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Billy Reed: Not out of the question that UK has lost its last game, but then there’s still UofL at Cardinal

Now that the University of Kentucky football team has registered its expected loss against Georgia in Atlanta, fans giddy over the team’s 6-1 start are talking about running the table in the team’s last five games.

It’s certainly not out of the question. To finish 11-1, Coach Mark Stoops’ Wildcats must beat Mississippi State (3-3) in Starkville, Tennessee (4-3) at home, Vanderbilt (2-5) in Nashville, New Mexico State (1-6) at home, and Louisville (3-3) in Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium.

At no time have I been made aware of any Big Blue diehard suggest there’s a possibility of getting upset on the road against U of L on Nov. 27. By then surely the Cards will have at least one more loss at Clemson.

Billy Reed is a member of the U.S. Basketball Writers Hall of Fame, the Kentucky Journalism Hall of Fame, the Kentucky Athletic Hall of Fame and the Transylvania University Hall of Fame. He has been named Kentucky Sports Writer of the Year eight times and has won the Eclipse Award three times. Reed has written about a multitude of sports events for over four decades and is perhaps one of the most knowledgeable writers on the Kentucky Derby. His book “Last of a BReed” is available on Amazon.

And such is the recipe for a historic win by the Cards. It is never good to be overconfident against an arch-rival, especially when you’re playing it on the road. But UK fans seem to have forgotten that.

Make no mistake, nobody is claiming U of L is much more than ordinary. But they’re also better than their record suggests.

Heading into yesterday’s game against Boston College at home, their losses have been to a good Ole Miss team, 43-24, on the road; by three, 37-34, to Wake Forest on the road; and by three again, 34-33, to Virginia at home. Both Wake Forest (6-0) and Virginia (5-2) were decided by end-of-the game field goals.

The Cards have a good three-headed running attack with Hassan Hall, Jalen Mitchell, and Trevion Cooley; a solid receiving corps led by Marshon Ford and Tyler Harrell; and one of the better defenses in the Atlantic Coast Conference.

But the player UK can’t afford to underestimate is Malik Cunningham, who has established himself as one of the most difficult-to-defend quarterbacks in the nation.

How did Virginia prepare for the Cards?

Here’s what Coach Bronco Mendenhall said about U of L’s offense:

“It’s really the entire 11 because they’re all interrelated. You can’t just say to the defensive line, ‘You have him,’ because there is not a matchup that is in our favor athletically. You can’t say, ‘Linebacker, you have him.’ In space, there’s not a match-up that’s in our favor or anybody else’s.

“Secondary-wise, they have to know their coverage will be longer, and what we call plaster, because routes convert and routes adjust as a quarterback is harder to get on the ground. He’s a run threat, he creates on his own, which means there’s a great chance he’ll still have the ball after you tackle him in the open field after you’ve covered downfield. It affects everyone, which just means the plays extend. You play defense longer when a quarterback is as athletic as Louisville’s quarterback.”

In six games, Cunningham has amassed 1,924 total yards for an average of 222.2 per game. A redshirt senior, he will depart The ‘Ville with a slew of records.

Anybody who doesn’t take Cunningham seriously does so at his or her peril. Maybe UK will run the table. But there’s also a chance the table will turn on the Cats, ending the regular season on the sourest possible note.

It’s something to contemplate for the next six weeks.

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