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SPORTS BUZZ: UK will win, but it won't be a blowout

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Rivalry games often produce surprises

By John Herndon

All right, Wildcat fans. Saturday is your day.

It’s the day you have been waiting for ever since you partied in Memphis while your Little Brother had to decide between Middletown and Valley Station.

It’s the day you  get a chance to remove that image of John L. Smith strutting across the field -- your field, even -- with a 56-28 win in his pocket.

It’s the day you get to pay back Bobby Petrino for calling a timeout so he could score one more time even with the game in the bag.

Never mind that Petrino is calling the Hogs in Arkansas and John L. is helping him out. That doesn’t matter. They coached Louisville, they embarrassed your team and now it’s the Wildcats’ time to turn the tables.

But hold on to your new version of “68-34 and it wasn’t that close.” I wouldn’t be dusting it off just yet. Saturday’s rivalry game is just that -- a rivalry.

And  a true rivalry is one where surprises are as common as first downs.

Let me say right now that I am going with Kentucky to win Saturday. The Wildcats are just better right now, have a program that is on solid footing and have more going for them.

And I will say up front that I am a huge Rich Brooks fan. He’s the opposite, in every way possible, of those that have made college sports into a cesspool of lying, cheating, pushing the limits and pull every other stunt in the book. Brooks shoots straighter than UK’s championship rifle team and is one that has repeatedly proven many of us (blush) wrong.

But great coaches don’t always win. Google up “Pete Carroll Stanford 2007” for details. Things happen. That’s why history suggests that the expected blowout Saturday won’t happen. Just think about this series.

“I don’t care if they go 1-10 as long as this is the ‘one.’”

Remember that one? It was back in 1994, the very first time Kentucky and Louisville played in the modern day. Antonio O’Ferral scored a late touchdown to give UK the win. The Wildcats didn’t win again until 1995, while Louisville was solid in Howard Schnellenberger’s last year at the helm.

That won’t happen this year, since both are already 1-0, but the moral of the story is to be careful what you wish for.

Jeremy Caudill couldn’t have eaten this good at Lynn’s Paradise Café.

Remember 2002? I bet Dave Ragone does. Louisville was supposed to make mincemeat of a Kentucky team coming off a 2-9 season, but when the teams got together, Jeremy Caudill ate up the Louisville line. Cats 22, Cards 17

Big Brother treats us like a red-headed step-sister.

Ouch. Big Brother was just coming off a New Year’s Day Bowl game, but Little Brother smacked Big Brother around prompting John L. to break into that now-famous strut I have already talked about.

I won’t take a knee when I can score more points.

Gotta give Bobby Petrino credit, in some ways. He usually backed what he said up on the field while in Louisville. Of course, he was trying to get out of town faster than a UPS jet, but that’s another matter. Suffice it to say, Rich Brooks would not pull one like Bobby P. did six years ago and Steve Kragthorpe won’t be in a position to do so.

On paper -- stat sheets and the talking heads that tell us what is going to happen -- the line that makes Kentucky nearly a two touchdown favorite is fair. I have seen some writers going as high as nearly three Tds.

While I am going with Kentucky, the pick here is that it will be much closer. Why?

1. It’s a rivalry game. Every rivalry game this side of Kentucky-Tennessee has surprises.

2. Just a hunch, but Louisville can’t be as bad as it showed against Indiana State. The Cards have nothing to lose in this one, Kragthorpe’s job is on the line and they can pull out all the stops.

3. How does UK handle being a big favorite against a team from a BCS conference? Granted, the Big East is not even in the same universe as the SEC when it comes to football, no matter how the Big East dreams or spins it. But at the same time, UK is not UF, Uga, Bama or LSU either. Kentucky is a far cry from being a program that can throw its helmets on the field and win.

Kentucky will win, but I will be surprised if it is by much more than a touchdown or 10 points.

E-mail John Herndon at jpherndon@theandersonnews.com.