: Papa John's Cardinal Stadium

Radio: WLAP-AM 630, WBUL-FM 98.1, XM Channel 199, Sirius Channel 94

Series: Kentucky leads the overall series 14-10; Louisville leads the modern series (since 1994) 10-8

Last meeting: Louisville won 24-17 on Sept. 17, 2011, in Commonwealth Stadium.

Line: Louisville is favored by 13 points.

The keys

Block somebody

A year ago, the Louisville defense embarrassed Kentucky at the line, recording a whopping 14 tackles for loss. With three new starters, including Lexington high school products Darrian Miller (Bryan Station) and Zach West (Lexington Christian), the Kentucky offensive line is less experienced in 2012 but may be more talented.

Run the football

With all the negative plays a season ago, UK managed only 35 net yards rushing against Louisville (who, by comparison, ran for 181 yards). A reliable rushing attack this season would keep the U of L offense off the field and take some pressure off Kentucky quarterback Maxwell Smith in his third career road start. There's also this: The team that has run for the most yards has taken home the Governor's Cup 16 years in a row.

Protect the cornerbacks

On paper, Louisville's offensive strength is quarterback Teddy Bridgewater and a talented wide receiving corps led by former Ballard star DeVante Parker. Kentucky is starting a career backup (Cartier Rice) and one of last season's safeties (Martavius Neloms) at cornerback. Behind its starters, UK has two true freshmen in J.D. Harmon, a walk-on, and Fred Tiller. Can Kentucky protect its corners by putting Bridgewater on his back?

The mood

Is gnarly. With Joker Phillips boasting an 11-14 record after two seasons, the UK fan base seems caught between apathy and anger over the state of Kentucky football. Yet similar negativity existed in 2002. That year, coming off back-to-back 2-9 seasons, Guy Morriss and UK upset No. 17 Louisville on the road. In doing so, UK completely flipped the mood surrounding Kentucky football. Phillips and crew could use some 2002 deja vu Sunday.

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