UK Football

Kentucky football at Louisville: How they match up and a game prediction

Kentucky Coach Mark Stoops, left, and Louisville Coach Bobby Petrino
Kentucky Coach Mark Stoops, left, and Louisville Coach Bobby Petrino

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

QUARTERBACKS

In the last three games, Kentucky's Patrick Towles has completed only 51.6 percent (48-for-93) of his passes. To claim the Governor's Cup for the first time since 2010, UK needs the Towles who threw for 390 yards against Mississippi State and 369 yards at Florida. Louisville true freshman Reggie Bonnafon has started four games, and the Cardinals have won three, including last week's 31-28 victory at Notre Dame. The 6-foot-3, 206-pound Trinity product is raw as a passer (46.5 completion percentage in his four starts) but can make plays with his legs (five rushing TDs).

Advantage: Kentucky

RUNNING BACKS

UK has made it to the 12th game of the season without establishing a No. 1 running back. True freshman Stanley "Boom" Williams is UK's leading rusher (362 yards in nine games) but Nebraska transfer Braylon Heard (252 yards in 10 games) is atop the Cats' depth chart this week. Louisville sophomore Brandon Radcliff ran for 136 yards and a TD last week in South Bend. Auburn transfer Michael Dyer ran for 134 yards and three TDs in U of L's loss to defending national champion Florida State.

Advantage: Louisville

WIDE RECEIVERS

UK seniors Demarco Robinson (31 catches, one TD) and Javess Blue (27 catches, team-high five TD receptions) will look to extend their careers with a bowl-eligibility-gaining victory. Louisville's Eli Rogers (35 catches) and James Quick (31 receptions) are the Cardinals' leading receivers statistically but ex-Ballard star DeVante Parker is U of L's best offensive player. The 6-foot-3, 202-pound senior has 29 catches for 555 yards in only five games after missing the first half of the season because of a foot injury.

Advantage: Louisville

TIGHT ENDS

Kentucky seniors Steven Borden and Ronnie Shields have combined for six receptions all season — and five of those came in the season opener against Tennessee-Martin. In Bobby Petrino offenses, the tight end is a staple. Benefiting this year at Louisville is Florida transfer Gerald Christian, who has 28 catches and four TDs.

Advantage: Louisville

OFFENSIVE LINEMEN

Kentucky senior left tackle Darrian Miller, the Bryan Station product, drew Mark Stoops' praise this week. "I'm very proud of Darrian and the way he's tried to battle to help this team," Stoops said. Louisville sophomore center Tobijah Hughley is a product of Lafayette High School. Right guard Jake Smith has 49 career starts, while left guard John Miller and Jamon Brown have each started 30 games in a row.

Advantage: Louisville

DEFENSIVE LINEMEN

With 22.5 career sacks, Kentucky senior end Alvin "Bud" Dupree is the active SEC sacks leader. The 6-4, 264-pound product of Irwinton, Ga., needs 4.5 more sacks to break Oliver Barnett's school record of 26. Louisville left end Sheldon Rankins has started every game and leads the Cardinals in sacks (seven), is second in tackles for loss (12) and is tied for fourth on the team in tackles (42).

Advantage: Louisville

LINEBACKERS

Kentucky junior middle linebacker Josh Forrest had a career-high 20 tackles at Tennessee. Among SEC players, only Arkansas' Martrell Spaight (108 tackles) has more stops this season than Forrest's 102. Louisville inside backers Keith Kelsey (68 tackles, five sacks) and James Burgess (56 tackles, 9.5 tackles for loss) and defensive end turned outside linebacker Lorenzo Mauldin (team-best 13 tackles for loss) have thrived in U of L's new 3-4 alignment.

Advantage: Louisville

SECONDARY

Kentucky senior safety Ashley Lowery enters his final UK regular season game with 47 tackles and three interceptions. A question entering the season, Louisville's safety play has proven to be a team strength. Free safety Gerod Holliman has a whopping 13 interceptions. Strong safety James Sample leads the team in tackles (69) and has three interceptions and five pass breakups.

Advantage: Louisville

SPECIAL TEAMS

Kentucky's Austin MacGinnis set a school record with a 54-yard field goal at Tennessee. The redshirt freshman has turned in a solid season, converting 17 of 23 field-goal tries. Punter Landon Foster struggled at UT, punting eight times for a 40.2 yards average with no kicks inside the 20. Louisville place-kicker John Wallace is 14-for-18 on the season with a long of 51 yards. Punter Ryan Johnson averages 40.6 yards and has had 18 of his 56 punts fair caught.

Advantage: Even

PREDICTION

Louisville 38, Kentucky 21

MARK STORY

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