“It’s one of those days you just don’t like them,” Louisville Defensive Coordinator Vance Bedford stated. “You know, ‘Stay out of my yard or there’s gonna be some problems’.”
Sound the bells around the Commonwealth, the big game is finally here. I’ll spare you the story and simply note, it’s Louisville vs Kentucky. We’ve approached an interesting point in the series where both teams appear to be on the rise. Yet, this one doesn’t appear to be particularly attractive, but it’s Louisville-Kentucky – so anything can happen. Welcome to the third installment of ‘Winning Recipe’.
LOUISVILLE WILL WIN IF…
They are able to gain yards on the ground.
For what it’s worth, Louisville still stands a chance of winning if they amass zero rushing yards on Saturday, however if Louisville runs the ball well Kentucky can forget about keeping this game close.
That’s why you see this here.
Louisville hasn’t displayed a solid rushing game so far this season. In fact, last week’s display was particularly disappointing, as they were outgained by FCS opponent Eastern Kentucky.
“It’s just one of those fixes. We just weren’t sharp,” Offensive Coordinator Shawn Watson said. “Honestly, it was one guy, maybe two guys. But you can’t be the guy, that’s our motto for this week, ‘don’t be the guy’. We had some good chances for break-out runs and we were one hat away.”
The Kentucky match-up provides Louisville a nice opportunity to get the rushing game back on track. Louisville sported one of their better rushing performances last season in the Governor’s Cup.
Both teams carry a different look this year, however. Louisville has new faces in both the backfield, and on the offensive line. Kentucky is trying to attack more on defense.
The Louisville backfield has essentially been ‘called out’ this week by players and fans a like. What was the first thing Charlie Strong mentioned after a 42 point win? How bad the Cardinals rushing attack was.
Will a highly motivated Louisville backfield travel to Lexington to face the Wildcats?
“Were going with two guys,” Watson explained. “Basically, we’ll use the third for situational things. We need to have a rhythm at tailback.”
Sounds like we have an odd man out. The Coaching Staff won’t say it, but it’s a fair conclusion that those two guys will be Senorise Perry and Michael Dyer. In fact, the depth chart would agree. Early Saturday, Senorise Perry will attempt to wear down Kentucky with his shifty running, if he’s successful, expect Michael Dyer to make some big plays with his explosive running style as the game rolls on.
“Mike [Dyer] is very explosive,” said Watson. “He’s a really hard runner inside the tackles and with his explosiveness, he attacks tacklers.”
Dyer is primed for a breakout performance. He’s shown flashes of his former BCS Championship MVP talent, including his 43-yard scamper against OHIO, Louisville’s longest run this season. He’ll get a much anticipated increase in handoffs, and I think we’ll see he deserves it.
After this week, more will be made about Dyer not being #1 than being the #2 option.
KENTUCKY WILL WIN IF…
Kentucky’s Defensive Line causes problems for the Louisville Offensive Line.
If there is one group Kentucky might have an advantage over Louisville, look here.
“I like their two inside kids, I like their edge players. They’re good players,” Watson explained. ” [We expect to see] movement, pressures. The typical kind of things you have to manage week-to-week.”
Teddy Bridgewater is clearly the top reason to take the Cardinals in a walk. However, what happens when Bridgewater can’t throw? Bridgewater can’t beat you. It’s obvious a QB needs time to beat you, on Saturday, Kentucky will try to take that time away.
Watson referred to the Senior inside combo of Donte Rumph and Mister Cobble as ‘space-heaters’. A combined 658 pounds between the two, physically they present a big challenge for the Louisville offensive line. The Cardinals also must not neglect DE Za’Darius Smith, who leads the Nation in sacks with 4.
Kentucky features a defensive line full of veterans, who hold a combined 60+ starts over the belt. The Louisville offensive line is younger, less hared, but has planet of talent, and likely enough experience to hold their own.
There are two things that the Louisville team has working in there favor in this match-up and two things Kentucky will have to overcome:
1 While run blocking may be a different story, the protection the Louisville Offensive Line has given to QB Teddy Bridgewater has been nothing short of spectacular. Despite losing a combined 30+ career starts from their Offensive Line in 2012, the Cardinals have given up one sack in two games.
2 Louisville’s Offensive Line will get a boost this weekend. Kam Joyer will return to the line up at RG replacing Chris Acosta after a brief hiatus due to injury. Offensive Coordinator Shawn Watson says Joyer adds ‘another dimension’.
STORYLINE THAT INTRIGUES
Louisville Defense Adjustment to ‘Air Raid’ Speedy Approach
Kentucky is running plays about 25% faster than last season under new Offensive Coordinator. On average, the Wildcats are running a play at 24.3 seconds a clip, it pales in comparison to the blur of Oregon who runs plays at 13 seconds. Yet, still it is a very up-tempo approach and one that Mark Stoops only wants to get faster.
“We just have to get lined up,” junior Safety Calvin Pryor stated. “We have to communicate well on defense.”
It will be key for the Louisville Defense, particularly the Defensive Line, to get lined up quickly and be ready for different Kentucky looks. It’s certainly something to watch early on in this match-up.
This chapter of the Governor’s Cup could potentially be the most lopsided. Louisville holds an advantage at every position on the field. It’s useless to search for a way that Kentucky can keep up with the Cardinals, sans freakish broken plays. Expect Kentucky to begin the game loading the box; trying to pressure Bridgewater. Louisville will counter that by rushing the ball. As the game rolls on, I expect Kentucky to fall into some 4-3 Zone looks; Bridgewater will slice it up.
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