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August 31, 2012

Cats, Cards open season Sunday in Louisville

Coach: Joker Phillips
Record: 11-14 in three seasons at UK, overall
Last season: 5-7.
Last game: Beat Tennessee 10-7 on Nov. 26, 2011.
Roster | Depth chart
Coach: Charlie Strong
Record: 14-12 in three seasons at U of L, overall
Last season:
Last game: Lost to N.C. State 31-24 on Dec. 27, 2011.
Roster | Depth chart
Game/Series Information
Game Information
Site: Papa John's Cardinal Stadium, Louisville (55,000).
TV: ESPN (Carter Blackburn play-by-play, Rod Gilmore analysis, Jemele Hill sideline).
Radio: UK IMG Sports Network (Tom Leach play-by-play, Jeff Piecoro analysis; Dick Gabriel sideline); XM 199, Sirius 94.
Internet: Audio | Video
Favorite: Louisville by 13.5

Series Information
Series record: Kentucky leads 14-10.
At Louisville: Kentucky leads 6-3.
Coaches' records: Phillips 1-1 vs. Louisville; Strong 1-1 vs. Kentucky.

Last meeting
Louisville 24, Kentucky 17 (Sept. 17, 2011, Lexington).
The Wildcats entered the game with a four-game winning streak in the series as six-point favorites. UK took an early 3-0 lead, but the Louisville offense ignited when freshman quarterback Teddy Bridgewater relieved the injured Will Stein. Morgan Newton threw for 255 yards and two touchdowns, but it wasn't enough to overcome Louisville's 181 yards on the ground.

Keys to the Game
1. Rushing battle: The team that has rushed for more yards in this game has won the last 16 meetings. Dominique Brown a 6-2, 230-pound bruiser and Jeremy Wright will do most of the work for Louisville, while Kentucky will start with CoShik Williams but could work through four more tailbacks. The defensive lines are a contrast in style; Kentucky is big and experienced, while Louisville is undersized. The line of scrimmage will be ground zero on Sunday.

2. Weather or not: The remains of Hurricane Isaac should be arriving in Louisville just in time for Sunday's game. The forecast calls for a 70 percent chance of rain and possible thunderstorms. Cardinal Stadium's turf field won't become too sloppy, but the passing game will still be impacted by inclement weather. It could also create issues for Kentucky's inexperienced punter and Louisville's inexperienced kicker and punter. Expect for things to slow down, and for both teams to keep the ball on the ground.

3. Sunday surprises: There's always something new in the season opener. Whether it's a new player who has taken a bigger role or a gadget play that's been in the works all summer, there will be plenty of new wrinkles on both sides. As the first game, both teams could also be mistake-prone early as the offenses look to find a groove. Making quick adjustments will be imperative. If one team can do it faster than the other, they'll be able to build an early lead.

Staff Predictions
Ben Jones, Staff Writer: Louisville 20, Kentucky 18
The first game of the season ensures that things will be sloppy. Add in the bad weather and you can bet that this one will be close, as both teams will struggle to score points. Louisville is a better team than Kentucky, though, and that should show in the end. Expect at least one gaffe in the kicking game, but mistakes throughout. It's taking advantage of mistakes, and not limiting them, that will be the difference.

T.J. Walker, Staff Writer: Kentucky 21, Louisville 20.
Is there such a thing as a must-win game in week one? That's the case for UK and Phillips. Rain slows down UofL's air attack, UK wins the battle at the line and ultimately the game.

Aaron Smith, Staff Writer: Louisville 24, Kentucky 20.
Defensive end Collins Ukwu said he was ready to play even if the game was on Mars, but he'll have to make do with a (potentially muddy) Papa John's Cardinal Stadium. Kentucky's offense will be able to move the ball on the ground, and the defense won't be surprised by Bridgewater this year - but UK also won't be able to stop him enough times to recapture the Governor's Cup.

Brett Dawson, Publisher: Louisville 21, Kentucky 17.
Both teams have young players at so many key positions - and both have been so closely guarded in preseason practice - that predicting the outcome here is mostly a shot in the dark. The Cards have the momentum, the more proven quarterback and the home-field advantage, so give them the nod as we find out what the state's teams are made of.

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