We’re just about 24 hours away from the most anticipated game of the 2013 football season. Here are the keys to the grudge match that is the battle for the Keg of Nails.
1) Get The Ball Out Quickly
Cincinnati’s major advantage, and a main reason why the Bearcats have experienced a surge offensively in the last month and a half, is Brendon Kay’s ability to get the ball out of his hands quickly. UC has all kinds of talent at the receiver position he can pick from and the quarterback does a nice job finding the open man then getting him the ball without hesitation. Considering Louisville’s talent along the defensive line in Marcus Smith and Lorenzo Mauldin, short 3- and 5-step drops will help neutralize their pass rush and take pressure off of Cincinnati’s offensive line. And it might lead to a few UC touchdowns, which are always nice.
2) Collapse The Pocket On Bridgewater
Despite ranking highly in many statistical categories offensively, the one area where you really say Louisville has struggled at times (relatively speaking) is in protecting quarterback Teddy Bridgewater. The Cardinals are just in the middle of the pack nationally in sacks allowed per game, surrendering two each outing (T-66th). Bridgewater is one of the most poised, accurate passers in the country and if UC’s defense has any hope of slowing him down they must put him on his back.
3) Don’t Be Afraid To Punt
This morning I predicted Cincinnati and Louisville would combine for 57 points tomorrow night. But with both teams boasting top-10 defenses, that might not be the case. As such, the Bearcats shouldn’t be cautious about sending punter John Lloyd out there, giving the ball back to Louisville, and giving the UC defense a chance to stop them. I know Tommy Tuberville is the “ol’ gunslinger” but I’d err on the side of caution against the Cardinals.
4) Get Creative With The Runningbacks
Louisville doesn’t give up much on the ground, not with linebacker Preston Brown prowling around the line of scrimmage. I’m not sure how effective UC’s inconsistent running game will perform on standard runs between the tackles. Even misdirections seem to get bottled up pretty quickly by the Cardinal front seven. But what I’d hope Eddie Gran would do is feed the runningbacks on draws and screens, especially after a few first downs. I don’t have a whole lot of confidence is the Bearcats going punch for punch with Louisville’s rushing defense over the course of an entire game but what might swing things in UC’s favor is a little creativity.
5) Break Some Eardrums
This is the first time since 2009 that Louisville has visited Nippert Stadium. The last “home” game for Cincinnati was of course played in the cavernous Paul Brown Stadium downtown. Now you very well know that Nippert and PBS are about as different as a stink bug and a humpback whale. That’s excellent news for UC tomorrow night but not so much for the Cardinals. You see, Charlie Strong, Teddy Bridgewater, and probably at least 90% of the Louisville team have never experienced a game at Nippert Stadium, under the lights, in front of a frenzied crowd packed shoulder-to-shoulder and just a few feet away from the field. When the Cardinals have the football, fans in the stands need to be as loud as they can possibly be and give Louisville an “experience” they’ll never forget. Got me?
AAC Games – 2013 Record: 44-8 (84.6%) – Come on, SMU…
SMU v. Central Florida: Cincinnati’s hopes for a share of the AAC title and a BCS Bowl game come down to them beating Louisville and (sigh) SMU taking down Central Florida. That won’t happen but I’m picking the Mustangs anyways. To win by a boatload. Because it makes me feel good. SMU 56, Central Florida 12
UConn v. Memphis: The Tigers nearly upset Louisville two weeks ago but collapsed against Temple. I’m not sure what to make of this team. Maybe they beat the Huskies? Memphis 28, UConn 14??
Rutgers v. South Florida: The Scarlet Knights need a win this Saturday to go bowling. Thankfully they get one of the most offensively inept football teams in Florida (tossup with the Gators), the South Florida Bulls. Jersey boys win on Saturday night. Rutgers 35, South Florida 13