Labor Day weekend has come upon us and we have company coming. The rather unwanted guest arrives as the remnants of Hurricane Isaac. The last parts of that storm may disrupt our other guests from Lexington in the form of University of Kentucky football fans. Make no mistake, plenty of the UK faithful will help fill Papa John's Cardinal Stadium, however 2000 less will come from Lexington. That's because the school returned that many of their 5,500 allotted tickets to the University of Louisville. Cardinal fan didn't let those sit for long, selling them out in 20 or so minutes.
And why not? Football expectations for the Cats have plummeted while the reverse rings true for the Cards. UofL tops the Big East and own the number 25 ranking according to the Associated Press. That means the Cards might look at an Orange Bowl bid while the Cats could struggle to have a 6-6 season.
Sophomore quarterback Teddy Bridgewater returns to face the team that made him a star last year. At the 2011 Governor's Cup in Commonwealth Stadium he entered the game for injured starter Will Stein, threw for two touchdown passes which, in turn, set him in motion to collect the Big East Rookie of the Year honor.
Center and Outland Trophy candidate Mario Benevides leads the offensive line charged with protecting their star and at an average of 312 pounds a man, they hope to get the job done and even open up holes for Dominique Brown, the running back who pounded UK for almost 100 yards last year.
The Cardinal offense works against a patchwork UK defense. While the defensive line could prove strong with Mister Cobble and Donte Rumph up front, the Wildcat secondary lost Shawn Blaylock to season ending knee surgery and Marcus Caffey to academic trouble. In addition Joker Phillips might feel his seat heating up after last years campaign and lack of progress in the off season.
But that could play in the UK's favor. A desperate coach might take chances in an effort to win the marquee game of the season. Especially with Louisville's young and inexperienced special teams. Plus if conditions deteriorate, the Cards will be forced to run the ball right into the teeth of the UK defense. History doesn't take kindly to UofL either, having lost every Governor's Cup game at home since 2006.
When the final whistle blows, Louisville's strong defensive line should probably hold the Wildcat offense in check and if Bridgewater or Brown step it up, it looks like a long afternoon for Kentucky. Prediction: the Cards by 14.
Photo: Tim Girton