Analyzing the U of L-UK football line

07/27/2011 09:50 AM

The betting line for the Sept. 17 game between Louisville and Kentucky came out earlier this week, and to the surprise of many (myself included), the Wildcats are an early eight-point favorite. I think UK should be favored, but eight points seemed a little high to me. Both teams won six games during the regular season in 2010, and both are facing major question marks going into 2011.
And usually when one team is favored by more than one touchdown, the game ends up being close. The Cards were heavily favored in 2006 but needed a late Andre’ Woodson fumble to escape, and the Cats were a 13-point favorite in 2009 but had to hang on for a 31-27 win.
One of the few exceptions was 2006, when a U of L team favored by 22 laid a 59-28 whuppin’ on Kentucky.
Now I’m not saying I’m smarter than the guys in Vegas. They know what they’re doing. But the early line piqued my curiosity enough to do a position-by-position breakdown and come to my own conclusions about what the line should be.
I took each position on the two teams and rated them on a scale of 1-10. Here’s a summary of how the teams were ranked:
10-One of the top three units in the nation; contains first-round NFL caliber talent. Can carry a team to greatness (i.e. Cam Newton with Auburn last year).
9-Among the top 10-15 nationally at its position. Unit is loaded with returning talent and experience and will have the edge on just about every unit it lines up against.
8-Unit is among the top 2-3 in its league. This group isn’t totally dominant, but the position coach can rest easy.
7-Very solid unit that contains proven performers. There may be a couple of issues (depth?) but this is generally not an area of concern.
6-Stable unit that also has some holes. Is capable of performing well at times but could also have issues with consistency.
5-Could go either way. Has the potential to be a dependable unit or an area of weakness. The outcome usually depends on health and player development.
4-The area is a sore spot and will need unproven players to perform better than expected to keep it from being a glaring weakness.
3-A below-average unit, due either to a lack of talent and/or experience. Might have a big game or two during the season, but overall this will be a unit that opposing teams will be able to exploit regularly.
2-Major issues here. This unit will cost the team at least 2-3 games due to lack of performance.
1-Time to panic and hold walk-on tryouts. These guys just can’t play.

Now here’s the numerical breakdown:

QB- U of L 3.5, UK 5
RB-U of L 7, UK 4
WR-U of L 6, UK 4
OL-U of L 3.5, UK 8
DL-U of L 5.5, UK 4
LB-U of L 5.5, UK 7.5
DB-U of L 5, UK 6
ST-U of L 7, UK 6.5

The final tally, out of possible 80 points, is Kentucky 45, Louisville 43. Throw in three points for home-field advantage, and by my calculations UK should be favored by 4 ½ -5 points.

Now let’s see how the Cats and Cards’ rankings compare to other top teams. First, let’s break down likely preseason No. 1 Alabama:
The Tide’s total of 68 would make them better than three touchdown favorites over the Cats and Cards.

Now let’s look at conferences foes for both teams, West Virginia for the Cardinals and Tennessee for the Wildcats:
According to these numbers, the Mountaineers would be a 5 1/2-point favorite on the road against the Cards and an 11-to-12-point favorite at home.

The Vols would likely be favored over UK by 1-2 at Commonwealth Stadium and seven at Neyland. Of course, it’s hard to predict how oddsmakers would factor in UT’s 26-game winning streak in the series.
So there you go. Don’t worry. I’m not planning on quitting my day job and moving to Vegas. Just thought it’d be a fun and interesting way to analyze and project.


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