This week’s theme is “Bouncing Back” for Kentucky-Based Universities
Every Kentucky-based university involved in the Courier Journal sports staff Week 9 picks is coming off a loss in its most recent game. Kentucky, Louisville, Eastern Kentucky, and Western Kentucky. The in-state teams have their work cut out for them this week. Louisville and Kentucky will be hosting ranked opponents Duke and Tennessee, respectively. WKU, on the other hand, will be welcoming an unbeaten Liberty squad to town. EKU will make the long westward trek to take on Utah Tech.
Speaking of rebounds, two members of the CJ sports staff did just that last week. Columnist C.L. Brown and yours truly paced the field with 4-1 records. Here’s a look at this week’s picks. As is our custom, predictions are straight up winners and losers (not against the spread), with rankings based on the latest US LBM Coaches Poll. All times listed are ET.
No. 21 Duke at No. 18 Louisville
How to watch: 3:30 p.m. Saturday, ESPN
The picks: Four for Duke, three for Louisville (Brown, Brooks Holton, Natalie Pierre)
Bouncing back for Louisville: Coach Jeff Brohm has never lost a game with the Cardinals coming off a bye; conversely, he’s never won one, either, as he’s in his first year at the helm of his alma mater. But he has a history of getting his teams ready to play after an open week. In 10 seasons as a college coach, first at WKU and then Purdue, Brohm owns a 6-4 record after byes. He’ll have to work that magic heading into a tough tussle against Duke on Saturday. The Blue Devils, who also are coming off a setback in their last outing, boast the ACC’s top defense in points allowed per game and also are No. 1 in the league against the pass. Both teams are battling injuries to key players, with Duke potentially not having starting quarterback Riley Leonard available after he reinjured his ankle during the last game.
No. 20 Tennessee at Kentucky
How to watch: 7 p.m. Saturday, ESPN
The picks: Six for Tennessee, one for Kentucky (Holton)
Bouncing back for Kentucky: Unlike Brohm, games following bye weeks haven’t been kind to Mark Stoops. Now in his 11th season as UK’s coach, Stoops is 5-8 (.385 winning percentage) in contests immediately after an open date. To make matters worse, Stoops’ team faces Tennessee, which he’s lost to eight times in 10 meetings. Adding on further woe, Kentucky enters Saturday off back-to-back losses after starting the season 5-0. Tennessee let a 20-7 halftime lead slip through its fingers in a 34-20 loss to Alabama last week. The SEC’s top two rushers in yards per carry, Kentucky’s Ray Davis and Tennessee’s Jaylen Wright, will try to propel their teams to victory Saturday night at Kroger Field.
Liberty at Western Kentucky
How to watch: 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, ESPNU
The picks: Five for Liberty, two for Western Kentucky (Lucas Aulbach, Alexis Cubit)
Bouncing back for Western Kentucky: The Hilltoppers are 1-1 this season in their next games after a loss. They dropped back-to-back contests before beating Middle Tennessee State. Now they have a chance to improve to 2-1 after losses in 2023, as they fell to Jacksonville State last week. To post a win Tuesday night, WKU will have to engineer an upset against Liberty, which is one of only nine undefeated teams remaining in the FBS. History has favored the Flames, too: They’ve never lost to the Hilltoppers, winning all three meetings. Liberty tops Conference USA in nearly every meaningful category: total offense and defense as well as scoring offense and defense. WKU signal caller Austin Reed will have to be at his best, as Liberty leads the nation in passes intercepted this fall — three clear of any other team. Perhaps the biggest key for a Hilltoppers upset? Drawing first blood. They are 20-8 under fifth-year coach Tyson Helton when scoring first; they are 4-16 when the opponent gets on the board first.
Eastern Kentucky at Utah Tech
How to watch: 8 p.m. Saturday, ESPN+
The picks: Six for Eastern Kentucky, one for Utah Tech (Holton)
Bouncing back for Eastern Kentucky: The Colonels know how to rebound and falter; their season, after all, has been a roller coaster. They started 0-3. Then won three straight. Then lost last week at Gardner-Webb to fall back under .500. Evening its record again will require EKU to beat Utah Tech, which owns a deceiving 2-5 record — it has losses to a pair of teams in the top five of the latest FCS coaches poll and another to an FBS school.
No. 9 Oregon at No. 13 Utah
How to watch: 3:30 p.m. Saturday, Fox
The picks: Seven for Oregon
Bouncing back: Both these teams have proved their resolve in the first half of the season. After losing a 36-33 heartbreaker to Washington in a battle of unbeaten teams, Oregon cruised past Washington State by two touchdowns last week. Utah fell to Oregon State, 21-7, on Sept. 29 and has responded by winning its past two games, including a victory at Southern Cal last week. The Ducks are 24-12 against the Utes all time, but Utah has won two of the past three matchups. Oregon leads the Pac-12 in both points and yards per game. Utah is second in the conference in total defense and scoring defense.
- Natalie Pierre, 32-8 (last week 3-2)
- C.L. Brown, 31-9 (last week 4-1)
- Ryan Black, 30-10 (last week 4-1)
- Lucas Aulbach, 27-13 (last week 2-3)
- Alexis Cubit, 26-14 (last week 3-2)
- Jason Frakes, 25-15 (last week 3-2)
- Brooks Holton, 24-16 (last week 2-3)
This article originally appeared on Louisville Courier Journal.
Laura Davis covers the world of basketball with precision. Her articles explore NBA and college basketball, offering game analysis, player profiles, and highlights. Laura’s passion for hoops is evident in her comprehensive basketball coverage.