Prediction, Preview, and Odds
#165 Kentucky vs.
#166 Louisville
Saturday, November 27, 2021 at 7:30pm EST
Written by Nathaniel Reeves

In-state rivals will clash on Saturday night when the Kentucky Wildcats visit the Louisville Cardinals with the Governor's Cup on the line. Kentucky enters the final weekend of the regular season at 8-3 (5-3 SEC) after rolling past the New Mexico State Aggies 56-16 last Saturday as a 35.5-point home favorite. Louisville is also coming off a blowout win by a 62-22 final over the Duke Blue Devils as a 20-point road favorite last Thursday, moving to 6-5 (4-4 ACC) on the year.

There's not much to separate these rivals historically, with Kentucky holding a 17-15 advantage all-time after winning the last two meetings including a 45-13 home win back in 2019.

Kentucky demolishes New Mexico State ahead of rivalry showdown

After a rough three-game losing streak in the middle of the season, the Wildcats have managed to bounce back over the last two weeks by blowing out overmatched opponents, including an easy win over New Mexico State last Saturday. New Mexico State scored first on a fumble return, but Justin Rigg and Chris Rodriguez Jr. quickly responded for the Wildcats with touchdowns in addition to a Quandre Mosely pick-six in the first quarter alone, and it was all Kentucky in the second half including long scores by Josh Ali and Kavosiey Smoke.

Will Levis had a huge day under center, completing 20 of 31 pass attempts for 419 yards, four touchdowns and one interception. Rodriguez Jr. racked up 119 yards and one touchdown on 16 carries, while Wan'Dale Robinson went off for 181 yards on eight receptions. Kentucky dominated the total yardage battle 707-282, but was slowed down by four turnovers.

“It’s just sickening to start that way,” offensive coordinator Liam Coen said about the early turnovers via Kentucky.com. “All you’re trying to do is come out and be positive and roll and do some really good things, and we’re just not there yet. As a team we’re just not there yet in terms of ‘Come out. Take care of business. Do it all clean.’ But I thought the kids responded, which was nice.”

The Wildcats have also been good against the spread at 7-4, and the easy win over New Mexico State snapped a run of failing to cover in three straight games. Overs are also 7-4 for Kentucky, with three of its last four games going over the betting total.

That was a good showing for a Kentucky offense that has been inconsistent with an average of 31.6 points and 423.8 yards per game. Kentucky's defense has slumped late in the season but still has good numbers overall, allowing an average of 22.2 points and 335.8 yards per game.

After transferring from Penn State, Levis has been successful at his first shot at being a full-time starter, completing 202 of 307 passes for 2,444 yards, 23 touchdowns and 12 interceptions while adding 274 rushing yards and five scores. Rodriguez Jr. have been prolific with 189 carries for 1,150 yards and eight touchdowns, while Robinson has piled up 85 receptions for 1,067 yards and seven scores. Joshua Paschal has disrupted opposing offenses with 50 tackles including 14 for loss, four sacks and a forced fumble.

Injuries were a big part of Kentucky's mid-season slump, and the Wildcats will be without All-American caliber right guard Eli Cox for the rest of the season. Tight end Keaton Upshaw and defensive end Octavious Oxendine are also done for the year with undisclosed injuries. Linebacker Jordan Wright has missed the last six games with an ankle injury and is considered questionable for Saturday. Other players like nose tackle Marquan McCall and wideout Isaiah Epps returned last weekend after missing some time.

Louisville hopes to build on Cunningham's historic day

It's been an uneven year for the Cardinals in year three under head coach Scott Satterfield, but they will at least be heading to a bowl game after back-to-back blowout wins, including dominating Duke last Thursday behind a record-setting performance from quaterback Malik Cunningham. This was never a contest as Trevion Cooley, Marshon Ford and Jalen Mitchell all scored touchdowns in the first half alone, and two long scoring runs from Cunningham during the game were all over the highlight reel.

Cunningham completed 18 of 25 pass attempts for 303 yards and five touchdowns while adding 11 carries for 204 yards and two scores, becoming the second player ever with 300+ passing yards and 200+ rushing yards in a game. Ford led a balanced effort for the Louisville wideouts with four catches for 60 yards and a touchdown. The Cardinals outgained Duke 687-458 while forcing two turnovers to key the easy win.

"He's tremendously talented, and very blessed with that talent. Tonight, he let it come to him, he wasn't panicked in any way, he's seeing what the defense is giving us. They gave us a lot of different looks in the secondary tonight, and particularly the first half," Satterfield told Sports Illustrated about his quarterback's huge night.

Louisville has a matching record of 6-5 against the spread, and it has covered in its last two games after also demolishing the Syracuse Orange 41-3 as a slight favorite. Overs are just 4-7 for the Cardinals, although two of their last three games have gone over the betting total.

The last two weeks have boosted Louisville's overall numbers offensively in a major way, as it is now averaging 32.9 points and 459.6 yards per game. Louisville's defense has been pretty middling for the season, allowing 24.7 points and 392.6 yards per contest.

Cunningham has had a huge year overall, completing 184 of 296 pass attempts for 2,589 yards, 18 touchdowns and five interceptions while adding 150 carries for 933 yards and another 18 scores. Mitchell has been productive out of the backfield with 144 carries for 669 yards and five scores, while Jordan Watkins is the team's top receiver with 33 catches for 510 yards and four scores. Yasir Abdullah has piled up 48 tackles including 13.5 for loss, nine sacks and three pass breakups to lead the Louisville defense.

Starting corner Kei'Trel Clark has missed three games with a leg injury and has officially been ruled out for Saturday. Wideout Braden Smith and linebacker Monty Montgomery are two other starters who both suffered season-ending knee injuries early in the year.

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Full-Game Side Bet

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Rating:

As incredible as Cunningham can be, the Cardinals are getting a little overvalued in the market here for back-to-back blowouts of hapless opponents in Duke and Syracuse. Kentucky is the far more well-rounded team to offset Cunningham's brilliance, and the Wildcats will win this one after being more battle-tested out of the SEC.

The Wildcats are breaking out of their mid-season defensive slump as they get healthier, and this is a tough unit to deal with as they allow a strong 5.4 yards per play while generating a ton of sacks and tackles for loss. Cunningham is electric with the ball but we did see him struggle against the best two ACC defenses he faced this season in Clemson and NC State with the Cardinals managing a combined 37 points in those two games, and the Wildcats will be too physical up front here.

While there are a lot of positives for Louisville this season, the Cardinals' best victory ultimately is over a six-win Boston College squad, while Kentucky has shown it can compete in the SEC. Kentucky is a legitimate top 25 team when its defense is relatively healthy, and will be too much in the trenches for Louisville on both sides of the ball.

Prediction: Kentucky +3

Full-Game Total Pick

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Rating:

The offense is going to grab most of the highlights in Louisville because of Cunningham, but this has not been a bad defense at 5.6 yards per play allowed with particularly solid numbers against the pass. Kentucky's scoring numbers have been inflated by games against New Mexico State and UL-Monroe, and this is a limited passing attack as Levis has struggled with turnovers and there isn't much depth at receiver behind Robinson.

This is a run-heavy Kentucky offense that slows the pace way down to around 67 plays per game to rank near the bottom of the national leaderboard, and Louisville's tempo is barely any faster. Expect a physical rivalry slugfest here, and the offenses won't get enough possessions to reach this number.

Prediction: Under 57.5
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Written By Nathaniel Reeves , "Nathaniel Reeves"

Nathaniel Reeves is an avid sports fan with degrees in journalism from the University of Washington and statistics from Western Washington University. He's always had a passion for applying statistical analysis to sports betting and has successfully handicapped college football, college basketball, and Esports for years. Nathaniel has endured being a lifelong fan of the Seattle Mariners, along with the Seattle Seahawks, UW Huskies and soon to be Seattle Kraken. He has been a very successful sports bettor the last several years and we are thrilled that Nate has chosen to bring his talents to us here at Winners & Whiners. You would be very wise to follow him daily. 
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