Crystal Ball Prediction vs. Louisville

With the Victory Bell in-hand, the Bearcats turn their sights towards the Louisville Cardinals in the 81st battle for the Keg of Nails.

Again, the Cats will face a team with a new head coach; and this time it is Charlie Strong and the Louisville Cardinals. Strong left the "powerhouse" of Florida Gator football where he was the associate head coach and defensive coordinator.

Strong will need to bring his experience on the defensive side of the ball to the forefront for the Cardinals as they finished second-to-last in the Big East in 2009 in overall defense. They allowed 26.2 points per game, while giving up an average of 371.1 yards per game.

The defensive struggles were amplified in last year's matchup against Cincinnati, as the Bearcats throttled Louisville 41-10 at Nippert Stadium.

The Cards lost their two leading tacklers from a year ago in Jon Dempsey and Chris Campa, who combined for 197 tackles and 8.5 sacks, but are looking for seniors Brandon Heath and Antwon Canady to fill those voids. Heath had 48 tackles last season with zero sacks, but grabbed two interceptions, while Canady had 34 tackles.

The offensive side of the ball wasn't much better for the Cards last season. They finished last in scoring offensive, averaging 18.1 points per game, and finished sixth in total offense, averaging 334.1 yards per game.

Senior quarterback Adam Froman, who played in eight games in ‘09 and threw for 1,354 yards, six touchdowns and five interceptions, will begin the season at the top of the depth chart for Louisville.

Two of the Cards leading receivers, senior Doug Beaumont and tight end Cameron Graham, return to an offense that is bound to improve as these three spend more time on the field together.

Along with Beaumont, wide receivers Josh Chichester and Stephon Ball will help to fill the void left by U of L's leading receiver in '09, Scott Long.

The mystery for the Cards 2010 season could be running back Victor Anderson. He is coming off a season full of injuries and his role seems uncertain at this point. After putting up over 1000 yards rushing in '08, Anderson mustered just 473 last season. And with the emergence of sophomore Darius Ashley and senior Bilal Powell, who combined for 854 yards on the ground and eight touchdowns, reports are that Anderson could be moved to another position where his talent can shine.

Coach Strong will need his defensive to really pick it up from a year ago to try and contain Zach Collaros who went 15-17 for 253 yards, three touchdowns and zero interceptions while also rushing for 52 yards on 11 carries in last season's battle for the Keg.

While the transformation is taking place at Louisville, the talent level isn't quite there yet, and the Cats will hold on to the Keg of Nails for third-straight season.

Prediction: 41-28 UC. It may not be pretty on the defensive side of the ball, but the Cards won't be able to match the high-powered Bearcats offense.

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