If you’re like me you can’t get enough of the pre-game hype, despite the fact that 97% is finding different ways to say “If X team plays solid defense, competent offense, wins the turnover battle, and scores more points than the other team, they stand a good chance of winning”. But while I’m enjoying the banalities, I’m also second guessing some of the conventional wisdom surrounding this contest that seems to be hardening into concrete. Here’s seven in no particular order…
* Bad weather favors the Wildcats
Normally, I could accept the idea of bad weather favoring the underdog. The Cards, after all, won one of the biggest games in Papa Johns history over Florida State in a monsoon. In this case, however, I don’t see it. UofL’s offensive line is bigger and more experienced than UK’s, and the Cards field four healthy running backs including the bruising Dominique Brown while the Cats will be missing their most dynamic player in the backfield. Not to mention that the Cardinals’ defense has a much better, proven track record of stopping the run. I understand why the idea of slowing DeVante Parker and other speedsters is appealing to the blue contingent, but that doesn’t add up to an advantage necessarily. It’s just another way you can lose. Either way, The Oven drains well; my tailgating may take a hit, but it’ll take a whole hell of a lot of rain to have a significant impact on the field on Sunday.
* The other team has been talking too much smack
No matter who you’re for, if you’re legitimately upset that the other team has been talking too much trash, you need to put down the glue. Both sides have done their share of yapping, and in the words of that sadistic Shawshank guard, “it’s nothin’ to get in a twist over”. They’re kids having fun before one of the biggest games of the season. So some no name linebacker for UK said he’d love to get a hit on Teddy Bridgewater, or Andrew Johnson said he can’t wait to lay the Cats a whoopin’ on twitter. Who cares? It’s a rivalry, that’s what makes it fun. If you are an adult human being and you are legitimately worked up over this issue, we can’t be friends. Sorry.
* UofL’s 4 running backs could turn into a problem
The thought had entered my head that the Cardinals four-headed monster in the backfield could yield negative returns if a proper rotation isn’t worked out. But now I think that’s stupid. For one, the coaching staff has indicated there will be a featured back on Sunday but is keeping it close to the chest for gamesmanship purposes. And if anything, the close race is just a testament to the high level of competition and preparation that each back experienced in the offseason. Tough to see how that’s a bad thing. Maybe if the Cards are still struggling to find backfield consistency in week eight it may be cause for concern, but in week one, the benefits of having a full stable rearing to go far outweigh the negatives.
* UofL is loaded at wide receiver
While many point to DeVante Parker as the leader of a dynamic group of playmaking wideouts, the Cardinals have surprisingly little proven production in the receiving corps. Even Parker, with his flair for catching TDs, has not shown he can be a “go-to” type player consistently. Scott Radcliff flashed his inner Wes Welker during the Spring Game, but we’re yet to see that translate in real time action. Ditto for Damien Copeland. Eli Rogers may be the “rock” of the group, but someone like Kai Dominguez or Jarret Davis needs to step up for this to become a truly dangerous bunch of receivers. The Cards may miss Michaelee Harris more than we realize.
* UK doesn’t care about football
* A Cardinal win would avenge the Final Four loss
* The Wildcats are going to pull out all the stops on offense
One of the strangest memes to emerge over the offseason from UK fans was the idea that if they are going to be a poor to mediocre football program anyways, they may as well “open up the offense” and chuck the football around, adopting an exciting, if losing, brand of football. The idea is that Joker, knowing he’s on the hot seat, has internalized the idea and will dig deep into his bag of tricks this season, beginning on Sunday.
This is exactly the reason why coaches would be idiots if they listened to the fans. For one, if the Wildcats were heretofore capable of becoming the Greatest Show on Turf, don’t you think Joker would have embraced the concept before? Of course he would, they simply lack the personnel with the talents to do so. Which leads to my second point, what in the world is more “fun” about losing while watching your QB overthrow or skip passes to receivers? Somehow I find it difficult to imagine the UK call-in shows after a double-digit blowout and a QB with a 36% completion rate with fans clamoring, “Hey, I gotta give Joker credit. We got killed but at least we were out there throwing the ball around! Wasn’t that exciting?”
Joker’s a proud coach that’s going to do things his way. Whatever may happen, the Cats won’t gimmick their way to victory.
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