Offense: Cincinnati must, absolutely must have at least some success running the football. Keeping opposing defenses on the field for long periods is critical to beating any team, but given UC's youth and struggle to score this becomes more paramount. Cincy WRs have difficulty separating and to get open need the benefit of play action to freeze Cardinal LBs and secondary. Play action is ineffective without some running success. UL defense is giving up 121 yards per game, so this is not a monumental task. Look for more play action on first down and second and short.
Brent Celek needs to re-emerge, because he is the only pass catcher who consistently catches the ball. Cincinnati's inconsistent running attack will likely leave it in many third down and five-plus situations. Celek and frosh Connor Barwin have been the most prolific at getting open and catching the ball.
Defense: Simple: keep UL out of the end zone. No one is going to stop the cardinal offense (492 yards per game) from moving the football. But given Louisville's propensity to give up points (28 per game) holding it to field goals is critical.
Hard: keeping UL out of the end zone. Cardinal WRs are tall and athletic. I am sure after looking at film of the Penn State and even the UCONN games offensive coordinator Paul Petrino will be convinced he can throw the ball deep. This is what scares me. Just as critical as is our ability to the run the ball is our ability to put pressure on QB Jeff Brohm. The only way we do that is with blitzes. This puts our secondary in a lot of single coverage. Brohm and his receiving corps have more ability to make plays than any team the Cats have played. One fortunate factor is Brohm does not run as well most QBs we face. Look for Cincinnati to mix and disguise blitz packages on a lot of downs.
Do not let Louisville run away in the second period. Teams have played UL evenly in every other quarter, but the cards have outscored opponents in the second quarter by a 107-24 margin.
...and oh by the way, neutralize Michael Bush. This guy could beat us by himself running and receiving.
Miscellaneous: Louisville has only fumbled twice this season losing both. It has caused seventeen recovering ten. The Cards have thrown four interceptions and intercepted four passes
Wild cards: Louisville is averaging seventy yards in penalties per game which means it has games with more.
Field position: I believe is the most underrated contribution to the outcome of a football game. We cannot under any circumstance have a punt blocked. If Louisville penalties near 100 yards, and Cincinnati enjoys a significant field position advantage, this could be a repeat of the 2003 barnburner (with a different outcome hopefully).