The battle of the Bluegrass State will be waged for the 30th time Saturday when Kentucky visits Louisville. By virtue of a 41-38 victory last season, the Wildcats ended a five-game winning streak by the Cardinals and took a 15-14 edge in the series.
This game brings together two of the most exciting players in the country in reigning Heisman Trophy winner Lamar Jackson of Louisville and Benny Snell, Jr. of Kentucky, one of the SEC’s top running backs. Jackson, who has a chance to join Ohio State’s Archie Griffin (1974-75) as the only repeat winner of the Heisman, has done a number on the Wildcats in his two previous Governor’s Cup games. The junior quarterback has thrown for 411 yards and three touchdowns and has run for 357 yards and four scores against Kentucky, which hasn’t beaten Louisville in Lexington since 2009. The sophomore Snell didn’t enjoy much success last season in his lone game against Cardinals, but has against pretty much everyone else while producing back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons and a team-record 29 rushing touchdowns.
TV: Noon ET, SEC Network. LINE: Louisville -10
ABOUT LOUISVILLE (7-4): After enduring three tough losses in October, the Cardinals have righted the ship and will head into this matchup off a dominating performance against Syracuse. Everyone knows what Jackson and leading receivers Jaylen Smith and freshman Dez Fitzpatrick bring to the table, but the Cardinals will also need the defense led by Jaire Alexander and James Hearns to step up in this one. “He (Alexander) brings to the defense what Lamar brings to the offense, as far as energy,” head coach Bobby Petrino told the media. “You see the way James Hearns has been playing with his ability to get after the quarterback and get the ball on the ground. I think we’ve made a lot of improvement.”
ABOUT KENTUCKY (7-4): Snell and receiver Garrett Johnson will be critical to the success of the Wildcats now that tight end C.J. Conrad has been lost for the season because of a foot injury. The junior, who finished with 16 catches for 286 yards and four touchdowns, was the No. 2 option for quarterback Stephen Johnson, who has thrown one touchdown pass in the last five games. The Wildcats’ two backup tight ends - Greg Hart and Justin Rigg - are also dealing with injuries, but coach Mark Stoops expects Hart to be available for the game.
1. Snell needs two rushing touchdowns to set the Kentucky single-season record, which is currently held by Moe Williams (17).
2. Garrett Johnson, who has 46 catches for 500 yards and two touchdowns this season, is fifth in receptions (153) and fourth in receiving yards (2,050) in school history.
3. After producing a bunch of blowouts over its first 21 years, the rivalry has seen the last eight games decided by an average margin of 8.9 points.
PREDICTION: Louisville 45, Kentucky 37