After the long and arduous summer months and initial opening games, Kentucky is set to play host to Louisville in Commonwealth Stadium in a short matter of hours. Charlie Strong, Teddy Bridgewater, and the remaining Cardinals enter this match-up as heavy favorites over Mark Stoops and the Cats, but as they say, it’s a rivalry game and anything could happen. Both teams enter the game on high notes; Louisville is coming off two thrashings of over-matched opponents while Kentucky is coming off a blow-out victory over the also over-matched Miami Redhawks. However, while both teams enter on high notes, the overall series has favored the Cardinals in recent years as they’ve taken the past two contests. The two teams, who must hear about what the other team is doing ever so frequently, certainly know the other’s schemes by now. However, some fans may not be so familiar with the Cards and their looks. Given this, I went back and examined their offense and defense to see what makes them click.
Everyone’s well aware of the high-powered offense led by Heisman candidate, Teddy Bridgewater. Louisville fans just won’t let us forget now will they? However, credit where it’s due, the Cardinals have one of the nation’s best offensive units for numerous reasons. They have serious weapons at running back (though the national rankings don’t show it), many talented wide receivers in addition to the junior quarterback. While the basic stats are fine in their own right, they don’t tell the formations or where they like to throw and rush. Fortunately, I was able to re-watch the Louisville-Ohio game to see just that. The passing zones in the below chart can be explained by following this link. The line of scrimmage in the link is at the 30-yard line and can be adjusted accordingly to different starting points.
First, these are only the stats from Teddy Bridgewater in the Ohio game. I choose not to include the EKU game as FBS opponents rarely provide meaningful stats. Sure, three quarters aren’t exactly the best sample, but then again, neither are two games. If you’re unsure about what you see, fret not, it’s simple to understand. From this game, Bridgewater loves to spread the field, particularly 10+ yards down the field. Of his 28 passes against Ohio, 13 were attempted 10-yards down the field, 10 of those were completions. I want to point out, in particular, his fondness of attacking zones 6 and 8, or the sidelines 10+ yards from the line of scrimmage. This area deep in the secondary is a favorite for Bridgewater and a weakness for Kentucky. Because of this, Louisville will have a huge advantage on this side of the ball come Saturday.
The stats from Louisville’s first game are certainly impressive regardless of competition. However it’ll be interesting to see how they handle the two quarterback, sometimes rush-happy, sometimes pass-happy Air Raid offense. Other than a handful of drives against Western, Kentucky really hasn’t had much issue moving the ball this season. Of course, Louisville’s defense is different from Kentucky’s previous two opponents as they are a very blitz happy team. From my observations, the Cardinal defense brought 5 or more people on blitzes 41% of the time against Ohio. Compare this to Mark Stoops’ defense from last season at Florida State which only rushed 5+ people on 15% of defensive plays. Granted, I only observed the Ohio game, but this is seemingly a trend under Charlie Strong’s leadership. I’m unsure as to what offensive scheme’s we’ll be seeing from Kentucky for a number of reasons, but I have a feeling screens and draws will be common with Louisville’s pressure.