Warning: This post is all about Louisville. I have the tall task to give scouting reports each week on our opponents. It’s purely informational, and I in no way shape or form condone the attitude that Louisville will win Sunday.
The University of Louisville is coming into this season on a high after
winning the Orange Bowl losing the Belk Bowl and becoming Co-Big East Champs along with West Virginia and Cincinnati. Their 7-6 record would’ve been a lot better, but they lost to Florida International and Marshall at home (I’m embarrassed for them as I type that). They enter the game ranked 25th and are the favorite to win the crippled Big East. Fair weather fans from Louisville are now back, and they have sold 43,500 season tickets– more than the Stadium held just a few years ago. With rain in the forecast, I’m curious to see how the crowd will be for this highly anticipated game.
Charlie Strong came to UofL as the defensive mastermind that got Florida two National Championships, and his system has paid off. I admire Strong for doing so well, because his players have been so young. The only player lost on defense was their stud Linebacker Dexter Heyman. Kentucky is just as young, but most of their guys have a year of experience under their belt.
The Cards are more than solid against the run ranking 10th nationally last year in run defense by giving up only 100.5 yards rushing a game. At Commonwealth last year the Cats only managed 35 yards on 32 carries with a depleted Offensive Line. Their 3 LBs all have the same last name Brown, and the MLB Preston is a signature run stuffer. History shows that you have to run the ball well to win, especially with nasty weather in the forecast. It will be exciting to see if CoShik and Raymond’s development will transfer to the field Sunday.
In the passing game, the Cars D has relied more on pressuring the QB than getting interceptions. They have averaged closed to 3 sacks a game under Strong (an INSANE number) while getting to UKs QB 6 times last year. Luckily our OLine has been healthy and will bring one cohesive unit to the table. The Cards also have an “all over the field” threat in Jr. Safety Hakeem Smith, who led the team in tackles his freshman year and was second last season.
Bottom Line: In a ground and pound type game that could take place Sunday, the Cats have to get production from their wide variety of Running Backs. While we may not dominate the ground, at least 90 yards needs to be on the ground in order for Max Smith to have a chance against a good pass rushing Cardinal Football team.
Apparently they’ve got a QB that’s pretty good, and it’s not just UofL fans who are saying it. Cats Defensive Coordinator Rick Minter said Wednesday, “Last year, we thought Bridgewater was just pretty good, but the tape shows that he’s outstanding.” He’s on the watch list for the Maxwell Award after winning Big East Rookie of the Year. He has a GREAT WR to throw the ball to in DaVonte Parker along with a few speedsters in the slot that got some quality time last season. Martavius Neloms will most likely be the guy assigned to shut down Parker; a tall task for someone playing their first game at cornerback.
Even though Teddy is good, and will have a young secondary to work against, what is probably the most important matchup of the game will be on the Offensive Line. Last year UofL started 2 true freshman when only 5 true freshman in the country started OLine. They have 4 starters back but will have their hands full with UK’s DLine. The DLine has the most experience on defense, and will need to control the line of scrimmage and put pressure on the QB if they expect to stop Louisville. Mark my word: this is where the game will be won or lost.
In the Running game, Louisville also uses a variety of Running Backs with their primary target being Dominique Brown, who had a hell of a coming out party against the Cayts last September. He is big power back, that resembles Michael Bush (except Bush was WAY better). Senorise Perry is their speed back along with Jeremy Wright. Wright has had problems holding onto the ball, let alone a wet ball. Hopefully the stick um doesn’t stick Sunday.
Bottom Line: A team with turnover tendencies is a blessing to play in nasty weather. If the Cats can control the line and force a few turnovers along the way, the game will be in reach for Max Smith and Company.
The Biggest question mark for the Cards lie in their Special Teams. Their placekickers and punters have zero experience and they do not have a great return man that they can rely on. I”ll be cheering for my long-time friend Ryan Johnson at punter who might get to see some of his first action on the field; just don’t hold it against me.
Bottom Line: Field position can make all of the difference in the world in a close nasty game. If UK can get the ball in manageable positions, “Auto” McIntosh will put the ball through the goal posts. If it comes down to a FG in the end, I’d like to meet the Freshman with nerves of steel that has never played before become a hero, because IT AIN’T GONNA HAPPEN.