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ESPN’s Kentucky at Louisville Keys to Victory

ESPN’s ACC reporter Andrea Adelson and SEC reporter Greg Ostendorf broke down the UK at U of L game. You can check out their entire preview by clicking here.

Here’s a look at their keys to victory.

Key to victory for Kentucky: Quarterback Patrick Towles threw for at least 200 yards and a touchdown in six of Kentucky’s first eight games. The Wildcats were 5-3 during that stretch. In his last three games — all losses — Towles has failed to surpass 200 yards, and he’s thrown more interceptions (three) than touchdowns (two).

While Towles and the UK offense does need to play better for the Cats to win, the key to a UK victory is their defense actually making some tackles and getting some stops. If their defense resembles the defense we have seen the last couple of games, it doesn’t mater how well Towles moves the football, the Cats aren’t winning.

Key to victory for Louisville: Establish the run. Louisville is most effective offensively when its ground game and pass game are working in concert. In two of their three losses this season, the Cards failed to gain 100 yards rushing.

Sounds like a good place to start for the Cards. Michael Dyer is healthy and Brandon Radcliff is coming off of a stellar second half at Notre Dame. The key to their win over the Irish was their success on the ground. They rushed for 229 yards as a team and really took the pressure off of true freshman quarterback Reggie Bonnafon. Oh, and here are the rushing yards that Kentucky has allowed in their five consecutive losses (Tennessee-214, Georgia-305, Mizzouri-156, Mississippi State-326, LSU-303). Yeah, I’d focus on the ground game if I were the Cards.

This year’s UK at U of L football game feels different. Is the move to the end of the year good for the rivalry?

ukuofl640 500x234 This years UK at U of L football game feels different. Is the move to the end of the year good for the rivalry?

When they first announced that this season’s UK/UofL football game would be played at the end of the year, I quickly rejected all of the complaints. Most of the complaints pointed towards the fact that they liked it being the first game. I quickly bounced back by saying that I liked it as the first game too, but it’s only the first game 50-percent of the time. The other 50-percent you get the game after both teams have played the likes of Ohio or Murray State to start the year.

The first game is great, but the first game every other year is not. At least now, we knew that the game was going to be played last every single year.

Then I looked at the other possible positives. What if you get to the last game of the year and one team is playing for a BCS bowl and needs a win to get there? What if one team has five wins and needs to beat their biggest rival to get to a bowl?

If these things happened, it would be nuts right?

We inch closer and closer to Saturday and both of those scenarios are exactly the case. But, nuts it is not.

The anticipation feels different than it has in years’ past.

And maybe I’m wrong. Maybe the anticipation is there. Maybe football fans in this state are pumped.

But, I just don’t feel that right now.

A lot of the lack of anticipation may have something to do with the fact that basketball has started, which was something a lot of critics pointed towards when the new game date was announced.

Maybe it’s because we didn’t have all summer, while basketball was dormant for the most part, to debate this game. Even when it was the third game, something I hated, Cards and Cats fans could still fight it out all summer.

But, let me tell you the real reason why. It’s because Kentucky’s season has spiraled out of control. It’s because Louisville is going in completely the other direction.

And we know this because we have seen them play a whole season. And because we have seen them play, not many think this is going to be much of a game.

This is a brand new element to the whole UK/U of L football rivalry. For the first time we have evidence of how good these teams are.

After starting 5-1, Kentucky has lost fives traight. In those five games, the Wildcats have lost a combined 219-91. That’s an average loss of 37-15. And it’s gotten even worse the last two games. Georgia and Tennessee combined to beat Kentucky 113-47. Georgia put up 559 yards. Tennessee put up 511 yards.

At times they looked more interested watching their opponent dance in the end zone after a score then simply making one tackle.

They were awful. They looked spent. They were physically and mentally drained after eight straight weeks of football and six straight weeks of losses. All the while that elusive sixth win dangled right there in front of them.

The Cards on the other hand are rolling. DeVante Parker and Michael Dyer are healthy and the offense is clicking like it hasn’t all year. The defense continues to cause havoc. And Louisville is coming off of a road win at Notre Dame that many are calling the biggest win away from Louisville in the program’s history.

The Cards brought in Bobby Petrino to assure that their program didn’t skip a beat. And that is exactly what has happened. They enter Saturday with an 8-3 record and a win over the ‘Cats puts them in position for a possible trip to the Orange Bowl.

If you look at this game simply by the records, the hype should be there. Heck, the hype should be greater than it’s ever been before.

Kentucky is playing Louisville for a chance to go to a bowl. Louisville is playing Kentucky for a chance to go to the Orange Bowl.

But, you can’t just look at the records. You have to look at the trends. And these two teams are trending in different directions. If they continue in those directions, the game on Saturday will be a laugher.

And that is why it seems that the interest isn’t the same as it has been in the past.

But, I still believe that this move can be good for the rivalry. Louisville is where they need to be and will continue on that path with Petrino. Despite their recent rough stretch, I still believe that Kentucky is heading in the right direction. Mark Stoops will continue to improve this team’s talent and overall play.

When Stoops gets them there, they can make this football game matter in a basketball-crazed state.

This can become a game that is not only relevant in the state of Kentucky, but across the nation.

I really believe that.

But, this is now. The Cats aren’t playing well. The Cards are.

And that is why the feel is different.

Kentucky resembles Monstars in 72-40 win over Kansas

ukkansas640 500x234 Kentucky resembles Monstars in 72 40 win over Kansas

I know we’re just three games into the season. I realize that just a little over 48 hours prior to the Champions Classic that this UK team went into the half trailing against Buffalo.

I get all of that.

But, on Tuesday night against Kansas, this UK team looked like the Monstars. You know, those humongous monsters from the movie Space Jam that blocked every single shot.

Those Monstars were created by stealing the basketball talents away from the likes of Patrick Ewing, Larry Johnson, and Muggsy Bogues.

These Wildcats were created by bringing in ridiculous recruiting classes year after year. But this time, some of the talent decided to stay on campus.

We all knew that this Kentucky team was going to be ridiculous good. But, what we didn’t expect was them clicking on all cylinders against a top five team in just the third game of the season.

Nobody was beating UK last night. If Kentucky plays with the energy they played with the first 17 minutes of the game last night, nobody is going to touch them. Heck, they might not give up 50 points.

If Kentucky plays with that energy, it is nearly impossible to score against them. So much length at the rim. And because of that rim protection, they are able to apply so much pressure up top.

Jay Bilas’ analogy of playing Frisbee in the Red Wood Forest was spot on. They are everywhere. And then after they go hard for three, four, five minutes, they bring in a fresh five that is nearly as long and as talented.

It’s really not fair and it wears you down. Both physically and mentally.

Kansas made their run at the end of the first half and got back within ten points. They took advantage of UK’s second team slipping a little bit energy-wise. Kansas found ways to get to the glass in those final three minutes. They found ways to score.

Give them credit.

But, that wasn’t the Kentucky team we saw for the first 17 minutes. That was more like the team we saw against Buffalo.

Then UK’s second team came out in the second half with more energy, jumped out to a quick 6-0 run and it was over. Kansas scored just 12 points in the second half.

And here’s the thing. UK held them to 12 second half points and three second half buckets, yet I didn’t think that UK was as active on defense in the second half as they were the first 17 minutes of the ball game. After getting it back to ten and quickly falling back down 16, Kansas was done. They were both physically and mentally drained.

And don’t give me the whole, “Kansas isn’t very good” thing. Don’t give me the fact that they just beat UC-Santa Barbara by ten last week. Remember, Kentucky struggled with Buffalo.

This is a good Kansas team. Yet, we learned hardly nothing about them last night because of the way Kentucky controlled the game on the defensive end. They shot 19-percent from the field. They had four assists. Kentucky has as many blocks as Kansas had field goals, with 11.

Kansas won’t get close to as bad to any of those numbers again this year.

And we haven’t even mentioned UK’s offense yet. Because it wasn’t great. They missed open shots. As do most of Cal’s teams, they didn’t really run any offensive sets. No player scored more than 11 points.

But, as we saw last night, they don’t have to be awesome on offense. Their defense will control the game and then the offense will take care of itself.

At the post-game press conference, Kansas head coach Bill Self said that he wished his bottle of water was vodka. To beat the Cats on Tuesday night, he would have been better served if that water bottle was neither water nor vodka, but instead some of Michael’s Secret Stuff. The made up magic potion that Bugs Bunny gave to the Tune Squad which then propelled them to beat the Monstars.

michaelssecretstuff 500x282 Kentucky resembles Monstars in 72 40 win over Kansas

Until somebody finds some of Michael’s Secret Stuff, you can expect every team that UK faces this year to be exiled to Moron Mountain after the loss, chained up, and then dunked on by paying customers.

Go to the Strait Pinkie Store and get your UK Strait Pinkie T-Shirt Today! Crazy Soft. Made in USA. Only $17.95.

StraitPinkieKentuckyShirts 500x234 Kentucky resembles Monstars in 72 40 win over Kansas

Pick 6: Six Takeaways from UK’s 1,000,000-16 loss at Tennessee

Yeah, I know that Tennessee didn’t score a million points on Saturday afternoon. But, they could have. In the last two games, the Wildcats have now giving up 113 points. Georgia was pissed and it made a little bit of sense. Tennessee was 4-5 and it doesn’t make as much sense.

Here are my six takeaways.

tennesseekentucky640 500x234 Pick 6: Six Takeaways from UKs 1,000,000 16 loss at Tennessee

Tackling is hard – At least it is for these Wildcats. It’s hard to win games when you can’t tackle. It’s hard to win games when the few times that your defenders are in position, they still can’t wrap them up. This defense isn’t good. But, they aren’t as bad as they’ve looked the last two weeks. In the Missouri loss, they missed tackles, as well, but at least they showed some grit. At least they showed some want-to. The last two games it’s looked like they either have zero confidence, they don’t care that much, or they are just to tired to do anything.

Speaking of being to tired to do anything – Maybe that’s the case. Maybe the fact that they’ve played eight straight weeks is just too much for this team that lacks depth. Maybe the fact that they’ve now lost five straight after jumping out to a 5-1 record is weighing on them both physically and mentally. Maybe that’s the case. If so, they better come out more like they did in the Mississippi State game when they face Louisville to close out the year.

Speaking of the Mississippi State game – Does it not seem like that game was many, many moons ago? I mean, it almost seems like that game didn’t happen this year. That Kentucky didn’t look like the Kentucky team we’ve watched the last three weeks. That team would compete at Louisville and maybe even win. This team we’ve watched lately will lose by 30.

Somewhere in the middle – This team was nowhere near as good as many portrayed them to be after they jumped out to a 5-1 start. But, they aren’t as bad as they’ve looked the last three games either. Tennessee is not 34 points better than this team. No chance.

No what? – The Cats look both physically and mentally drained. But, that elusive sixth win is still out there to be had. Can they regroup after the bye and compete against the Cards at Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium? I don’t think Mark Stoops has lost this team. I think he still likes his team. But, his candidness in the post game about how his team is tired, says something. It says that he’s out of reasons for their recent struggles and that is the only option left.

There was a time when Kentucky looked better than Louisville this year. There really was. Now, they look like they have no chance. And even with the bye, I don’t see how they go from the team that we’ve seen against Missouri, Georgia and Tennessee to the team we saw against Florida, South Carolina, and Mississippi State in two weeks. I don’t care how tired they are. This team has more issues than just being tired. That elusive sixth win has stared them down for too long and it’s eating them alive right now. They lack confidence because of it.

Remember when Nick Curran said over and over, week after week, that UK was gonna beat Tennessee? – Well, they didn’t. And that is just another reason why you shouldn’t listen to our show. We’re not very smart.

Speaking of not being very smart, Nick and I will be live on ESPN 680 tomorrow morning at 10 a.m. to talk, not smartly, about the UK loss and the hoops openers on Friday night.

Pick 6: Six Takeaways from Kentucky’s 63-31 loss to Georgia

I could’ve started writing this thing after the punt return touchdown in the third quarter, but instead decided that I was pretty comfortable on the couch. Well, now I am no longer comfortable because I am writing. Here we go.

Kentucky could’ve ran 15 guys out there on defense and it wouldn’t have mattered. Georgia looked like they were playing a JV defense all Saturday afternoon. The Cats had zero chance at getting a stop. None. It was so bad that Dave Pasch was so excited that it appeared that UK might have got a stop in the third quarter that he shouted that they got the stop. Then he realized they didn’t and was sad about it.

ukugachubb640 500x234 Pick 6: Six Takeaways from Kentuckys 63 31 loss to Georgia

Nick Chubb averaged 13 yards a carry. A carry! He finished with 170 yards on just 13 carries. That’s ludicrous. Also ludicrous was Kentucky’s tackling. Many times they were right there and didn’t even get their hands on Chubb. Straight whiffers. And for the second year in a row, the Wildcat defense made Hutson Mason look like a future Pro Bowler. Dude was 13-16 for 174 yards and four touchdowns. He had more touchdowns than incompletions! This from a guy that many Georgia fans wanted to see benched. You have to give him credit though as time after time his throws were right on the money. And several times, the UK defender was right there in position, and just never found the ball. Other times, they were nowhere near in position.

They finished with 559 yards and averaged almost ten yards a play. That will net you a lot of first downs. When Kentucky was able to get them to third down, it didn’t matter. The Dawgs were 8-for-8 on third down, including two third down conversions on their opening drive.

At least they moved it a little on O’s…in the second quarter. After last week’s dreadful performance on offense, it was a least a little fun to see the Cats move the ball a bit. I mean they were down 21-0 before most of the students even woke up, but got up off the mat and tried to make a game out of it. In the second quarter, it looked like they could score on every drive and if their defense could somehow get a stop they would be right there.

Even though he only finished with 139 passing yards, I thought Towles made some good throws. The offensive line picked up some blitzes and gave Towles an opportunity to look downfield. He’s got to hit Jayvess Blue when he was wide open over the middle. Has to. But, even though his numbers weren’t great, I thought Towles made some plays. And they ran it pretty well, too, at times. Those times were primarily when the ball was in the hands of Boom Williams. I don’t really get why Braylon Heard is getting as many touches as he is.

Then in the second half, after the Towles pick that was dropped by Ryan Timmons, the offense kind of quit a little bit. Timmons is way too timid over the middle. He’s got those alligator arms. Doesn’t it seem like a Timmons drop always plays a big role in UK games?

Special Teams…ya gross. When you’re trying to pull off an upset, one way to put a quick halt to that upset is to allow a kickoff return touchdown. When you’re trying to get back into a game and you are forced to punt, one thing you don’t want to do is allow a punt return touchdown. Kentucky did both. Special teams simply cannot be this bad if they want to win games against superior talent.

Digging holes too deep to dig out of. Thanks to the special teams, coming up one yard short on their opening drive, and have zero ability to get stops, it was 21-0 before a lot of Kentucky fans even crawled out of bed. These bad starts have happened way too often this year. Just to get some momentum, I would have went for it on Kentucky’s fourth and one on their opening drive. I know it’s risky. But, you’re there to win. You’re not as talented. You know you’re going to have trouble getting stops. Just go it. If you get it, maybe you ride that momentum the rest of the game. Maybe you march down and score and tie it at 7 after allowing the kick return TD. I know it’s a tough call. I know you’ll get cussed out by the prune nutted Brian Griese on the call. Who cares? Why not?

Despite the slow start, at the end of the first half, I’m thinking that UK has a chance to get back into it. They had Georgia at third and goal at the five minute mark. A stop there. They get three. You score six before the half. Get the ball to start the half. And score on opening drive. Then the game is tied. Instead only one of those things happened. Kentucky scored at the end of the half. Then they threw a pick on the first play of the second half. And it’s over.

Stupid hats. It’s hard to win football games when your special teams coach wears his hat backwards and your offensive coordinator wears a visor. Both awful looks. When you look good, you give your best. They don’t look good, they don’t give their best. Enough said.

Where’s that sixth win coming from? We’ve talked about the possibility of Kentucky not getting that sixth win ever since they raced out to a 5-1 record. We knew they could finish the season with six straight losses. Well we are four straight losses in and I still don’t see where they are getting that sixth win. They’ve been way better at home, except for today, and these last two are on the road. One at a place where they haven’t won in never and the other against a rival that would love nothing more than to send Kentucky home with another loss and end their season.

Nick Curran and I will talk about this game and the Louisville game tomorrow on ESPN 680 from 9-11am. Yeah, we’re on extra early and I’m not that excited about us. But, we have to go on early because U of L plays Bellarmine at 12:30 an your boy Nick C. has a job to do. That job is to call the game for Bellarmine.

So we’ll be on early tomorrow. Wake up early with us, grab you a bowl of Cap’n Crunch, and listen to us yap for two hours.

Georgia at UK Football Preview

I’m writing two posts this week, so I’m going to keep both of them quick and to the point. Plus, none of you have the attention span to read all of my words, anyways.

You know the story. Georgia gave up 418 yards on the ground last week in their loss to Florida. The second most yards on the ground allowed in their program’s history. Their defense had been improving. In their previous two games, they had been good. Mizzou did nothing as Mauk threw four interceptions and Arkansas put up 32 points, but most of that came long after the game was over as the Bulldogs jumped out to a 38-6 lead.

They are young on defense and that is the reason for their inconsistency. They also have a first-year coordinator as Todd Grantham left to take the job at Louisville. The new coordinator is Jeremy Pruitt and his first order of business was to slim his defense down. Make them better at defending spread teams. They have been excellent at preventing big plays as they are the only team in the SEC that has allowed just one play of 40 yards or more. And they are much better at defending third down.

They will spend a lot of time in nickel and that nickel back is more like a big safety than a guy that covers the slot. Freshman Dominick Sanders is the guy in that spot now and he will be used more as a pass rusher and will come up in run support. They have done a good job at attacking quarterbacks that struggle at making quick decisions, ala Maty Mauk, and forcing them to make errors.

Sophomore Leonard Floyd is their most accomplished sack guy. He is long and rangy and will spend most of his time blitzing. Some other defensive guys to have an eye are for are senior linebackers Amario Herrera and Ramik Wilson, and their best cover corner senior Damian Swann.

Offensively, because of the stupid suspension of All-World back they have been forced to turn to freshman Nick Chubb at tailback. And he has not disappointed. In his last three games, he has nearly 500 yards.

Senior quarter Hutson Mason waited his turn behind Aaron Murray and is finally getting his shot. He doesn’t do anything flashy, but he doesn’t turn the ball over. He has just three picks on the season. Overall, UGA has just five turnovers on the year. Mason is a game manager. He will not throw for a lot of yards or a lot of touchdowns, but despite his lack of arm strength, he throws a good timed ball. He can also tuck it and run if he has to.

In the past, Georgia has seemed to overlook UK at times. That won’t be the case this year, as they are coming off of a humiliating loss. Still, the good news for Kentucky is that they are home, where they have played much better. Still, Georgia goes as their ground game goes and UK has struggled stopping the run. Look for the Dawgs to pound it and maybe set up some play action passes. Also, their defense has feasted on making quarterbacks making mistakes. So, Towles has to step up and make plays despite the pressure.

Georgia 37, Kentucky 24

Anthony Davis says Calipari only calls when he wants something signed

Anthony Davis was on the Dan Patrick Show this morning following another one of his crazy putback dunks. Dude is going to be a legit MVP candidate this year if the Pelicans can make the playoffs.

They talk about why Davis refers to himself as a C/F, the UK Sports Illustrated covers under Calipari, and then at the 8:34 mark they talk Cal and his begging for autographs.

Pick 6: Six takeaways from UK’s 20-10 loss at Mizzou

I thought UK would go on the road and win this game, which would have given them both their first road SEC win since 2009 and bowl eligibility. But, they didn’t. It was disappointing. The Cats just look like a different team away from home.

ukmizzou640 500x234 Pick 6: Six takeaways from UKs 20 10 loss at Mizzou

And here are my six takeaways.

How do you not kick down ten? – First off, you get nine on first down and still can’t pick up a first. But, forget that, you are down ten points with two minutes to go. You need two scores to tie the game. A touchdown and a field goal. It matters none what order those scores are derived. You just need one of each.

It’s 4th and 1 at the 21-yard line. Yeah, it would be nice to get a touchdown first. But, you’re set up for a 38-yard field goal that cuts it to one score. You still have three timeouts and you just proved that you can get an onside kick. But, naw you go for it. Normally, I am a fan of aggressiveness, but this makes no sense. None. You make the field and you extend the game. You still have a chance. Instead, you go for it, Towles is stuffed, and the game is over.

Then, guess what? Missouri goes three and out. You kick and you’re getting the ball back down seven. With a chance. But, naw it’s still over.

I did get a chuckle over the fact that it took Jesse Palmer until UK stopped Mizzou after not kicking to realize that they probably should have kicked. No shit.

No big plays – This is what Mizzou wants to do defensively. They want to keep the ball in front of them and prevent big plays. And they did just that. Besides a few 20 yard runs and a couple successful screens, the Cats had no big plays. And big plays are what have really separated this teams from teams of the last few years. They can strike quick for scores. Today they didn’t. And the offense never really threatened.

O-line got dominated – We knew that both Shane Ray and Markus Golden were game changers at defensive end. And boy did they ever change the game today. UK’s offensive line had no chance. Jordan Swindle struggled mightily with Ray and the pressure that Mizzou was able to get when only bringing four was a big reason why UK did nothing on offense until the Tigers went into prevent late.

With five minutes to go in the first half, Towles had two pass attempts for -2 yards. A lot of that was because of the Mizzou pressure. He finished the game 19-35 for 158 yards, a touchdown and a pick. Once again, the Mizzou pressure.

If UK was in a third and long situation they had no chance.

Third Down – Speaking of third down, it’s hard to win a game when you are 2-for-15 on third down. And then you throw in the fact that you are 1-for-6 on fourth down. And then you add Missouri was 10-for-20 on third down. And that number could have been a lot worse. The UK defense really stepped up in the second half and stopped Mizzou on third after allowing them to pick up third down conversion after third down conversion in the first half.

The defense did their part and kept UK in the game – If not for a couple Maty Mauk runs on big third downs in the second quarter, the UK defense could have put up even better numbers. Josh Forrest whiffed on a easy tackle of Mauk on one third down run. But, you have to give the D credit. UK was so bad on offense that they really had no business even having a shot in this game. But, because their defense played so well, they did have a shot late. They got stop after stop in the second half and continuously put the O’s in position to move it and get the Cats back in the football game. But, the O’s just couldn’t convert.

Didn’t take advantage of Mauk’s mistake – I wrote in my preview that the Cats would have to take advantage of Mauk’s mistakes. Well, he only made one, but it could have been a big one. Making a desperation throw while being taken down, Mauk flung the ball straight into the hands of Khalid Henderson. Henderson had green pastures in front of him, but he dropped it. Down 17-3 at the time, a pick there not only prevents Mizzou’s eventual field goal that put them up three scores, but it gets UK a touchdown for the first time in the game and cuts the lead to 17-10.

Overall, I thought Mauk played really well. He definitely outplayed Towles. He hurt UK with his feet more than he did with his arm, but his second touchdown pass to Bud Sasser was an absolute perfect ball. The bottom line was that other than the dropped pick by Henderson, he didn’t really do anything to cost Mizzou.

I still can’t believe they didn’t kick.