Kentucky is a two-touchdown underdog against Louisville Saturday and there hasn't been much upset talk.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – Here is the question: Is anybody picking Kentucky to beat Louisville without the points this weekend?
I haven't found him, her or it (if it's a computer formula). Step right up. Love to hear from you.
Here's my question: Was anybody picking Louisville to defeat Florida straight up in the Sugar Bowl last January?
Louisville athletic director Tom Jurich told the Downtown Rotary Club on Thursday that he wasn't predicting a Cardinals' victory. But others were, even though the point spreads for the Sugar Bowl and the Governor's Cup game are essentially the same.
Cards over the Gators was not the reasonable pick. The wise guys leaned heavily toward Gainesville. SEC pedigree. Superior speed. Flashier credentials against a more formidable schedule. Track record of delivering in BCS bowl games.
You remember the list.
But you also remember this: It didn't seem like an outrageous idea to believe that Louisville could topple Florida, even though the Cardinals had lost two of their final three regular-season games.
The Cardinals were 14-point underdogs against Florida. The Wildcats are now 14-point underdogs against Louisville. But I don't hear similar chatter about an upset in Commonwealth Stadium Saturday. In fact, if you're picking Kentucky to win without the points, you can make $450 on a $100 wager.
What's the difference?
Great question. Challenging answer. Here goes:
1. Faith in Teddy Bridgewater. Quarterback is where the comparison game begins between any two teams. As long as Bridgewater plays the position for Louisville, it's not a stretch to believe the Cardinals have a chance against anybody. Bridgewater stirs that kind of credibility.
Jeff Driskel plays quarterback for Florida. Driskel was not a quarterback to fear (and still isn't). Louisville proved that early in that game. The Cards jumped ahead by intercepting Driskel, engaged the crowd and left everything in Bridgewater's hands. Louisville won by a comfortable 10 points.
I believe Maxwell Smith is a solid quarterback. Not because Smith showed it against Miami (Ohio) last week. Smith's best game might have been the one he played against Louisville last season when he completed 35 of 50 throws for two touchdowns without an interception.
Smith's a good player. But Smith has yet to inspire the same confidence that Bridgewater has inspired.
You could envision Bridgewater outgunning Driskel. It's tougher to envision Smith outgunning Bridgewater.
2. Track record. Louisville's upset of Florida was Charlie Strong's 39th game as the Cardinals' head coach. Kentucky's game with Louisville Saturday is Mark Stoops' third as the Wildcats' coach.
We'd seen Strong nearly upset a ranked Oregon State team on the road three games into his career at U of L. He took his second Louisville team to Morgantown and took down a West Virginia team that was ranked 24th.
Strong had three complete seasons to install his schemes and philosophies -- and recruit to them. Stoops played Western Kentucky in his opening game and the Wildcats' defense was a disappointment. He played Miami last week and the Wildcats looked improved.
But 60 solid minutes against a team picked to finish in the second division of the Mid-American Conference isn't enough to inspire an upset pick, even in a rivalry game.
3. Louisville needs a jumbo-sized win. Florida did not.
You've heard the cracks about the U of L schedule. No Top 25 opponents.
No sex appeal. Five teams on the Cards' schedule are still winless. Only two – UCF and Houston – are unbeaten.
Louisville needs to beat Kentucky, one of the better teams on the Cards' schedule, and do it in a way that does not leave any questions. The Cards cannot afford to emotionally flat-line at Commonwealth Stadium.
That was not the situation in New Orleans.
Upset talk percolated in January. This week upset talk is tougher to find than a front-row parking space. The official line opened at 10 points on Sunday morning at 9:35. Within six minutes, it jumped to 10 ½.
It's been jumping in the same direction all week. By Thursday morning, it moved to 14 points – the same spread as the Louisville-Florida game.
But there were people eager to pick the Cardinals straight up. I'm looking for somebody to pick Kentucky this week.