Location: Commonwealth Stadium (61,000) Lexington, KY
Surface: Synthetic Turf
Forecast: 57 degrees, Cloudy with some light rain
Game Time: Noon, 11-28-2015
Line: Louisville -4
Series History: UK leads 14-13
Last Time: Louisville 44, Kentucky 40 (2014)
In Lexington: Series Tied 5-5
Petrino vs. UK: 6-1
Petrino at UofL vs. UK: 5-0
Commonwealth Stadium recently went through a renovation and now does have some chair back seating but for the most part Commonwealth is the aluminum bleacher style seating that has been in place at Commonwealth since its existence.
The radio broadcast will be available on Louisville Sports Properties and the Tune In Mobile App. The legendary voice of the Cards Paul Rogers will provide play-by-play with Craig Swabek providing color and Doug Ormay from the sideline. Additionally the Cards’ call will be broadcast on Sirius Channel 118 and XM Channel 191.
The 2015 Governor’s Cup will be broadcast on the SEC Network with Matt Neal and Matt Stinchcomb in the booth and Kayce Smith on the sideline. UofL vs. Kentucky will also be available on WATCHESPN live and later for on-demand replay.
Breaking It Down
This is a big game for both teams. Of course the rivalry aspect will always be present whenever Louisville & Kentucky face off in anything, but in this case Kentucky is fighting for 6-6 and Louisville is looking to go 7-5. For UK 6-6 would signal a step forward in their program and guarantee a bowl berth (though the Cats probably go bowling at 5-7 this year). For UofL 7-5 keeps the Cards in the Tier 1 bowls of the ACC and gives UofL a shot at 8 wins in the season if they can win the bowl.
Looking at the stats below Louisville’s schedule rates slightly better using the Sagarin rating but the variance isn’t huge so looking at stats and trends should give us a good indication of what to expect tomorrow.
Louisville is slightly better at scoring, slightly better at preventing scores. The Cards gain a few more YPG and give up slightly less than Kentucky. The Cards pass for a few more yards per game, and limit punt returns slightly better. The Cards punt a fraction better than Kentucky, gain a few extra first downs per game and limit fewer 1st downs by their opponent. The Cards are slightly better converting 3rd downs and limiting opponent’s 3rd downs.
Kentucky is slightly better at running the ball, slightly better at preventing passing yardage, slightly better in the return game, and give up slightly fewer kick return yards than the Cards. UK is slightly less penalized and gains more fumbles than UofL. Louisville also loses more fumbles than the Cats. UK is slightly better in the Red Zone offensively & defensively.
Louisville is much better stopping the run, and getting sacks & TFLs. Additionally the Cards get significantly more INTs than UK.
Kentucky is much better at hitting field goals and protecting its QB and preventing TFLs. The Cats also are much better at blocking kicks.
Both of these teams have been through a great deal in the first 11 games of 2015. Going into the finale we still don’t know who will start at QB for Louisville or who will get the most reps at QB for Kentucky. Both teams have been in flux. It will be interesting to see how Mark Stoops & DJ Eliot plan to attack the Cardinal offense depending on who plays QB and if Kentucky runs that ‘kamikaze’ style defense that forces UofL to throw the football like they did a year ago. If they employ that strategy again then Louisville will be one dimensional and put the Cards against a pretty good pass defense.
UofL Offense vs. Kentucky Defense
Kentucky’s big weakness defensively is its run defense, so covering that up with pressure and keying early on Louisville’s running backs will be huge for UK. If UofL gets an early lead and has success early on with Brandon Radcliff & Jeremy Smith I don’t see how Kentucky can ever control the game. But last season we saw UK take away the rushing attack and force the Cards into the air…..Louisville just had DeVante Parker.
This year Jamari Staples has really come on late in a similar fashion to DeVante. But Louisville also has more weapons through the air than they did a year ago in Cole Hikutini, Keith Towbridge, and Micky Crum at Tight End along with a more experienced James Quick, Traveon Samuel, Jaylen Smith, etc. Last year Louisville had experience and talent…..this year Louisville has talent that has played basically a year of college football. How the UK secondary plays Louisville will also a determine a great deal, does UK play 2+ man? If they do and Lamar Jackson is in the game, Lamar could have a field day if he can break the Cats’ pressure. If Kyle Bolin is in the game UK’s man probably is more effective.
It’s reasonable to expect that if Lamar Jackson isn’t the starter vs. Kentucky that he’s going to have specialized packages along with Reggie Bonnafon. These packages have been a spark for Louisville all season. Can Kyle Bolin avoid the big mistake? Can Louisville’s offensive line play well enough to give Petrino’s offense a chance?
Kentucky’s Offense vs. Louisville’s Defense
Drew Barker will make his 2nd start for Kentucky ever vs. Louisville. It’s a big stage. Drew came to UK with a lot of superlatives and really excited the fan base. He’s been battling Patrick Towles all season after red-shirting in 2014 to get on the field. Barker in 2015 is 29-48 for 236 yards 1 TD, 2 INTs. Drew has also rushed for 48 yards on 13 carries.
Kentucky has thrown INTs on 4.04% of its passes this year (Towels 4.03%, Barker 4.167%) compare that to UofL (3.36% as a team, Lamar 3.5% and Kyle 3.03%). Why is that important? Louisville is one of the best Interception teams in the country (10th) and has intercepted 4.32% of passes on the year. Throw in a green QB and the law of probability rests on the side of the Cardinals here.
But Kentucky has running backs. Boom Williams, JoJo Kemp and Mikel Horton have shown the ability to really run the ball. Boom Williams was incredible last year in the Governor’s Cup. It would seem prudent for UK’s offensive coordinator to utilize his running backs more often with a pretty inexperienced QB with a high INT rate when they are facing a Todd Grantham defense with 15 Interceptions on the year and one of the best pass rushes in the country.
A lot of teams have had success running the ball against the Cards. Auburn, Houston, Clemson, Florida State, and Pitt…..what do all of those games have in common? They are all losses and they are the only games of the season where teams rushed for more than 105 yards. So if the Cats want to beat the Cards….they need to run the football.
It doesn’t really matter that Bobby Petrino is 6-1 vs. Kentucky, that he’s 5-0 as Louisville’s Head Coach or any of that. In the end, Louisville had a really good football team last year and was life and death with UK at PJCS. So anything can happen.
This time around though Louisville is coming off a loss to Pittsburgh instead of a win over Notre Dame. The Defense has been challenged all season and Kentucky is really the perfect set up for Louisville Defensively. With Patrick Towels UK’s offense is vanilla at best. With Drew Barker things are more interesting for the Cats but also more risky. If UK can get a lead and run the ball this game could get interesting, but I don’t think that’s going to happen. Kentucky is bringing in an offense that ranks similar to Virginia, but ultimately is the 6th best offense the Cards have seen this year.
Louisville’s offense has been all over the place in 2015. But they’ve also played a lot of very good defenses this year as well: Boston College #1, Clemson #5, NC State #13, Florida State #20, Wake Forest #42, and Houston #52 all rank ahead of Kentucky in Total Defense so UK’s defense is going to be the 7th best (of 11 FBS teams) defense the Cards have played in 2015.
Personally I think Louisville comes out sharp offensively to start the game with great balance and the UofL defense has been challenged to play up to its potential. There is a lot to play for on both sides both ultimately I think Louisville’s defense is the big difference in the game as I think UofL neutralizes the Cats controls field position, takes advantage of a few errors at QB and wins easier than most people think.
Louisville 31, Kentucky 13
|Strength of Schedule||35th||54th|
|Scoring Offense (ppg)||28.0 (73rd)||24.7 (96th)|
|Total Offense (ypg)||398.7 (69th)||379.4 (84th)|
|Passing Offense (ypg)||253.1 (38th)||210.3 (80th)|
|Rushing Offense (ypg)||145.64 (95th)||169.09 (67th)|
|Scoring Defense (ppg)||24.4 (47th)||26.5 (61st)|
|Total Defense (ypg)||326.4 (17th)||385.5 (57th)|
|Passing Defense (ypg)||205.2 (39th)||200.2 (35th)|
|Rushing Defense (ypg)||121.18 (17th)||185.36 (90th)|
|Punt Returns (ypr)||4.71 (107th)||7.36 (76th)|
|Kickoff Returns (ypr)||21.4 (56th)||22.07 (45th)|
|Opponent Punt Returns (ypr)||4.75 (25th)||9.25 (82nd)|
|Opponent Kickoff Returns (ypr)||23.37 (102nd)||21.38 (70th)|
|Punting (ypp)||39.85 (92nd)||39.44 (97th)|
|Field Goal %||73.7 (62nd)||84.2% (20th)|
|Opponent Field Goal %||75.0% (69th)||72.2 (58th)|
|First Downs (per game)||21.0 (63rd)||18.9 (96th)|
|Opponent First Downs (per game)||17.1 (19th)||20.9 (71st)|
|Penalties (ypg)||61.6 (90th)||52.8 (63rd)|
|Turnover Margin (season)||-2 (78th)||-3 (88th)|
|Time of Possession||29:35.55 (72nd)||29:05.18 (80th)|
|Sacks (per game)||2.73 (20th)||1.55 (99th)|
|Sacks Allowed (per game)||3.91 (last)||2.46 (86th)|
|Tackles for Loss (per game)||7.27 (26th)||4.55 (115th)|
|Tackles for Loss Allowed (per game)||7.82 (121st)||6.73 (90th)|
|Interceptions (season)||15 (10th)||8 (80th)|
|Passes Defended (per game)||4.73 (43rd)||4.73 (43rd)|
|Fumbles Recovered (season)||7 (63rd)||9 (23rd)|
|Fumbles Forced (season)||11 (36th)||9 (54th)|
|Fumbles Lost (season)||12 (115th)||5 (17th)|
|Kicks/Punts Blocked (season)||N/A||2 (38th)|
|3rd Down Conversions (%)||37.66% (80th)||37.04% (87th)|
|Opponent 3rd Down Conversions (%)||34.94% (40th)||38.65% (68th)|
|4th Down Conversions (%)||58.33% (42nd)||68.42% (18th)|
|Opponent 4th Down Conversions (%)||50.00% (59th)||57.14% (97th)|
|Red Zone Conversions (%)||81.63% (79th)||84.62% (57th)|
|Opponent Red Zone Conversions (%)||85.19% (79th)||73.91% (15th)|
|RedZone TD Conversions (%)||55.10% (98th)||56.41% (92nd)|
|Opponent Red Zone TD Conversions (%)||55.56% (46th)||52.17% (36th)|
|Kickoffs (ypk)||62.70 (37th)||61.24 (76th)|
|Plays||762 (75th)||753 (83rd)|
|Yards Per Play||5.76 (57th)||5.54 (74th)|
KYLE BOLIN OR LAMAR JACKSON
A few weeks ago we put together a stat analysis of the Louisville Quarterbacks in 2015. Now a few weeks later, the Cards are facing yet another QB dilemma heading into its final game of the season vs. Kentucky.
The question I have is whether or not Petrino will (and I think he will) choose his quarterback based on how to best attack UK’s defense. Last year Kentucky played a lot of two-man single coverage and was burned repeatedly by DeVante Parker. This year that could hurt the Cats again if Lamar Jackson takes the field, but for a different reason: Playing man coverage against a QB like Lamar Jackson leaves a defense exposed if Lamar can break into the secondary.
However, with the recent play of Jamari Staples it’s reasonable to assume that Kyle Bolin might have similar success again in 2015 that he did in 2014. Also we know that Louisville’s running backs are much more effective with Kyle Bolin under center and allow the power game to exist.
For Petrino this is really about a CHOICE. Kyle has shown to be effective in big moments but has really struggled with the ordinary. Lamar Jackson’s presence really lifted the Cards when he came in against Pittsburgh and rallied a comeback that fell short on the road. But which choice is correct?
Lamar has seen significant action vs: Auburn, Houston, Samford, NC State, Florida State, Boston College, Wake Forest, and Pittsburgh.
Kyle has seen significant action vs: Houston, Clemson, Wake Forest, Syracuse, Virginia, and Pittsburgh.
Kyle was OUTSTANDING vs. Syracuse and played as well as could be expected vs. Clemson. Lamar Jackson has also put together some really nice performances with the 3 game stretch of FSU, BC, and Wake Forest really standing out.
Kyle seems to get into a lull when he gets too comfortable. Lamar lacks consistency. Bottom line is NEITHER player has really stepped up and taken this job for his own, but both have also shown the ability to win games and make plays.
Let’s take a look at both QBs statistically and see if that helps our decision-making:
Kyle’s sample size is still smaller than Lamar’s but it is big enough now to really see that the differences here are very small. If we are just measuring the Quarterbacks by how they throw then we really can’t differentiate too much from Lamar to Kyle. But it does appear that Kyle Bolin has started to edge Lamar overall, but that does only tell part of the story.
Below we will go into how each QB does in different downs and break down how each Quarterback does in different phases of 3rd down.
One thing that is difficult to measure is the Louisville rushing attack with & without Lamar without an even deeper dive into the analytics available. We know that Lamar Jackson is a threat to run the football and while Kyle does have mobility, it’s not the same as Lamar. But in order to really measure the net effect of each Quarterback on the running game we need to tally the rushing totals in different situations for the TEAM not just the player. We won’t do that here, but we may at a later date.
PASSING ON 1ST DOWN
|1st Down Passing||C-A||%||Ys||Y/A||TD||INT||Rating||1st Downs|
|Lamar Jackson||57-92||62.0%||735||7.99||5||4||138.31||27 (29.3%)|
|Kyle Bolin||26-55||47.3%||315||5.72||3||1||109.74||14 (25.45%)|
Lamar has just been much better on 1st down overall but has thrown 4 of his 7 INTs on 1st down. Other than that, Jackson has a clear advantage. Kyle at a 47.3% completion percentage on 1st down is a tough deal and MUST improve.
PASSING ON 2ND DOWN
|2nd Down Passing||C-A||%||Ys||Y/A||TD||INT||Rating||1st Downs|
|Lamar Jackson||30-58||51.7%||372||6.41||2||2||110.08||19 (32.75%)|
|Kyle Bolin||35-49||71.4||639||13.04||3||1||197.09||24 (48.97%)|
Unlike 1st down, Bolin is a GAMER on 2nd down. Completing nearly 49% of 2nd downs into a fresh set of downs is next level good and Kyle is actually fabulous on this down and by every measurable exceeds Lamar Jackson. Lamar is serviceable here and small improvements would make a big difference. For now, Kyle Bolin stands out in this category.
PASSING ON 3RD DOWN
|3rd Down Passing||C-A||%||Ys||Y/A||TD||INT||Rating||1st Downs|
|Lamar Jackson||27-47||57.4||355||7.55||2||1||130.68||22 (46.81%)|
|Kyle Bolin||14-26||53.8||123||4.73||1||2||90.90||4 (15.38%)|
On 3rd down, Lamar has the advantage again and by a lot. Lamar’s ability to convert 46.81% of his 3rd downs while passing is outstanding. Currently North Carolina converts at 46.8% on 3rd down offense and is the #17 team in the country at 3rd Down % (to give readers and idea of how good that is).
As good as Bolin is on 2nd down, he just hasn’t been good enough on 3rd down converting just four 1st downs in 26 passing attempts. That won’t get the job done on the critical down.
3RD & 1-3 PASSING
|3rd & 1-3||C-A||%||Ys||Y/A||TD||INT||Rating||1st Downs|
|Lamar Jackson||3-4||75.0||37||9.25||0||0||152.7||3 (75%)|
3rd & short really isn’t a passing down but here are the numbers.
3RD & 4-6 PASSING
|3rd & 4-6||C-A||%||Ys||Y/A||TD||INT||Rating||1st Downs|
|Lamar Jackson||10-13||76.9%||112||8.62||0||1||133.91||9 (69.2%)|
|Kyle Bolin||2-4||50%||22||5.5||0||0||96.2||1 (25%)|
Lamar is outstanding in 3rd & Medium having converted 9 of 13 throws into 1st downs. Kyle Bolin has a smaller sample size and what he has done thus far leaves some to be desired.
3RD & 7-9 PASSING
|3rd & 7-9||C-A||%||Ys||Y/A||TD||INT||Rating||1st Downs|
|Lamar Jackson||5-11||45.5%||73||6.64||1||0||131.2||4 (36.36%)|
|Kyle Bolin||2-4||50%||16||4.0||0||0||83.60||1 (25.0%)|
Again here in 3rd and Long Lamar maintains a clear advantage. This isn’t to drive the point home that Kyle hasn’t been great on 3rd down, but rather to show just how effective Lamar can be situationally.
3RD & 10+ PASSING
|3rd & 10+||C-A||%||Ys||Y/A||TD||INT||Rating||1st Downs|
|Lamar Jackson||9-19||47.4%||133||7.00||1||0||123.54||6 (31.58%)|
|Kyle Bolin||10-16||62.5%||85||5.31||1||2||102.76||2 (12.50%)|
So we’ve talked about how the sample size is smaller for Bolin when comparing him to Lamar. But this stat really tells the story that Kyle Bolin has been in 3rd & REALLY LONG just as much at QB as Lamar Jackson, which isn’t great news for Bolin. Lamar continues to hold a clear advantage in every phases of 3rd down.
We are showing the rushing stats for each player here just for transparency. It’s not a fair assessment because it does not show the net effect of the Louisville rushing attack with both QBs in the game.
What these stats do show, however, is that when Lamar Jackson does take off and run that he is the most effective on 3rd & short. Other than 3rd & short (1-3 yards) on 3rd down stat break downs Lamar taking off and running has not been ideal.
RUSHING ON 1ST DOWN
|1st Down Rushing||Rushes||Yards||TDs||YPC||1st Downs|
|Lamar Jackson||47||111||2||2.36||8 (17.02%)|
RUSHING ON 2ND DOWN
|2nd Down Rushing||Rushes||Yards||TDs||YPC||1st Downs|
|Lamar Jackson||47||343||4||7.3||13 (27.66%)|
RUSHING ON 3RD DOWN
|3rd Down Rushing||Rushes||Yards||TDs||YPC||1st Downs|
|Lamar Jackson||29||83||1||2.86||7 (24.14%)|
3RD & 1-3 RUSHING
|3rd & 1-3||Rushes||Yards||TDs||YPC||1st Downs|
|Lamar Jackson||5||44||0||8.8||3 (60.0%)|
3RD & 4-6 RUSHING
|3rd & 4-6||Rushes||Yards||TDs||YPC||1st Downs|
|Lamar Jackson||7||1||1||0.14||1 (14.29%)|
3RD & 7-9 RUSHING
|3rd & 7-9||Rushes||Yards||TDs||YPC||1st Downs|
|Lamar Jackson||9||1||0||0.11||2 (22.2%)|
3RD & 10+ RUSHING
|3rd & 10+||Rushes||Yards||TDs||YPC||1st Downs|
|Lamar Jackson||8||37||0||4.63||1 (12.5%)|
So Who Do You Start?
This is a tough call. Until a player steps up and is the clear choice this debate will rage on. It’s tempting to go with Lamar because of his ability on 1st & 3rd down. Kyle really hasn’t gotten it done on the money down in 2015 and has been in 3rd & 10+ situations at a much higher rate than Jackson.
But I’m siding with Kyle Bolin for now because I believe the Louisville rushing attack as a team works much better with Bolin under center. Bolin’s 2nd down performance is also OUTSTANDING to the point that it makes the deficiencies else where bearable.
Neither player is perfect, both can improve and both will improve. Petrino has choices and no matter who the staff chooses to send out 1st we’ve seen the team respond positively to a change at signal caller midway through the game. For now, I’d go with Kyle and understand that if things aren’t going well Lamar Jackson can step in and help win a football game.
Moving forward it would be great to see a QB rise above and really take charge of the position. For now Louisville will close its season the same way it started with “ORs” at the Quarterback spot.