Ben Levin got you jump started on the Lousiville Cardinals yesterday and quite frankly I really can’t expand on what he wrote. We know these guys. Cincinnati and Louisville have been clashing on an annual basis for decades, from the days in the Metro Conference to this year in the AAC. Unfortunately for both programs, this will be the last season these two will meet as members of the same conference.
As you probably already know, Louisville is ACC-bound starting next season. So, unless UC receives an ACC invite sometime soon or the Bearcats and Cardinals ink a home-and-home series, Thursday night will be the last time we witness these fierce rivals duke it out on the football field. Conference realignment is a cruel bitch sometimes.
Oh well. Let’s just enjoy it while it lasts, I suppose. Here’s a breakdown of this year’s iteration of the Cardinals football team.
Louisville’s offense is all about quarterback Teddy Bridgewater (#5). His passing efficiency is off the charts, as it always seems to be. Bridgewater has completed 71% of his passes for 25 touchdowns to just three interceptions. No wonder he was a Heisman candidate earlier in the season. But it’s unwise to focus on Bridgewater alone, as the Cardinals boast weapons in a number of key areas on the offensive side of the football.
The quarterback has a slew of talented wide outs at this disposal in Damian Copeland (#7), who leads the team in catches and reception yards, DeVante Parker (#9), who leads the team in reception touchdowns, and Eli Rogers (#82). But that’s not all. Louisville’s rushing attack has been pretty solid this year, ranking 4th in the AAC in yards per game, and providing the Cardinals with excellent balance on offense. It’s led by the two-headed attack of former UC verbal commitment Dominque Brown (#10) and Seniorise Perry (#32). Like with the Bearcats, the whole is greater than the sum of the parts when it comes to the Louisville running game, as this pair has combined for over 1,250 yards on the ground and 13 touchdowns this season.
The Cincinnati Bearcats are 2nd in the AAC in the major defensive categories; passing defense, rushing defense, and scoring defense. The only team that bests them in those three areas are the Cardinals. Louisville again boasts a strong* defense under head coach and former Florida DC Charlie Strong. They are giving up just 243 yards per game to opposing offenses, have held eight of 11 opponents to under ten points this year, and five to a touchdown or less. Their only misstep was the 38 points they allowed to Central Florida in a loss in mid-October. Regardless, this is basically the definition of a stout defense.
Individually, UC needs to keep an eye on another former UC verbal Preston Brown (#2). The 6’2″ 260 lbs senior linebacker is excellent in shutting down the run. He’s accounted for a team leading 83 tackles this season, including 4.5 tackles for loss, and 3.5 sacks. Louisville won’t blitz a ton but when they do, Brown will have to be accounted for. The reason the Cardinals don’t blitz a lot is because of the talent along the defensive line, namely Marcus Smith (#91) and Lorenzo Mauldin (#94). These two edge rushers are straight up maulers, combining for 22 sacks and an unbelievable 28.5 tackles for loss this year. I hope Cincinnati’s offensive line eats their vitamins Thursday morning.
FINAL THOUGHTS AND PREDICTION
No question this is Cincinnati’s toughest game to date. The numbers certain players have put up and the Cardinals as a whole pretty much proves that out. But you know what? Louisville doesn’t scare me. The Bearcats have played like the best team in the AAC over the last several weeks whereas the Cardinals have struggled to an extent against their most recent opponents Houston and Memphis. These are two very, very similar teams with great players all over the field. But with the way Cincinnati played in the month of October and with the kind of momentum they are carrying with them on this six game winning streak, I just can’t see the Bearcats losing on Thursday night. Not during a blackout, not during a night game in front of a frenzied crowd, and especially not during the last night game at Nippert Stadium for the next year and a half.
Cincinnati – 31
Louisville – 28