Strong will learn more about Cards vs. UC

How good is Louisville (3-2)? Charlie Strong will learn a lot more about his Cardinals in their Big East opener against Cincinnati (2-3) Friday night at PJCS. The Bearcats, two-time defending Big East champions, have won 12 straight league games and will provide a stiff challenge for Strong's team.

Charlie Strong is going to find out how good his Louisville football team is Friday night against Cincinnati.

The Bearcats, the two-time defending Big East champions, have won 12 straight league games and appear to have found their groove under new coach Butch Jones, nearly upsetting No. 6 Oklahoma two weeks ago before routing Miami, OH last weekend 45-3.

Strong's defense, which shutout Memphis last week, might get its biggest test of the season against an explosive Cincinnati offense that averages 29.4 points and 416 yards total offense.

What makes UC's offense difficult to defend?

"They have playmakers," Strong said. "It is a good offense. They spread the ball around with the spread offense."

Louisville's defense could cause problems for UC with a strong pass rush.
Cincinnati running back Isaiah Pead has run for 366 yards in the Bearcats past two games and leads the Big East at 9.8 yards per attempt. Pead gives Jones' offense a strong presence on the ground.

Zach Collaros, Cincinnati's starting quarterback, leads the Big East in passing yards per game and is the league's most efficient passer. Collaros, who also is a threat to run outside the pocket, has plenty of weapons to throw to outside.

"Collaros can beat you with his feet or beat you throwing the football," Strong said.

UC wide receiver D.J. Woods leads the Big East in receiving yards per game (97.8) and receptions per game. He had 141 yards against N.C. State and 171 yards vs. Oklahoma.

Armon Binns is another primary target for Collaros. Binns has 24 catches and has scored four touchdowns this year.

With all those weapons, it's not surprising that Cincinnati's offense can strike quickly. On 24 scoring drives this season, UC is averaging 1:44 per score. Sixteen of the Bearcats 24 scoring drives this season have been under two minutes.

Can Louisville slow down Cincinnati's offense?

Louisville's first task will be to stop Pead and the UC running attack, which has been a challenge for the Cardinals this season.

While the Louisville defense held EKU and Memphis under 100 yards rushing, Kentucky, Oregon State and Arkansas State all enjoyed solid success on the ground. Kentucky (230) and Arkansas State (200) both rushed for over 200 yards against Louisville, while Oregon State ran for 177 yards.

With Pead leading the way, Cincinnati averages 178 yards rushing this year. But that number is a little deceptive. The Bearcats were held under 100 yards rushing in their first three games, including a season-low 15 yards against Fresno State. Though UC did rush for 156 yards against Oklahoma, Cincinnati padded their stats with a 384 yard explosion against Miami, OH last Saturday.

Louisville's defense could disrupt Cincinnati's offensive game plan with pressure.

"They're very active on defense," said Cincinnati coach Butch Jones. "They lead the conference in sacks and third down efficiency on defense. They do so many things to create one on one matchups. So it's going to be a great challenge for us."

The Bearcats offensive line has been vulnerable against opposing pass rushes this season, allowing a league-high 19 sacks. Making matters worse, Cincinnati will be without starting tackle Alex Hoffman, who will be replaced by redshirt freshman Andre Cureton.

The Cardinals rank third nationally with 3.6 sacks per game and defensive end Rodney Gnat leads the Big East with 6.5 sacks this season. Louisville's pressure has come from all over the field as 10 different players have registered sacks.

The key for Louisville? Slowing down Isaiah Pead and the Cincinnati running attack.

If Louisville can stop the run, forcing Collaros to throw to move the chains, the Cardinals could cause problems for Cincinnati's high-powered offensive attack Friday night at PJCS.

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