Opponent: South Florida Bulls
Record: 2-4 (0-2)
Head Coach: Skip Holtz
Game Location: Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium
TV / Radio: ABC (regional), 84 WHAS
Announcers: Mark Neeley & Ray Bentley, Paul Rogers & Joe Tronzo
Last year’s meeting: Louisville 34 USF 24
Spread: Louisville -7
For the first time since the series began between the two teams back in Conference USA, the Louisville Cardinals were able to go on the road and beat South Florida in Tampa last year, 34-24. The Bulls actually still lead the all-time series 5-4, and the two teams have split the last four meetings. That said, just like Pitt last week, each team is heading in drastically different directions. Louisville enters the game 6-0 (1-0) and appear poised to contend for the Big East tittle, while USF has had a disappointing start to the year and are still winless in league play, including a loss two weeks ago to Temple, 38-27. The Bulls are fresh off a bye week, though, and are desperate for their first conference victory. Conversely, Louisville is finally back at home after going 3-0 on a road trip that concluded with a win at Pitt last Saturday, 45-35. Head coach Charlie Strong and his offensive coordinator Shawn Watson finally got some good weather conditions last week and showed just how dynamic the offense has become. On the other side, the defense had its lapses, but still made some strides, particularly up front where the team recorded a season-high five sacks. The game is officially sold out and kickoff is set for 3:30 eastern standard time.
Louisville offense vs South Florida defense
Things could get really ugly for the Bulls on the defensive side of things tomorrow. Amazingly, the team has yet to record a single interception this season and now they get to face a diverse offense that can beat you just as easily through the air or on the ground. The Bulls have really only faced one other quality QB so far this season (EJ Manuel of Florida State) and they got smacked, 30-17. On the season they’re giving up 27.5 ppg (72nd in the nation) and Louisville has the most diverse offense of any team they’ve faced up to this point. Bridgewater was 17-26 for 304 yards and a touchdown last week and he still ranks as one of the most efficient passers in the country. But perhaps more troubling for the Bulls than Bridgewater and the passing game, will be Louisville’s vaunted rushing attack. USF ranks 77th in the nation in rushing defense and are giving up nearly 174 yards per game on average. Considering that no team has even remotely slowed down the tandem of Jeremy Wright and Senorise Perry (fresh off a 100 yard rushing game and four touchdown performance against Pitt), look for a healthy dose of the ground attack from Strong and Watson. Of course from there the Cards can do what they did last week, and that’s open up the play-action opportunities by setting the table with their run game. Bridgewtaer was masterful last week, hitting 9 different receivers including DeVante Parker for 153 yards and a touchdown, using play-action. Watson also flashed more formations last week than any opponent had seen up to that point. Spread formations using 5 wide receivers, single back motion, I-formations, split tight ends, shotgun – they brought it all, so there’s likely more of that to come tomorrow. The Bulls biggest defensive weapon is linebacker DeDe Lattimore who leads the team in basically every major category, including tackles (30), sacks (3) and tackles for loss (5.5). Their will (weak side) linebacker, Sam Barrington, has also had a solid season thus far, tallying 27 tackles and racking up 3 tackles for loss. It will likely be up to those two playmakers to try and finally end the team’s 4-game skid. But don’t look for Louisville to shoot themselves in the foot. The Cards didn’t turn the ball over last week (for the second time this season) and sit +2 on the year in turnover margin. On the other hand, South Florida has gained only four turnovers on the season and has lost an astounding 15 to give them a -11 ratio, good for one of the worst in the nation.
Louisville defense vs South Florida offense
The Bulls are averaging around 25 ppg and also have a fairly balanced attack, offensively. Of course they’re led by veteran QB, BJ Daniels, who is one of the best in the country at using his speed to beat opponents through the air and on the ground. In fact, Daniels has already carried the ball 70 times for 277 yards and 4 touchdowns. But, as mentioned, the Bulls have a solid mix of offense, and they throw the ball around, too. In fact, they rank 45th in the nation, averaging 253.8 yards per game. On the outside they have two solid playmakers with sophomore Andre Davis who has 26 receptions for 333 yards and 3 touchdowns on the year and speedy junior Terrence Mitchell who’s caught 23 passes good for 339 yards and 1 touchdown. It’ll be a different look this week for the Louisville secondary as both Davis and Mitchell are just 5-10 and 6-1, respectively. Last week the smaller Cardinal corners had trouble with the lanky 6-4 duo of Mike Shanahan and Devin Street. The Bulls also get some help on the ground from senior running back Demetris Murray, who leads the team in rushing with 327 yards and 4 touchdowns. The Louisville defense has been plagued by a constant lack of pressure up front all year long until last week when the team finally broke through and got 5 sacks. On the flip side, however, the secondary was exposed and they had trouble helping in both the run game and passing attack. Youth is certainly still the biggest question mark for this defense as most of their issues seem to stem from missed tackles or missed gaps. They still managed huge performances from linebacker Keith Brown (12 tackles) and defensive end Lorenzo Mauldin (2 sacks) so they’ll look to build off these promising youngsters’ play.
- One of the more interesting story lines to follow for the Bulls is their apparent falling out with head coach Skip Holtz. The fan base is beginning to turn on him and there’s been rumblings that the locker room is also in disarray. If the team comes out flat again and gets blown out, I think it’s safe to kiss the rest of the season goodbye.
- That said, the game still worries me a bit. The Bulls are loaded with veterans (25 seniors) and have lots of talent across the board. If they can manage to put things together, they can certainly make a late season push in the conference. Remember, Louisville was in a similar position last year and ended up winning a share of the Big East championship.
- Teddy Bridgewater is currently 13th in the nation in passing efficiency with a rating of 160.42. Take out those two games at Southern Miss and FIU when conditions were horrible, and he’d easily be in the top ten. He’s also 31-44 on third down passes this year for 411 yards and 3 touchdowns. Moral of the story? He’s really good.
- Speaking of Bridgewater, he has 19 throws this season that have gone for more than 20 yards. Expect more tomorrow against a soft pass defense.
- Louisville is averaging 167 rushing yards through their first 6 games. Last year at this point they averaged just 121.5 yards per game – that’s nearly a 45.5 yard per game gain. Not too shabby.
- Remember just a few short years ago when this team was a disaster in the red zone? They didn’t have a kicker, they couldn’t convert touchdowns and things were pretty frustrating. Well, not anymore. In fact, the Louisville offense is a red zone juggernaut this year as they’ve converted 26 of 27 attempts – good for 96%, which is 4th in the nation. When they get opportunities, they capitalize.
- Louisville is one of only three teams in the nation that features two running backs each with at least 450 yards on the ground. Perry leads the team with 559 yards and Wright has totaled 450.
- Calvin Pryor has been a beast this year, leading the team in tackles (46) and the entire nation in forced fumbles, with 4 on the season.
- We mentioned that the Bulls are still looking for their first interception on the year, but the Cards aren’t too far ahead, tallying just 2 themselves.