The Battle For The Governor’s Cup Preview
On Saturday two rivals separated by only 80 miles meet in the annual “Battle of the Bluegrass.” Both Kentucky and Louisville come into the game with identical 7-4 records and hope to improve their bowl standings. With that in mind let’s begin The Battle For the Governor’s Cup Preview with some history.
Governor’s Cup History
Though only separated by a few miles up Interstate 64 this will be only the 30th time Kentucky and Louisville have met on the gridiron. The two schools first played in 1912 with the Wildcats winning 41-0. Kentucky went on to win the first six matchups with the last game of the original series being played in 1924. The two schools did not meet again for 70 years until the rivalry was renewed in 1994.
Since the resumption of the series the Cardinals own a 14-9 advantage and had won five in a row until Kentucky’s win last season. For years the game was the season opener for each team. Beginning in 2007 the game remained the first week of the season when played at Louisville but moved to Week 3 when played in Lexington. In 2014 it became the final contest of the year to coincide with the other ACC-SEC rivalries.
Looking To Finish Strong
Mark Stoops‘ club heads into Saturday coming off a 42-13 loss at the hands of Georgia. The Cats played the SEC East Champions tough for two and a half quarters before wearing down. The Bulldogs ran for 381 yards with the tandem of Nick Chubb and Sony Michel combining for 238 in their final home game.
The loss was particularly tough on the Cats as they lost All-SEC Tight End C.J. Conrad to a season ending foot injury. The junior underwent surgery on Tuesday and is expected to be ready for the 2018 campaign.
A win on senior day would give Kentucky their first eight win regular season since 1984. The Cats have already clinched a .500 SEC record in two consecutive years for the first time since 1998-1999.
With 94 yards and a touchdown against Georgia Benjamin Snell Jr. continued his assault on the Kentucky record books. Only just a sophomore Snell already owns the mark for career rushing touchdowns with 29. He is only one score away from tying Moe Williams for the single season mark of 17. Furthermore Snell ranks seventh on the all-time rushing mark with 2,198 yards.
Playing his final game at Kroger Field Stephen Johnson is also working his way up the record books. In just under two seasons Johnson ranks 10th all-time in passing yards 3,975 and touchdowns 23. With two games left he could move up several spots on those lists. In addition Johnson ranks third on the all-time wins list at Kentucky.
Most regular season team wins in a Kentucky quarterback's junior and senior seasons combined: 18, Derrick Ramsey (1976-1977); 17, Babe Parilli (1950-1951); 14 Stephen Johnson (2016-2017); 14, Andre' Woodson (2006-2007)
— Corey Price (@coreyp08) November 12, 2017
Scouting the Cardinals
It hasn’t been quite the season Bobby Petrino and the Louisville fans were hoping for. While 7-4 is by no means a bad year the Cards let a couple of games slip away.
The offense starts with reigning Heisman Trophy winner Lamar Jackson. Though his stats are down just slightly from 2016 it is really difficult to believe he is not mentioned in the Heisman race. So far in 2017 Jackson has thrown for 3,278 yards and 23 touchdowns. In addition he has run for 1,287 yards and 17 scores. His 4,560 total yards from scrimmage leads the country.
As good as Jackson and the offense has been, the defense has been pretty average. For the season the Cards rank 69th in total defense. They are giving up 147 yards per game on the ground and 244 through the air. However Louisville is coming off their best effort of the season in a 56-10 romp over Syracuse. The defense forced four turnovers while rolling up 727 yards in total offense.
Who Wins On Saturday?
It’s prediction time for the The Battle for the Governor’s Cup Preview. Since the renewal of the series in 1994 the visitor has gone 14-9 including the last two. In 2015 Jackson had his coming out party as he rallied the Cards from a 24-7 halftime deficit to win 38-24. He finished with 316 total yards and three touchdowns.
Last season Kentucky headed to Louisville a four touchdown underdog. However Johnson played arguably his best game for the Cats throwing for 338 yards and three touchdowns. Jackson countered with 452 total yards and four touchdowns but he had three interceptions and a costly fumble late in the game. From there Johnson calmly drove the Cats down the field and Austin Macginnis hit a 47 yard field goal to give Kentucky the 41-38 win.
There is a lot riding on this game for the Cats as far as bowl placement. A loss likely sends them to the Liberty Bowl while a win more than likely sends them to the Music City Bowl. The Kentucky-Louisville basketball game is also December 29th and that factors into the school’s decision.
If UK beats UL, Couple sources tell me Belk Bowl likely out of play (bc of UL BB game) but Music City strong option. BB game WILL NOT prevent UK from requesting Music City
— Matt Jones (@KySportsRadio) November 20, 2017
Look for a game similar to last season with tons of offense and it may come down to whoever has the ball last. Jackson told reporters this week he’s “waited a whole year for this game because I fumbled last year and we lost.” In what could be his final regular season game look for Jackson to have a monster contest.
Seemingly every game at Kroger Field this season has been decided on the final play so why not one more. The Cats pull it out when a last second heave by Jackson falls short.
Kentucky 38 Louisville 34
Thanks for checking out the Battle For the Governor’s Cup Preview here at Last Word On College Football. Next time we will take a more in depth look at Kentucky’s likely bowl destination.