Previewing the Louisville Cardinals – Now it Gets Serious (Sort Of)

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The meat of the schedule is upon the Bearcats football team. Cincinnati and Louisville are the last teams to begin their Big East schedule so it’s fitting that they are playing each other this weekend. But that’s about where the similarities end. Normally this is the time of the year where coaches, players, and fans alike buckle down as each win can put the Bearcats closer to a BCS bowl and each loss can leave them hanging by themselves out in the December cold. No longer can we sit back and make fun of the mascots of Austin Peay, Akron, etc. because Cincinnati can roll them by playing the backup’s backups. That’s the beauty of simply having more talent than the other team. So even though we should start getting serious about the Big East teams Cincinnati is about to face, with the Cardinals we can make an exception.

To put it in the kindest words possible, they’re an utter train wreck right now. It was reported just before Louisville’s game with North Carolina last weekend that offensive coordinator Mike Sanford wasn’t on the flight to Chapel Hill. Head coach Charlie Strong dismissed speculation of a physical altercation or even any disagreements between the two but Sanford has yet to rejoin the Cardinals’ coaching staff. Having these kinds of distractions around a team whose season is rapidly spiralling downward and especially when the offense has yet to figure anything out is never a good thing. Given this is by far the weakest link on Louisville’s football team, it only makes sense to start there:

Offense

Josh Chichester

As far as scheme goes, it’s tough to say exactly what Louisville will go with coming into this Saturday considering Sanford is MIA. The chaos on offense doesn’t stop with him, though, as Louisville hasn’t exactly settled on a starting quarterback of late. Sunny Will Stein was the starter to begin the season but since being injured against Kentucky a couple of weeks ago, true freshman sensation Teddy Bridgewater has taken the reigns. Both have been playing similarly throughout the course of the season and have split reps in practice. Stein appears to be close to fully healed from his injury and could play on Saturday. Whoever is named the starter is going to have a long day because the Cardinals’ offensive line is absolute garbage. Louisville boasts a pretty good center in Mario Benavides and that’s about it. Their line is either injured, inexperienced, or just not very good. In 5 games this season, they have surrendered 18 sacks (3.6/game). If you read this blog (which I know you do), you know how bullish I am on Cincinnati’s defensive line. They’ve been abusing opposing O-Lines and should have a field day on Saturday. Derek Wolfe and Dan Giordano should be licking their chops in anticipation of this game. It also appears to be running back by committee at Louisville as Victor Anderson, Jeremy Wright, and former Winton Woods quarterback Dominique Brown have pretty much been sharing the reps. With the way the Cardinals’ offensive line has played and the way Cincinnati gives up next to nothing on the ground, this unit doesn’t scare me. To the receivers, mammoth tight end Josh Chichester from Lakota West High School is leading the team with 234 yards and provides a mismatch for opposing defenses. The rest of the receiving corp is relatively young starting a lot of freshman. Like most of the Cardinals team, they are talented but inexperienced which should play into the hands of Cincinnati’s veteran defense.

Defense

Greg Scruggs

If the Cardinals can hang their hat on anything, it would be the defense. Coach Strong was a defensive coordinator at Florida before taking over the head coaching gig at Louisville so it’s no surprise that this would be the strength of the team. But when you’re comparing it to the offense that doesn’t say much. The Cardinals have actually been outscoring their opponents 16.4 points per game to 16.2 but that can be attributed to the poor offense and pretty good defense. The front seven on the Cardinals are actually very stout against the run allowing only 2.32 yards per carry. Linebackers Dexter Hyman, Preston Brown (former UC decommit), and Daniel Brown (probably no relation) are menaces against the run and average about 6’1″ 239 lbs across the unit. Those are some big boys. The hogmollies along the defensive line are also pretty good led by senior Greg Scruggs. He’s finally getting some support down there as sophomore Marcus Smith notched 3 sacks last week alone. The secondary is where Louisville’s defense has the most questions. The entire unit is very young and has been burned more than a few times this season (See: Florida International). If the Bearcats can exploit this unit vertically like I they should, it could be a long day for the Cardinals.

Special Teams

The Cardinals have opted to split their punting duties between their senior kicker Chris Philpott and senior punter Josh Bleser. With the way Louisville’s offense doesn’t generate yardage, they get a lot of live game practice. Philpott however is the primary place kicker and has shanked 60% of his field goal attempts. That’s not a good average at any level of the game. The Cardinals return game is very average as none of the players in those roles have taken one to the house while at the same time getting pretty decent yardage per return- 21 per kickoff and 7 per punt. Louisville’s punt return coverage is phenomenal having allowed only a single yard. That is on only 3 total punts, though.

Result

Cincinnati 28, Louisville 13

Cincinnati should keep Louisville’s offense in check especially with the match up of UC’s D-Line vs. UL’s O-Line. Despite the Bearcats’ always explosive offense, the Cardinals have a very good front seven that could inhibit Isaiah Pead in getting his yardage and keeping that offense balanced. Cincinnati’s receivers are far better than Louisville’s secondary and should be good for 2 or 3 touchdowns. Overall, I think the Bearcats and their fans walk away from Paul Brown Stadium happy on Saturday.

Topics: Bearcats, Bearcats Football, Cincinnati, Coach Butch Jones, Dan Giordano, Derek Wolfe, Isaiah Pead, J.K. Schaffer, Keg Of Nails, Kenbrell Thompkins, Louisville, Louisville Cardinals, Nation, Preview, UC Athletics, UC News

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