LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Nobody is picking the University of Kentucky to beat the University of Louisville when the two renew their football rivalry on Saturday in Commonwealth Stadium, and with good reason. U of L is a double-digit favorite, and ranked No. 7 in the nation.
You know all the factors in Louisville's favor. So what possibly can Kentucky do to pull an upset that would shake the state to its foundation? Read on.
1. SCORE FIRST. Get your offense onto the field first, and draw first blood. Up-tempo offenses can get defenses off-balance, especially early in games, and especially if those defenses haven't seen that attack all season.
If you watched Monday night football, you saw a Philadelphia Eagles team ambush the Washington Redskins with a fast-break offense. Washington eventually adjusted, but was in a huge hole by the time that happened.
UK doesn't have Michael Vick or LeSean McCoy, but it does have two quarterbacks, to create uncertainty. No less an authority than U of L defensive coordinator Vance Bedford said he's especially concerned with the first two or three possessions, given UK offensive coordinator Neal Brown's style.
"He wants to run a play every 10-15 seconds. That's hard to defend," Bedford said. "It's hard to get ready for. I think our team is in great shape, but it takes two or three series to calm down and get used to the speed of the game. . . . We're in great condition, but again, you get in a game for the first two or three series, it takes a while to settle in and get ready to play."
2. BRING THE PRESSURE. For Kentucky to win, it's going to have to be able to pressure U of L and Bridgewater with its defensive front. Za'Darius Smith is going to have to make sacks. The defensive front is going to have to take care of U of L's running game. If UK starts to have to bring people from the secondary into that mix, Bridgewater will burn them eventually.
But if UK can get pressure on Bridgewater with its front, and get a few early hits in on him, it can at least slow down the Cardinal offense. Even the most optimistic UK observers don't expect the Wildcats to stop the Cardinals in any meaningful way.
3. LEVERAGE THE PRESSURE. Getting a lead, even a small one, in this game would equate to increased pressure on U of L. The Cardinals' season will be on the line in every game, and to fall behind to a rival would put the team into a kind of adversity it hasn't faced this season.
The Cardinals might brush it off and go on to a big win, but you never know. You never know when a team will panic. And you never can find out until you put them in that situation.
4. TURNOVERS, TURNOVERS, TURNOVERS. When your defense is inferior to the opponent's offense, the turnover is a great equalizer. Bridgewater has been careful with the ball for the most part this season, but UK needs to be very opportunistic. This, frankly, is the area in which the game could take an unexpected turn -- or the area that could propel Louisville to a lopsided rout.
5. KEEP THE QUARTERBACK SHUFFLE. The frequent rotation of quarterbacks Maxwell Smith and Jalen Whitlow is one way UK can try to keep the U of L defense off balance. The Cardinals have two defensive packages, one for each quarterback. But lining up the right way can be a problem with plays being run as fast as UK likes to run them.
"You have to have really have two different defensive schemes," Bedford said. "One can throw it really well, the other guy is decent passer but an outstanding runner. It's like when you're preparing for a Tebow-type guy. You can prepare for it in practice, but it's different when you see it. So we have our concerns right now."
6. BIG PLAYS. UK already has eclipsed last season's total of 40-plus-yard plays. It's going to need a few of those to beat Louisville. If it can get a big return and a big play in the pass game, it'll help.
7. CONCLUSION: UK's hope to upset the Cards lies in its offense. It's going to have to outscore Bridgewater and the Cardinals. But if it can get an early lead, make just a few plays on defense, create a turnover here and there and utilize that fast-paced offense to build something early, it could get its chance to shock the world. Or at least the Bluegrass.