The top game for this opening Sunday (3:30pm EST) of the 2012 college football season features an in-state rivalry with the Kentucky WIldcats of the Southeastern Conference traveling to Papa John’s Stadium in Louisville, KT to take on the 25th ranked Cardinals out of the Big East. Kentucky is coming off of a 5-7 season in 2011, including a 6-6 record ATS under head coach Joker Phillips who has an 11-14 record in three years at the helm for the Wildcats. Louisville is coached by Charlie Strong, who has a 14-13 record entering his 3rd year as the Cardinals head man and is coming off of a 7-6 season last year, including an 8-5 record ATS.
The Wildcats return Maxwell Smith, who threw for 819 yards with 4 TDs and 4 INTs last season in limited duty, as their starting quarterback this year to lead an offense that ranked a dismal 117th among FBS teams in scoring last year with an average of 15.9 points per game and ranked an equally poor 118th in total offense with 259.8 yards per game. The Wildcat defense was the more respectable unit in 2011, ranking 53rd in scoring defense with 24.7 PPG allowed and 56th in total defense with 376.3 YPG surrendered. The strength of the unit is a tough defensive line led by DT Mister Cobble.
Louisville returns quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, who completed 64.5% of his passes for over 2,100 yards with 14 TDs as a Freshman last season. The Cardinal offense struggled in 2011 despite Bridgewater’s production, ranking 98th in scoring with 21.9 PPG and 104th in total offense with 333.2 YPG. Strong, the former Florida Gator defensive coordinator under Urban Meyer, coached a very strong (no pun intended) defense in 2011 that is expected to be tough again this season. Louisville ranked 17th in scoring defense with 20.1 PPG allowed and 23rd in total defense with 327.9 YPG allowed.
Kentucky vs. Louisville Spread and Betting Odds:
Kentucky Wildcats +13
@ Louisville Cardinals -13
Over 42 (-110)
Under 42 (-110)
Betting odds taken from Bovada.lv <– $250 Free Bet
Kentucky vs. Louisville Pick:
Last year’s meeting in Lexington was won 24-17 by the Cardinals as a 4.5 point underdog, Kentucky leads the series 14-10 all-time. Louisville is 7-2 ATS in their last 9 games overall and 12-5 ATS in their last 17 non-conference games. The over is 4-1 in the Cardinals’ last 5 games overall. The WIldcats are 2-7 ATS in their last 9 road games.
Kentucky will be very inexperienced on offense, as Maxwell is starting only his fourth career college game and the WIldcats do not have a proven running threat to help take the pressure off of their young QB and ran for only 35 yards on 32 carries against Louisville last season. In contrast, the Cardinals should be able to pound the ball with running back Dominique Brown, who ran for 91 yards in last year’s meeting, and open up the passing game for Bridgewater who will be more seasoned than he was was last year as a freshman when the game plan was simplified and he only threw for 106 yards. Louisville should open things up this time around with Bridgewater getting time to throw behind an improved offensive line, and Kentucky will be forced to air it out as well in order to keep pace, especially with the lack of a running game against a rugged Cardinal defense. This should make for a high scoring contest and the over is the play to make in this game.
PICK = Over 42