Anyone that is familiar with the Governor's Cup rivalry knows the team that runs the ball and controls the line of scrimmage goes on to win the game. Which team will win the running game on Sunday?
Last season, the young and inexperienced Louisville offensive line was expected to go through some growing pains. They certainly did, averaging a measly 121.5 yards rushing per game for a lowly 3.4 yards per carry.
But when you consider nagging injuries to Victor Anderson and Jeremy Wright and also turning to the third string quarterback, Dominique Brown to run the ball, and the Cardinals actually did a respectable job.
Fast forward one year and expectations are completely different. The Cardinals return four full time starters in left tackle Alex Kupper, left guard John Miller, center Mario Benavides and right guard Jake Smith. Let's not forget that starting right tackle, Jamon Brown was thrust into action after starting camp at defensive tackle and learned very valuable lessons and technique. Brown is one of the biggest, most-athletic guys on the line and coaches have said that he will likely become a left tackle and could have a terrific career in the NFL there at the rate he is improving. The Cardinals offensive line averages over 6-foot-3 inches tall and 312.6 pounds and most importantly, it returns a lot of game experience and more cohesiveness.
Kentucky does boast a pretty sturdy defensive line with hole stuffers Mister Cobble and Donte Rumph and talented defensive ends with Collins Ukwu and Alvin Depree. While the UK starting defensive line will provide a challenge for the Cardinals, they lack much proven depth. Furthermore, Kentucky must replace the heart and soul from last year's defense, SEC leading tackler, Danny Trevathan along with other playmakers Ronnie Sneed, Ridge Wilson, Randall Burden and Winston Guy. Kentucky will need their young defense to step up big to thwart the Louisville running backs.
Leading the stable of backs for the Cardinals is the likely starter, Dominique Brown. Brown has added about 10 pounds of muscle and looked very good this spring and in fall camp. He is really starting to learn the position thanks to running backs coach Kenny Carter. Also expected to make a big contribution is senior back, Jeremy Wright who, after two injury plagued years, is finally healthy and in the best shape of his life. Wright has the prototypical look of a stud runner and has great speed for his compact frame. As if getting beat up by Brown and trying to wrap up Wright wasn't enough for a defense, the Cats will also have to try to get a squeeze on the slippery and speedy Senorise Perry. The junior from Summerville, Georgia showed flashes of his ability last year when given the opportunity and is also a great special teams player. Expect Perry to come up with a big play before the game is over. The Cards also have two more future stars in the backfield in sophomore spark plug, Corvin Lamb and true freshman Brandon Radcliff.
On the other side, Kentucky will be without their starting tailback, Josh Clemons due to a knee injury. That doesn't bode well for a team that struggled to move the ball on the ground last year, averaging 3.5 yards per carry. Look for CoShik Williams to get the bulk of the carries for the Cats and he has shown ability to be pretty good. The Cats offensive line will be anchored by the only two returning starters in center Matt Smith and right guard, Larry Warford. Warford has NFL skills and size and will be a tough matchup, but one of Louisville's biggest strengths this year will be the defensive line. Led by returning starters, Marcus Smith and BJ Dubose at ends and Roy Philon and Brandon Dunn at defensive tackle and nose tackle, the Cards have size, speed and strength. Add in hybrid Deiontrez Mount, Lorenzo Mauldin and Jamaine Brooks and the Cards also have proven depth. Louisville's linebackers will be led in the middle by Preston Brown and Daniel Brown at the Will linebacker. George Durant had a great spring and fall camp and will get the start at the other linebacker spot. Expect to see newcomers and highly touted freshmen Keith Brown and James Burgess and local redshirt-freshman Jalen Harrington. The Cards' front seven should prove to be too fast and too experienced for Kentucky's young and inexperienced offense.
Combining all of these factors points toward Louisville controlling the lines of scrimmage and winning the rushing battle and keeping the Governor's Cup in the Schnellenberger Complex.