The Cards finished the non-conference portion of their schedule and currently sit at 3-2, which is where most of us figured they would be before their conference opener on Friday. The question now becomes, what can the Cards do in conference play? Personally, I think they can do a lot.
Louisville has shown improvement literally each week. This team has found a rhythm offensively, despite the absence of Doug Beaumont, and has tightened up their defense each week. Even though they shut out Memphis, I don’t believe this defense is capable of shutting anyone out in Big East play.
Big East teams, as poorly as they have played this year, are much more talented than Memphis and Louisville’s defense is still undermanned and undersized. Teams like Pitt and UConn have big, physical offensive lines that I think the Cards will struggle with a bit.
However, I do believe the Cards’ defense is more than capable of keeping their team in the game and giving themselves a chance to win. I submit the Oregon State game as evidence of that. Oregon State jumped out to a 35-14 lead in the 3rd quarter, but the UofL defense toughened up and didn’t allow the Beavers to score again.
If the Cardinal defense continues to make just enough plays to keep themselves in the game, which I think they will, then the Cards will have a chance to win every conference game. And make no mistake, at this point, every conference game is winnable. Another reason I think Louisville will be a factor in the Big East is their offensive line.
The big hogs up front are starting to gel. They are an experienced group and the leaders of the offense. Against Memphis, those guys were opening up holes that Carl H. or myself could have run through. Granted, Memphis is fairly pathetic, but the holes the Cardinal offensive line opened up were massive. The word ‘domination’ would definitely be an accurate description.
I believe the play of the offensive line will determine the Cards’ success in conference play. If they continue to open up space for Bilal Powell and Victor Anderson, then I think the Cards will be tough to stop.
And speaking of Bilal Powell, did Charlie Strong call this one or what? After five games, Bilal has 689 rushing yards and 7 tadats. Before the season, Coach Strong tabbed Bilal as the guy who would be the face of the Cardinal program, and he’s delivered. I think it’s about time for Bilal to get talked about as a candidate for Big East Player of the Year.
On a similar note, quarterback Adam Froman has been very good this season. He is not going to make anyone forget about Chris Redman, Stefon LeFors, or Brian Brohm, but he has been very solid and done his job. Through five games, Froman has passed for 1,177 yards and 9 tadats, with only 4 picks. I think most UofL fans would have taken those numbers before the season started.
We’ll have more on Friday’s huge game against the ‘Nati as the week progresses, starting with notes from Charlie Strong’s presser today.