UK Football

Mark Story: Three key questions about Saturday's Kentucky-Louisville game

Louisville running back Michael Dyer (26) broke free from Ohio defender Xavier Hughes and ran 46 yards for a touchdown that gave the Cardinals a 35-0 lead in the third quarter.
Louisville running back Michael Dyer (26) broke free from Ohio defender Xavier Hughes and ran 46 yards for a touchdown that gave the Cardinals a 35-0 lead in the third quarter. AP

THREE KEY QUESTIONS

1. Can Kentucky seize an opportunity?

In theory, this game "sets up" perfectly for the Cats. UK enters the battle for the Governor's Cup off an open week; Louisville comes in off an emotional victory at Notre Dame last Saturday. Kentucky, however, is mired in a five-game losing skid. The Wildcats have not even been competitive in three of those five defeats — at LSU, Georgia and at Tennessee. Is an off week enough to heal UK psyches and get some growl back into the Cats?

2. Does UK have any hope of stopping the run?

The team that has rushed for the most yardage has claimed the Governor's Cup 18 straight years. That's probably not good for UK. In its five-game losing streak, Kentucky's run defense is surrendering a dispiriting 260.8 yards a game. In three of the five defeats (at LSU, Mississippi State and Georgia), UK has given up more than 300 yards rushing. Louisville, ranked No. 22 in this week's College Football Playoff ratings, has a stable of backs and a veteran offensive line. The Cardinals have had a rusher go for more than 100 yards in seven of their 11 games. To have any chance at an upset, Kentucky must slow down the Cardinals ground game.

3. What tricks does Mark Stoops have in store for Louisville?

A season ago, Kentucky took U of L by surprise by coming out in a 5-2 defensive front instead of its then-normal 4-3. It took Louisville the entire first half to figure out what UK was doing. Coming off an open week, with bowl eligibility hanging in the balance, Stoops and Kentucky offensive coordinator Neal Brown have every reason to throw every trick in their playbooks at Bobby Petrino's Cardinals.

THE MOOD

Is dispirited. In its five-game losing skid, Kentucky has not lost one game it was favored to win. However, it is worrisome that the Cats have been run off the field in three of those defeats. A Kentucky win over its archrival would make the Wildcats bowl-eligible and flip the narrative on the season in a dramatic manner. Even if they don't win, Mark Stoops' Cats need to play well enough to leave a better taste with the UK fan base (and Damien Harris) entering the offseason.

MARK STORY

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