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College Football Preview: Louisville vs. Oregon State

University Of Louisville Cardinals at Oregon State University Beavers
Saturday September 18th, 2010
Reser Stadium Corvallis, Oregon
Time: 5:35 PM EST
T.V.: Fox Sports Northwest (Local Insight Channel 7 WBKI)
Radio: 840 AM WHAS

After earning its first win of the Charlie Strong era, the University of Louisville football team makes the long trip out west to face Oregon State in Corvallis, Oregon.  Despite their win over Eastern Kentucky last Saturday, the Cardinals still showed signs of struggles.  This weekend they go on the road into a hostile environment, against an extremely talented, nationally ranked Beaver team.  Louisville will have to show tremendous signs of improvement from the first two weeks if they are going to have a chance in this one.

About the Beavers

Oregon State comes enters this game off a bye week.  They lost their season opener to #4 TCU 30-21 on September 4th in Dallas, Texas.  Oregon State hung tough with TCU for most of the game until a 4th quarter safety eventually sealed their fate.  The usually high powered Oregon State offense struggled against a dominating TCU defense.  The Beavers offense produced only 255 yards in the game which is good for 117th in the nation.  They passing offense totaled just 182 yards which is good for 88th nationally and the ground attack rushed for only 73 yards which is 109th nationally. 

 The Oregon State defense was exposed by a pretty good TCU offense.  The Beavers allowed 453 yards to the Horned Frogs including 175 through the air and 278 on the ground. They also allowed TCU to control the ball for nearly 40 minutes of the game and were terrible on third downs.  TCU converted 11-17 third downs against Oregon State’s defense.   

Louisville Offense vs Oregon State Defense

The strength of this Louisville team should be the offense.  They have weapons at running back, wide receiver, and a quarterback that has showed he can play.  Last week, this unit looked downright terrible, except for the second quarter.  The Louisville offense scored all 23 points in the second quarter, but where held scoreless in three other full quarters by a division 1-AA team.  This flat out cannot happen this weekend or the Cards will be blown out of the stadium. 

It’s tough to tell what a team is like after only one game, but from what happened in Oregon State’s opening game, their defensive weakness is stopping the run.  Louisville must try to establish a solid running game early and hit Oregon State straight in the mouth.  This means giving the Beavers a steady dose of  Bilal Powell and Victor Anderson and hopefully establishing long drives and controlling the clock.  Bilal Powell has shown a resurgence this season compared to last and runs with a purpose.  He runs hard every play, shows breakaway speed, and hits the holes hard.  He will most likely get the bulk of the carries and he needs to be the one to set the tone for the Cardinal offense.  Louisville should then follow Powell with Anderson and let him show his shifty moves and use his speed to outrun the Beaver defenders.  It’s a good combination of power and speed with these two backs that could be successful against the defensive weakness of the Beavers. 

If the running game is successful, it should open up the passing game.  Quarterback Adam Froman has been average in his first two starts, but average won’t be good enough this week.  He has a reliable receiver in Douglas Beaumont, but outside of that, there isn’t much.  Josh Bellamy has struggled with drops and Andrell Smith hasn’t shown much in his first two games either.  Besides Beaumont, it seems as if Froman and his other receivers have not been on the same page.  Hopefully they ironed these problems out this week at practice because the Beavers will be mainly focused on Beaumont.  Bellamy, Smith, and tight end Josh Chichester are going to need to step up this week for the passing game to be successful. 

Louisville Defense vs. Oregon State Offense

This is going to be the biggest key of the game.  Can the Louisville offense slow down the Beaver attack?  Oregon State has a Heisman caliber running back in Jacquizz Rodgers and a star receiver in Jacquizz’s brother, James Rodgers.  The Oregon State offense will be tailored around Jacquizz Rodgers.  The Junior running back averaged nearly 111 yards per game a year ago, including 5.3 yards per carry, and turned heads around the country.  In 2009 he also ran for a career high 21 touchdowns.  Not only is he a threat to run the ball, but he is also a threat as a receiver.  Rodgers caught 78 balls for 522 yards and a score in 2009.  In his two

full years as a Beaver, he has been a 1,000+ yard back in both years (1,253 in 2008 and 1,440 in 2009).  For his career, he has rushed 550 times for 2,768 yards and 33 touchdowns.  The Louisville defense will have an extremely difficult time containing Rodgers and it’s something I don’t see the Cards being able to do. 

James Rodgers is the big threat senior receiver for Oregon State.  He caught four passes for 75 yards and a touchdown in their opening game against TCU.  He is a speedy receiver with big play ability.  The Louisville secondary is the most inexperienced group on defense and will have trouble matching up against Rodgers.  Rodgers had an outstanding year in 2009 with 91 receptions for 1,034 yards and nine touchdowns.  For his career he has caught 165 balls for 1,924 yards and 15 TD’s.  If Louisville focuses all of their attention on stopping Jacquizz Rodgers, his brother James will be there to burn the Cards.  These two brothers are most likely the strongest 1-2 punch the Cards will face this season. 

At quarterback, the Beavers start sophomore Ryan Katz.  It is Katz’s first year as the starter under center and his inexperience is something the Cards should focus on.  He had limited playing time as a freshman in 2009, completing 14-27 for 232 yards and one touchdown.  In Oregon State’s opening game vs. TCU, he was just 9-25 for 159 yards and two touchdowns.  He has yet to throw a pick in his career.  The Louisville defense must apply pressure and get in the face of Katz.  They have to make him feel uncomfortable in the pocket, causing him to misfire on his throws.  The defense cannot allow him to set his feet and pick apart the secondary, especially with the weapons that are the Rodgers brothers.  The Cards must find a way to put Katz on the ground and force him to make mistakes. 

The main issue that the Cards will face with the Beaver offense is their speed.  Oregon State has tremendous speed on offense that can run right passed Louisville defenders.  The Cards must find a way to contain the Beaver’s speed around the edges and plug up the holes at the line of scrimmage.  Another big help to this Louisville defense could come in the form of their offense.  If the Cardinal offense can establish drives and controll the clock, the Oregon State offense will have limited opportunities.  The longer you can keep the Beaver offense off the field, the better it is for the Cards.

Pinkie Predictions

I think traveling into a hostile environment against a top 25 team is too much for Louisville.  Oregon State quite posssibly is the most talented team Louisville will face this season.  Their speed and weapons on offense will be too much for the Cards to handle.  The Louisville offense must right the ship, but from what we have seen so far this season, it doesn’t look to promising.  I predict the Beavers will handle the Cards fairly easily in this one, with a final score of 45-17.


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