The Cards have completed 75% of their schedule and sit at 4-4 overall, including 2-1 in Big East play.
Up to this point, here is what we know about Charlie Strong’s team: Defensively, this team is very good. After the Syracuse win, Louisville’s defense was allowing 16.3 points per game and only 295 yards per game. The Cards do an excellent job of stopping the run, which forces the opposition to become one dimensional. When Louisville gets their foes into obvious passing situations, defensive coordinator Vance Bedford can really get creative with his calls and that is often a nightmare for the Cardinal opposition.
Offensively, the Cards are still mediocre, but showing signs of life. The past two weeks, UofL has something resembling a running game. Against Rutgers, Jeremy Wright became Louisville’s first running back to have a 100 yard game this season. Then last Saturday, Victor Anderson broke a 61 yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter to essentially seal the deal against Syracuse. UofL nearly had back to back 100 yard rushers as Vic finished with 93 yards on 11 carries.
The passing game is still developing, which is to be expected with a freshman quarterback and many freshmen wide receivers. Considering all their youth and inexperience, I believe they are playing quite well.
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The reason for this offense showing signs of life is due to the improved play of the offensive line. The big hogs up front have gotten healthy and quite frankly, just gotten better. After dealing with injuries and some reshuffling, the offensive line, under the direction of Dave Borbely, is starting to open holes with more frequency. If these guys can continue to improve and give the Cards a running game, Louisville has a good shot to get back to a bowl game.
However, in order to get to that second strait bowl game, they need to win at least two games of the final four. Where will the Cards get those wins and just how winnable are those games? I’m going to give some thoughts on each game, then provide a number as to how winnable the game is (on a 1-10 scale).
Unless you’re LSU, traveling to Morgantown and coming away with a victory is not easy. The Mountaineers are 6-2 on the year, 2-1 in Big East play, and coming off a 41-31 win at Rutgers. Louisville hasn’t won in Morgantown since 1990, which obviously means they have never won there since joining the Big East conference. That all sounds like it adds up to a loss.
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But, even though the Cards haven’t won at West Virginia during Big East play, the games between these two in Morgantown have always been close contests. We all remember the thriller in 2005, and in two trips there during the Kragthorpe era, the final scores were 38-31 and 17-9 respectively. I think we are in store for another close match-up.
With the defense Louisville has, they will be in every game. Charlie Strong has proven during his time as head coach that his teams play well on the road. The key on Saturday will be the play of the UofL offense. West Virginia is shaky defensively. They give up 26.1 points per game and just under 330 yards per game.
If the Cards can muster touchdowns rather than field goals in Morgantown, they will have a chance to pull off the upset. On the winnable scale, I give this one a 5.
The Panthers come to Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium on November 11 and will be without star running back Ray Graham, who is out for the season due to injury. Pitt, like Louisville, is 4-4 overall and 2-1 in Big East action. Pitt ranks in the middle of the conference defensively, giving up 23.5 points per game. Offensively, the Panthers are near the bottom, scoring 26.5 points per game.
I have watched Pitt play several times and they appear to be Jekyll and Hyde. They beat down South Florida 44-17 several weeks back, but also got pounded by Rutgers 34-10. Pitt is coming off a 35-20 win over an average UConn team, more on them in a second. It will be interesting to see how different Pitt looks, if at all, without Ray Graham.
Going off what we know at this point, I think this is a good match-up for Louisville. Without their best offensive threat, I really have a hard time believing Pitt will be able to muster much of a run game against the Cards. As I said earlier, when Louisville forces their opposition to become one dimensional, it bodes well for the UofL defense. Also keep in mind, this will be Senior Day at PJCS and it figures to be an emotional day for Louisville.
I think Pitt will have a tough time on November 11 and I actually expect the Cards to win this one. I rate this one an 8.
Like Pitt, I have also watched Connecticut play several times this year, although I have no clue why or how it even happened. The Huskies are under first year coach Paul Pasqualoni, who used to coach at Syracuse and are still adjusting to the departure of longtime coach Randy Edsall. UConn is 3-5 on the year and 1-2 in Big East play. They’ve beaten Fordham, Buffalo, and South Florida somehow. They’ve also lost to Vanderbilt, Iowa State, Western Michigan, West Virginia, and Pittsburgh.
Quite frankly, the Huskies just don’t pass the eye test. I believe they will struggle with Louisville’s overall speed, but more specifically, I think UConn will struggle with Louisville’s defense. UConn does not have a creative offense, much less dynamic playmakers in that offense. I am not saying I think the Cards will blow the Huskies out because I don’t think Louisville will score enough to blow anyone out. However, I could definitely see this being a 17-3 type of game.
I expect the Cards to win this one as well. I’m going to go with another 8 here.
Now this is a team that I cannot figure out. The Bulls looked like the clear cut Big East favorite early in the season after they started 4-0, including a win over Notre Dame in South Bend. However, since conference action began, they have lost three strait games and sit 0-3 in league play. The Bulls got crushed by Pitt 44-17, lost at UConn 16-10, and just dropped a 37-34 contest against Cincinnati in a great game.
The big issue with this game is location. The Cards must travel to South Florida and as we all know, Louisville has never won down there. Perhaps that could change with UofL having so many players and coaches from that area. Maybe it becomes a more comfortable environment for those kids and they can become the first Louisville squad to win there?
Who knows, but it really makes no sense as to why Louisville can’t win there. South Florida has the talent and for some reason, Louisville’s number in Tampa. However, the Bulls also look completely discombobulated and will need to get their house in order before they can beat anybody. This is a coin-flip to me, I’ll rate it a 5.