Cats vs. Cards : A Classic On ESPN Classic
By - Ira D. Combs
Tri State Sports Media Service Inc.
Now that UK & U of L have worked their way thru the Ohio Valley , Sun Belt , and Mid American conferences with clean 2 - 0 records it's time to settle by far the most important non conference game on each teams schedule .
The annual Battle of the Bluegrass .
I've had many thoughts pass thru my mind concerning this football game over the summer and especially the last two weeks but only one has really hit home with me that i feel is a certain . The folks with the power national TV networks at CBS , ESPN , and ESPN 2 will realize around 11:00 p.m. saturday night that they've made a big mistake in passing up on this game .
It could very well turn out to be ironic that this particular game is on ESPN Classic because i definitely expect it to be a classic college football game fought in a bitter & hostile environment . The interest nationally may not be as intriquing , which is why i'm sure the decision was made to pass it up but in my mind there won't be a more entertaining or competitive football game in America this saturday .
UK's ( players , asst. coaches , it's president Lee "over-hyped" Todd and big blue fanbase ) can all deny it if they want to , although most of them won't , this is the game they've all been waiting on for over four years . Yes , Claude Bassett's nightmare recruiting scandal has finally been rebuilt into a competitive college football team and knocking the Cards from a top their top 10 perch would go a long way in the pay back department placing those massacres of the last few years into the distant past .
This leads me to two individuals not mentioned above that have been front and center almost daily in some form or fashion concerning the UK - U of L football rivalry and they are athletic director Mitch Barnhart & head coach Rich Brooks . Nobody in the commonwealth has been scorned or ridiculed more than these two over the last few years when comparing the UK & U of L football programs and especially in the category of scheduling when they clash annually on the gridiron . As it turns out this being the first year of a new 4 year contract between the two schools both teams are coming off bowl winning seasons and are resting at 2 - 0 this season , don't tell me this has hurt the hype of this game by playing it the 3rd week of the season because that would be a ludicrous statement . A final note on this at the end of this column .
Now let's talk about what's going to take place on the field saturday .
In The Trenches
Most football experts will tell you that the game is won or lost at the line of scrimmage . UK has shown solid improvement (except for UL Monroe and two quarters against Kent St.) in the defensive line since last years game at Papa Johns , that's the good news . Bad news is that Ricky Lumpkin left the Kent St. game in an ambulance and Myron Pryor sit out the last three quarters with a pectoral muscle injury , these two players are arguably the Cats best defensive lineman . If they don't recover this week and play it could diminish the level of play defensively extensively . Bottom line is whoever stops the run and / or pressures the other teams QB the most will probably win the game . Should one team stuff the others running game and i seriously doubt that will happen but if this occurs both teams have excellent passing attacks as well .
If this occurs who has the advantage between the receiving corps and defensive backfield or who can create separation between the receivers and db's the most . In my eyes this is another stand off . Not much difference , there's many quick , athletic , and experienced athletes on both sides of the ball this particular year for both teams and big play capability on each side as well . Only a strong pass rush will stop either teams passing game and i don't see either team causing more than a couple sacks each at best .
Specialties 1/3 of all games
The kicking game usually will win one or two games a year and lose you one or two games a year . I personally don't think this particular game will be one for either team to look back on after the fact falling in either category . Lones Sieber caused a little concern after the EKU game but all was rectified against Kent St. , the kickoffs will have an impact on this game more than any faze causing good or bad field position for someone especially at the beginning of each half . UK's Tim Masthay was awesome in this department against Kent St. sending 6 of 7 kickoffs deep into the endzone . Art Carmoody is extremely consistent and very talented as well for the Cards .
Intangibles will decide winner
In my mind the intangibles will decide this particular game in the end . What's intangibles , they are things that affect the game on and off the field that neither a player nor a coach can have any control over nor can you put a point value on them either . Let's look at each :
Intangible #1 Officiating - Let's all hope the NBA hasn't inviltrated college football and I doubt it has with instant replay and the new review systems in place no official wants to be proven wrong and usually aren't in football on this level . If they miss a call it is usually corrected , also in the past the visiting teams conference assigns officials to this game so no home cooking will take place Card fans .
Intangible #2 Home Field - I think this one will be decisively in UK's favor . Big Blue Nation has been waiting on this day since the end of the Music City Bowl . I expect them to be awesome and if plays develop early they may become an even bigger impact on the game . Think Papa Johns plus 30,000
Intangible #3 Preparation - NCAA rules say players are only allowed 20 hours per week but coachs have no set rule . If their is a level of sports that is over coached it could be the college level , however don't tell that to Brooks and Kragthorpe both have burned the midnight oil for this one . Both offensive coordinators are solid in preparartion and game calling . Defensively Mike Cassity has more experience in playcalling than Steve Brown but i can't see either having a tremendous impact with the explosive offenses they are facing .
Intangible #4 Leadership , Heart & Soul On The Field - That's where this particular game lays . I'm betting that Andre Woodson , Keenan Burton , and company have just a little bit more pent up inside them than Brian Brohm and company does .
Now , in closing this week back to Brooks and Barnhart . Come sunday morning both will have a smile on their face because they will have experienced victory for the first time against their arch enemy . But that's only a taste of what's to come because i think in two more years they will have the better team and program for the future as well .
Tom Jurich can't pluck a Bobby Petrino out of the coaching fraternity every hire and the city of Louisville can't produce a Michael Bush & Brian Brohm every four years and that's exactly why Louisville has dominated the last five years along with UK's misfortunes created by Claude Bassett .
Brooks will have proven by then to be very solid and consistent in the program building department for the present and future of Wildcat football fortunes , hopefully by then both he and Barnhart will have been given their due credit .
It's really foolish to predict a college football game but i think UK will survive this one , I'll say 38 - 30