We saw a different Mike Hartline in UK's season-opening win over Miami (Ohio) than we saw in last year's opener at Louisville. Hartline looked composed and comfortable and threw a more accurate deep ball. Now the test for Hartline is to show he can do it consistently.
Louisville junior Justin Burke made his first career start against Indiana State, and it showed. Burke seemed anxious as he overthrew wide open receivers on several occasions. The biggest key will be whether Burke is settled down enough in his second start to connect with the Cardinals' talented receiving corps.
Last season, U of L's Victor Anderson became the first Cardinal to earn Big East Rookie of the Year honors and was the school's first 1,000-yard rusher since 2005. Anderson is shifty and dangerous in the open field and is complemented nicely by junior Bilal Powell, a bigger, sturdier back who ran for 76 yards and a touchdown against Indiana State.
Kentucky will again rely on a tailback-by-committee approach with Alfonso Smith, Derrick Locke and Moncell Allen getting the bulk of the carries.
The Kentucky offensive line didn't have much trouble with Miami (Ohio), but the Cats still have to prove they can overpower a good defensive front and open holes in the running game.
Louisville's line is in a state of flux after losing its top two performers (center Eric Wood and tackle George Bussey) to the NFL. Left guard Abdul Kateyah is the most experienced returnee with 13 consecutive starts, and left tackle Byron Stingily and center Mario Benavides made their first career starts against Indiana State.
Louisville has a receiving corps that can pose matchup problems: Scott Long is the Cards' most complete receiver. Doug Beaumont brings consistency (a reception in 13 straight games). Troy Pascley (four TD catches, 21-yard average in 2008) and Trent Guy are big-play threats, and Josh Chichester brings size at 6-foot-9.
UK showed off a dangerous group of receivers against Miami, led by sophomore Randall Cobb and junior-college transfer Chris Matthews. No. 3 receiver Kyrus Lanxter will miss the game with a pulled hamstring.
Both teams are trying to find themselves up front. Louisville's top tackle, L.T. Walker, is listed No. 1 on the depth chart but didn't play against Indiana State. Walker's sidekick, L.D. Scott, has 71/2 career tackles for loss. Watch out for sophomore end William Savoy, who has four sacks in six career games.
The Cats' defensive line didn't get much done against Miami and will need ends DeQuin Evans and Chandler Burden to step things up.
Kentucky middle linebacker Micah Johnson should be healthier after having an open date to rest a foot injury he suffered late in fall camp. Senior strongside linebacker Sam Maxwell has been named a game captain, and sophomore weakside linebacker Danny Trevathan will be playing in a cast after recently undergoing wrist surgery.
Linebacker might be the most experienced position on U of L's roster. All three starters (Brandon Heath, Jon Dempsey and Antwon Canady) return from last season.
Kentucky's defensive backfield features perhaps the country's best corner in Trevard Lindley and solid complements in corners Paul Warford and Randall Burden along with safeties Winston Guy, Calvin Harrison and Matt Lentz.
The Cards have a revamped secondary with two junior-college transfers (corner Bobby Burns and safety Terence Simien) breaking into the lineup. Junior corner Johnny Patrick made 50 tackles last year and had an interception return for a score called back against Indiana State.
The squads are almost a mirror image of each other. Both have dangerous return men (Trent Guy for U of L; Randall Cobb and Derrick Locke for UK), and both have struggled in the kicking game. Kentucky is hoping for kicker Lones Seiber to come around; he missed a 43-yarder against Miami. U of L's new kicker, senior Ryan Payne, made three of four attempts against Indiana State. Seiber and Payne went without a touchback on seven kickoff attempts, so we could be in for some big returns.