Mark Story

How Kentucky and Louisville match up — with a game prediction

Kash Daniel knows Louisville will come out ‘swinging’ against UK

After beating Middle Tennessee 34-23 in its final home game on Saturday, Kentucky finishes out the regular season at Louisville on Nov. 24, 2018. UK linebacker Kash Daniel says don't be fooled by U of L's 2-9 record.
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After beating Middle Tennessee 34-23 in its final home game on Saturday, Kentucky finishes out the regular season at Louisville on Nov. 24, 2018. UK linebacker Kash Daniel says don't be fooled by U of L's 2-9 record.

How Kentucky (8-3, 5-3 SEC) and Louisville (2-9, 0-8 ACC) match up at each position — with a game prediction:

Quarterbacks

In the four games since going 3-of-9 passing in Kentucky’s win over Vanderbilt, Terry Wilson has completed 70.4 percent of his throws (76-of-108) with four touchdowns vs. two interceptions. The 6-foot-3, 205-pound sophomore is also UK’s second-leading rusher (439 yards). Louisville has played four QBs this season. One, freshman Jordan Travis, has left the team with plans to transfer. Redshirt sophomore Jawon Pass has started nine games. A pocket passer, the 6-4, 235-pound Pass is completing 54 percent for 1,960 yards with eight TDs vs. 12 interceptions. Redshirt freshman Malik Cunningham has started two games, including last week’s 52-10 loss to North Carolina State when Pass was suspended for the first quarter by U of L interim head coach Lorenzo Ward. The 6-1, 190-pound Cunningham ran for 100 yards on 14 carries vs. N.C. State, and is Louisville’s leading rusher (408 yards).

Advantage: Kentucky

Malik Cunningham.JPG
In a 52-10 loss last week to N.C. State, Louisville carried the ball 38 times for 254 yards with quarterback Malik Cunningham (3) getting 100 yards on 14 carries. The Cardinals averaged 6.7 yards a rush. Timothy D. Easley Associated Press

Running backs

Kentucky star Benny Snell (1,205 yards, 12 TDs) needs 207 yards to eclipse Sonny Collins (3,835 yards from 1972-75) as UK’s all-time leading rusher. Louisville has not had a running back rush for 100 yards in a game this season. Speedy true freshman Hassan Hall (272 yards, three TDs) and redshirt freshman Colin Wilson (174 yards, one TD in seven games) are on top of the U of L depth chart this week.

Advantage: Kentucky

Benny Snell
Kentucky star running back Benny Snell ran for 211 yards and two touchdowns in UK’s 44-17 loss to archrival Louisville in 2017. Michael Reaves

Wide receivers

Kentucky sophomore Isaiah Epps had a career-high three catches (for 24 yards) in last week’s 34-23 victory over Middle Tennessee State. A 6-2, 181-pound product of Jenks, Okla., Epps has eight catches for 76 yards on the season. Sophomore slot receiver Lynn Bowden, UK’s leading receiver (56 catches, 575 yards, three TDs), had only one catch vs. MTSU. Entering 2018, wide receiver was considered Louisville’s strongest offensive position. The season has not gone according to script for veterans Jaylen Smith (34 catches, 518 yards, one TD) or Dez Fitzpatrick (30, 414, three). However, 5-9, 156-pound true freshman TuTu Atwell (24 catches, 406 yards, team-best 16.9 yards a catch, two TDs) has been a bright spot.

Advantage: Louisville

epps
Kentucky wide receiver Isaiah Epps (81) caught three passes for 24 yards in last week’s 34-23 victory over Middle Tennessee State. Alex Slitz aslitz@herald-leader.com

Tight ends

Since going without a catch against Vanderbilt, Kentucky senior C.J. Conrad has 11 catches and three TDs in the four games since. For the season, the 6-5, 252-pound product of LaGrange, Ohio, is second on the UK team in receptions (27) and receiving yards (238) and tied for the team lead in TD catches (three). Louisville senior Micky Crum has made 21 catches for 215 yards with one TD.

Advantage: Kentucky

UK senior tight end C.J. Conrad says the Cats need to "play better in big moments" after their loss to Georgia on Saturday. He and other UK leaders will keep this team on track, he said.

Offensive line

Kentucky’s Darian Kinnard, a 6-5, 357-pound true freshman, made his first career start Saturday against MTSU. “Darian did a really good job. I was very pleased with Darian,” UK Coach Mark Stoops said. Louisville center Cole Bentley, a 6-3, 316-pound sophomore from Belfry, starts in the middle of a Cardinals front that has surrendered a whopping 41 quarterback sacks in 2018.

Advantage: Kentucky

At his press conference on Monday, Nov. 19, 2018, Kentucky football coach Mark Stoops talked about Saturday's game at Louisville. The Cardinals are now under the direction of interim coach Lorenzo Ward, who replaced the fired Bobby Petrino.

Defensive line

Kentucky got ample production from its down three in the victory over MTSU. End Calvin Taylor had four tackles. Nose guard Quinton Bohanna had three tackles and a sack. Tackles Adrian Middleton and Phil Hoskins also each had a sack. Louisville redshirt sophomore end Tabarius Peterson leads the Cardinals in tackles for loss (6.5) and sacks (two) and is fourth in tackles (48). Manual product Derek Dorsey, a redshirt sophomore, has two QB hurries at end.

amqb.jpg
Kentucky defensive end Calvin Taylor (91), a 6-foot-9, 300-pound junior, had four tackles in UK’s victory over Middle Tennessee State. Taylor has started Kentucky’s last seven games. Alex Slitz aslitz@herald-leader.com

Advantage: Kentucky

Linebackers

Capping a dominant season, OLB/rush end Josh Allen set Kentucky records for career sacks (27.5) and single-season sacks (13) last week against Middle Tennessee. If that weren’t enough, the 6-5, 260-pound senior also set a career single-game high with 15 tackles vs. the Blue Raiders. WLB Jordan Jones will look to write a better chapter against U of L. In last season’s 44-17 UK loss, Jones was involved in a fight with Lamar Jackson and received multiple personal-foul penalties. Louisville sophomore MLB Dorian Etheridge (53 tackles, four TFL, four pass breakups, two fumble recoveries) has a nose for the football.

Advantage: Kentucky

GALLERY_171125UKMen049
Kentucky linebacker Jordan Jones (34) became involved in a scuffle with Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson (8) during U of L’s 44-17 rout of UK last season at Kroger Field. Mark Mahan

Defensive backs

In his final Kentucky home game, senior strong safety Mike Edwards turned in a gem vs. Middle Tennessee. The 6-foot, 200-pound product of Cincinnati had 12 tackles, two TFL, returned an interception 66 yards for a TD and set up a second UK score with a forced fumble. Louisville senior strong safety Dee Smith is the Cardinals’ leading tackler (65). Sophomore backup cornerback Russ Yeast, the son of ex-UK wide receiver star Craig Yeast, briefly quit the Louisville team but has returned after the firing of Bobby Petrino.

Advantage: Kentucky

Mike Edwards pick vs. Louisville.JPG
Kentucky safety Mike Edwards made the first of his two interceptions of Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson in UK’s 41-38 upset of No. 11 U of L in 2016, the Wildcats’ most recent visit to Cardinal Stadium. Jonathan Palmer Lexington

Special teams

Kentucky senior place-kicker Miles Butler regained last week the starting job he had previously lost and successfully booted field goals of 38 and 32 yards vs. MTSU. Australian punter Max Duffy has not been as consistent late in the season as he was early. Still, for the season, Duffy has stopped 25 of 51 kicks inside the opponents’ 20-yard line. Louisville punter Mason King has kicked a robust 63 times for an average of 40.7 yards. Place-kicker Blanton Creque is 9-of-11 on field goals with a long of 46 yards. Both punt returner Rodjay Burns (55 yards vs. Indiana State) and kickoff returner Hassan Hall (93 yards vs. Clemson) have return touchdowns this season.

Advantage: Louisville

Miles Butler
After missing four of his first seven field-goal tries of 2018, Kentucky place-kicker Miles Butler (95) lost his job to true freshman Chance Poore. However, Butler returned last week to boot two successful field goals in the Cats’ 34-23 win over Middle Tennessee State University. Alex Slitz aslitz@herald-leader.com

Prediction

Kentucky 38, Louisville 21

Mark Story: (859) 231-3230; Twitter: @markcstory

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UK linebacker Jordan Jones was all smiles after the Cats' upset of Mississippi State, and he talked about being a more mature player on the football field.

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