Las Vegas figured out several weeks ago that this University of Louisville football team is not quite what it appeared to be when the Cardinals tore Florida State a new one in that 63-20 runaway in the third game of the season.

Probably dawned on the oddsmakers in the first half of the game against Clemson, with UofL falling behind 28-10. Eleven penalties for 104 yards for the Cardinals in that game, along with five sacks, an interception and a couple of fumbles. 

Vegas continued to make UofL a decisive favorite in ensuing games, making the Cardinals a 30-point favorite over Duke. Louisville was saved by a missed field goal in that game, making it painstakingly obvious that UofL was lucky to eke out a 10-point win. Similar grinders followed against Virginia and Wake Forest.

Bobby Petrino eyeing sixth straight for UofL over Kentucky (Cindy Rice Shelton photo).
Bobby Petrino eyeing sixth straight for UofL over Kentucky (Cindy Rice Shelton photo).

So excuse us if we wonder about the acumen of the same Las Vegas oddsmakers in making Louisville a 24.5-point favorite over Kentucky this weekend. At this point in the season, it is insane to give UofL that much of an edge, especially after the humiliating loss to Houston exposed more weaknesses.

This particular group of UofL players has already proven they will relax, taking lightly-regarded opponents for granted when considered overwhelming favorites. They hear their fans lifting them up, putting down their opponents. Not to worry.

That’s usually followed by mistakes coming out of the gate, turnovers and false starts, guaranteeing the Cardinals will struggle to survive. In fact, that’s been the pattern with opponents this season, but over the past two seasons in games against UK.

This year the Wildcats bring two 1,000-yard rushers to Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium, along with a mobile quarterback, and a couple of decent receivers. Equally important they hate Louisville and will be highly motivated, seeking to end a five-game losing streak.

Louisville has not seen running backs this season as powerful as Boom Williams and Benny Snell. Williams is averaging 7.1 yards per carry and Snell is right on his heels with 6 yards per carry. Jo Jo Kemp, a third running back, is averaging 5 yards per carry.

Have no doubt that UK will come armed a keep-Lamar Jackson-off-the-field game plan. All the bluster about how weak the Kentucky defense will be exposed as just that if Jackson gets off to another slow start. It would, in fact, be UofL’s worst nightmare.

Las Vegas should know no better by now.  UofL players and fans should know not to take Vegas seriously by now.

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By Charlie Springer

Charlie Springer is a former Louisville editor and sportswriter, a public affairs consultant, a UofL grad and longtime fan.