Louisville Cardinals vs. Kentucky Wildcats
Date and Time: Saturday, November 25, 2017, 12 p.m. ET
Location: Commonwealth Stadium, Lexington, KY
Opening College Football Odds: Louisville -9
Louisville vs. Kentucky TV Coverage: SEC Network
The Cardinals have quietly started to look a little bit better towards the tail end of the season. They started off with two wins over Purdue and North Carolina, but they never really looked like they were going to be strong at that point. It all hit the fan after a 47-21 loss at home to Clemson, and the Cards fell apart thereafter with losses to N.C. State and Boston College.
Since then, Bobby Petrino has gotten back to letting Lamar Jackson play like Lamar Jackson. The defending Heisman Trophy winner has gotten himself back into the discussion for the award even though Louisville has been off the grid from a national sense after posting wins against Florida State, Virginia and Syracuse.
Still, this battle is going to be a tough one. Kentucky has gained a bunch of confidence this season by beating up on the SEC East. The Wildcats still aren't good enough to play with the big boys, as they were crushed by Mississippi State and Georgia and suffered narrow losses to Florida and Ole Miss, but the gap is clearly starting to close just a bit.
Benjamin Snell absolutely has to get the ball in his hands 25 times in this game for Kentucky to have any chance. The superstar of this team has 1,107 yards and 16 touchdowns on the ground, and there are times that he really looks like a tremendous hammer when he has the ball in his hands.
Over the course of his last four games, Snell has rushed for 566 yards and a whopping 10 touchdowns.
Last season's 41-38 Kentucky victory at Papa John's Cardinal Stadium was a big jump in the right direction for a program that hadn't had a lot of luck in this series. The Cats amassed 581 yards of offense and ultimately did just enough when Austin MacGinnis booted a 47-yard field goal with just 0:12 left in the game to pull out the victory.
Still, Kentucky had the same problem trying to contain Jackson when he was on the run as the rest of the nation. The mobile quarterback rumbled for 171 yards and two scores.
That said, the Wildcats found their greatest success when they were forcing Jackson into throwing the ball. There were some big plays for sure, but that's part of the game when you're playing against the Heisman Trophy holder. Still, Jackson tossed three interceptions, and that proved to be the difference in that game.
Louisville vs. Kentucky Free Picks
This is a really big spread for this series, and on one glance, it doesn't seem to be justified. Kentucky has played great ball all season long and has generally taken care of business against relatively comparable teams.
But go back and look at what Nick Fitzgerald did to this defense. He a one-man wrecking crew against the Wildcats, and Jackson is a much better version of the same quarterback.
Louisville won't get to play in an elite bowl game this year, but it certainly started to hit its stride at the end of the season. It's risky laying nearly double-digits on the road with a team that has had so many brain farts against comparable teams this year, but we still think there is more value in backing the Cards at your favorite internet sportsbook.
College Football ATS Pick: Louisville -9 at BookMaker.eu
College Football Score Prediction: Louisville 40, Kentucky 27