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Head-to-Head College Football Win Totals: Louisville Laying 3.5 Games to Rival Kentucky

Louisville Cardinals cheerleaders running across the field.
The Louisville Cardinals have high hopes for the Scott Satterfield era, but realistic expectations for year one are still in the 2-10 or 9-3 range. Photo by U.S. Air National Guard photo by Maj. Dale Greer [public domain].
  • Will Kentucky win four more games than in-state rival Louisville in the 2019 season?
  • The Wildcats’ 56-10 win over the Cardinals last year showed the difference between these two programs at the moment
  • The difference won’t be as drastic in 2019, but Louisville is in no position to take advantage, yet

All week, we have been looking at head-to-head college football win totals matchups for 2019 (see list at the bottom of this page for additional coverage). Another matchup that stands out in the latest NCAAF props is Kentucky vs Louisville.

Louisville vs Kentucky Head-to-Head Win Total Odds

Head-to-Head Win Totals: Kentucky vs. Louisville Odds
Kentucky -3.5 +105
Louisville +3.5 -125

Odds as of July 23, 2019.

The 2018 season may have looked like rock bottom for Louisville: a 2-10 record, the firing of Bobby Petrino, and two 40-point losses to end the season.

But as is common in Petrino’s wake, there is more rock bottom to come, and the expectation is for Scott Satterfield to experience it in his first year leading the Cardinals.

Louisville isn’t expected to be this low for long, but 2019 has the potential to be 2-10 once again. That means Kentucky doesn’t have to do all that much to be 3.5 wins better than the Cardinals, and why this head-to-head is a tempting one.

Cardinal Sins

Louisville’s cratering comes with horrendous timing relative to the schedule, as 2019 both sends the Cardinals to Lexington for the annual game with Kentucky and has them opening the season by hosting Notre Dame. That leaves just two non-conference games, against Eastern Kentucky and Western Kentucky, as likely wins.

All it takes is one conference win to really make Kentucky work to beat this line, but there’s no guarantee it’s in the cards (bad pun intended). It’s hard to envision this Louisville team winning at Florida State, and it’s hard to envision it winning any ACC game after Oct. 12. The schedule from that point is vs Clemson, vs Virginia, at Miami, at NC State, and vs Syracuse.

That leaves two chances: vs Boston College on Oct. 5 and at Wake Forest on Oct. 12. Both the Eagles and the Deacs have a lot of work to do in terms of defensive replacements, but Boston College is bringing a bevy of offensive weapons to Louisville, namely Heisman Trophy candidate running back AJ Dillon.

Even if Satterfield’s immediate impact is good enough for a 3-9 season, there’s no guarantee it’s good enough to get inside four wins of Kentucky.

Big Blue bowling

Bowl games were far from the expectation before Mark Stoops arrived in Lexington — just eight in the 30 years before Stoops’ first bowl trip in 2016 — but they are the expectation now, having been to three straight. Most of the players that created the school’s first 10-win season since 1977 are gone, particularly on the defense that ranked 16th in the nation in sacks, but it’s not a total reboot.

Kash Daniel is back at linebacker, Quinton Bohanna returns on the defensive line and the offensive line should take on little to no regression from last year’s unit that was so good. Returning quarterback Terry Wilson and a shocking amount of depth behind last year’s feature runner Benny Snell Jr. should make the offense solid — maybe not good enough to win 10 games again with a regressing defense, but relative to this bet, 10 wins is not the standard.

Kentucky needs six wins to have a chance to beat this line; seven wins will more or less guarantee it.

The non-conference slate of Toledo, Eastern Michigan, UT Martin and Louisville is unlikely to trip the Wildcats up, and they are fortunate to draw a home game with Arkansas on Oct. 12 as its other West division opponent.

In Kentucky holds serve in the non-con, it will need just one win in SEC play to beat a 2-10 Louisville team, and two wins if the Cardinals pull off an ACC upset and go 3-9.

Kentucky’s conference schedule features the following winnable games: at South Carolina, vs Missouri, vs Tennessee, and at Vanderbilt.

Last year’s Kentucky team went 3-1 in those games. There will be regression, but all the way down to 0-4 seems incredibly unlikely; even 1-3 seems less likely than 2-2.

Simply put, Kentucky is undeniably four wins better than Louisville right now. It probably won’t be that way for long, with Satterfield running the show, so take advantage while you can.

SBD’s NCAAF Head-to-Head Win Totals Coverage

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