Both teams have new starting quarterbacks. Both teams lost a bevy of veteran offensive stars to the NFL Draft.
Louisville has new coordinators on both offense and defense. Kentucky is trying to alter its personality from big-play passing team to one built around defense and a potent running game.
The 2008 renewal of the Governor's Cup rivalry carries more uncertainty than any UK-U of L matchup since 1994's series renewal.
So in searching out the game's key storylines, it's fitting that the 15th modern meeting between the Cats and Cards will take place in Louisville — hometown of Sue Grafton, author of the alphabet mystery series.
M is for Malice. During and after a disappointing 6-6 record in his first season as Louisville coach, poor Steve Kragthorpe became the Internet punching bag on U of L fan message boards. But win the first game of his second year, and Kragthorpe dramatically alters the tone of his coaching tenure.
Y is for Young (QB). In the commonwealth's biggest game, Kentucky quarterback Mike Hartline will make his first collegiate start. The redshirt sophomore from Canton, Ohio, has thrown only six passes in his college career. In the modern history of the Governor's Cup rivalry, UK QBs in their first starts against Louisville are 2-4.
S is for Stops. A year ago, Louisville's defense allowed opponents to score 35 or more points seven times. Last season, Kentucky's defense allowed foes to convert on third down a whopping 45 percent of the time (worst in the SEC). This season, UK believes its defense is ready to be its team strength.U of L knows its bounce-back hopes depend on a stouter defense. Which defense steps up in this one?
T is for Threes. Kentucky hasn't had three straight winning regular seasons since 1954-56. The last three times (1978, '85 and 2000) UK had that opportunity, it failed to win its season opener and went on to losing seasons. Coming off back-to-back eight-win years, Rich Brooks now takes his swing at ending the curse of the threes.
E is for Exiles. Five products of Louisville high school football are slated to start for Kentucky — offensive tackles Garry Williams (Seneca) and Justin Jeffries (St. Xavier); defensive tackles Myron Pryor (Eastern) and Corey Peters (Central); and tight end Maurice Grinter (Fairdale). U of L projects to have one starter from Lexington, tight end Pete Nochta of Tates Creek, in its lineup. Which team's exiles will return home with bragging rights?
R is for Running (game). In the four years Bobby Petrino coached Louisville to victory over Kentucky, the Cardinals ran for a combined 1,073 yards to UK's paltry 243. Last year, when Rich Brooks broke through in the rivalry, Kentucky had 185 rushing yards, U of L 101. In this rivalry, recent history says win the ground war and you win the game.
Y is for You. There's been a notable absence of fan buzz from either camp in advance of this year's UK-U of L meeting. With so much uncertainty on both sides, neither fan base seemed confident enough to talk smack. By early this evening, one school's fans will have definitely found their voice.