Louisville vs. Ohio
Who: No. 9 Louisville Cardinals 0-0 vs. Ohio Bobcats 0-0
When: Sunday at 3:30 p.m.
Where: Papa John's Cardinal Stadium
Spread: U of L by 20.5
ABOUT THE SERIES
Series record: (2-2) - Last meeting: 1959, 22-15 (Ohio)
ABOUT EACH TEAM
**--For Louisville, the Cardinals are coming off what is arguably the best season in the football program's history. After posting an 11-2 regular season record, and capturing a second consecutive Big East title, the team made a national statement by upsetting a heavily favored Florida team in the Sugar Bowl.
**--Ohio is coming off of a 9-4 (4-4 MAC) 2012 campaign in which they started the season 7-0, before dropping four of their final five regular season games with an injury-depleted roster. The team closed out their season with a 45-14 win over Louisiana-Monroe in the AdvoCare V100 Independence Bowl. The team's trademark win came in week one, when they upset Penn State 24-14 in Beaver Stadium.
**--Louisville returns 18 starters from last season, including 10 on defense, while the Bobcats bring back 16.
**--Ohio will seek their fourth consecutive season-opening win, while Louisville seeks their third.
**--Ohio head coach Frank Solich enters his ninth year with the school. He holds a 59-44 (40-24 MAC) career record at the helm for the Bobcats. He has led the team to four consecutive bowl appearances, and has had the team bowl-eligible six times in his first eight seasons. His 60th win will place him 12th on the all-time career wins list for MAC coaches. Before taking over at Ohio, Solich coached at Nebraska, where he had a 58-19 record in his six seasons with the Cornhuskers.
**--Charlie Strong enters his fourth season as Louisville's head coach having already put together an impressive resume. Strong has a 25-14 record with the Cardinals. He has led the team to three bowls in each of his first three seasons and has Louisville positioned at No. 9 in the Associated Press Poll-- the highest preseason ranking in school history.
INSIDE THE NUMBERS
59 - Years since the last football meeting between the two schools. The series consists of four games in 1956, '57, '58, and '59.
4 - Times, including this week's game, that Ohio has faced a ranked opponent since 2005 (the beginning of Frank Solich's tenure).
2,335 - Yards rushed for by running back Michael Dyer in his two years at Auburn. Dyer makes his debut for the Cardinals on Sunday
4 - Interceptions thrown by Ohio quarterback Tyler Tettleton in 2012. He threw 18 touchdowns. Ohio as a team turned the ball over just 10 times all of last season.
1/4 - Last year, statistically, one in every four catches by Louisville wide receiver DeVante Parker ended in a touchdown (40 receptions, 10 touchdowns).
10 - Where Ohio running back Beau Blankenship's 1,604 rushing yards ranked nationally in 2012.
148 - Rushing yards per game surrendered to Louisville opponents in 2012, with a 4.3 yards-per-carry average. The team ranked 48th nationally in rushing defense.
154.26 - Louisville's pass efficiency rating last season. Led by Teddy Bridgewater, this rating was good enough for 12th in the country.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
The most exciting plays of the game will likely come from Louisville's explosive offense. With Heisman-hopeful Teddy Bridgewater at quarterback, offensive coordinator Shawn Watson will undoubtedly put his weapons to use.
In the passing game, Bridgewater will have familiar targets in wide receivers DeVante Parker, Damian Copeland, Eli Rogers and tight end Ryan Hubble. Additionally, the Cardinals will put several newcomers on the field to bolster the aerial attack. Tight end Gerald Christian and wide receiver Robert Clark are both newly-eligible transfers from Florida who have garnered praise from their teammates throughout the preseason. True freshman James Quick was an All-American at Trinity High School. His reputation as a home run-hitter both in the passing game and on special teams has Louisville fans excited.
It will also be worth watching to see how wide receiver Michaelee Harris is used. Harris is said to be good to go Sunday after missing all of last season with an ACL injury- one of several that he has suffered in his career. Harris and Bridgewater were teammates in high school, and have shown good chemistry in the games they have played together in.
This game will also be the first look at Louisville's depth at running back. The Cards are believed to have up to three backs capable of carrying a full load out the backfield in Senorise Perry, Dominique Brown, and new addition Michael Dyer. Running backs coach Kenny Carter told the media this summer that there will be "co-starters" at the running back position- meaning the trio will likely see an equal amount of action.
Ohio running back Beau Blankenship rushed for over 1,600 yards last season, while Louisville struggled at times to stop the run; yielding opponents 4.3 yards-per-carry. It will be interesting to see how the Louisville defense plans to contain Blankenship.
The Louisville offensive line will be another area to watch. The team has had to plug new players at several positions along the line, and Jake Smith has moved from guard to center with the graduation of Mario Benavides. Bridgewater's protection is a question mark entering the game.
KEYS TO THE GAME
The most important thing for Louisville against Ohio will be stopping Ohio's rushing attack. Stopping the run was arguably the Cards' most glaring deficiency on defense last season. In games against Temple and Syracuse last season, Louisville surrendered 255 and 278 yards respectively with averages of 6 and 5.3 yards-per-carry. If the Cardinals want to make doubters believe they are a national contender on Sunday, they can't allow the Bobcats 5 yards-a-pop; regardless of how good Beau Blankenship is.
Key for the Louisville offense will be getting the ball to their bevy of talented wide receivers. Offensive coordinator Shawn Watson said recently that a focus of his will be creating "touches" for the players "who can make a difference in the game." With DeVante Parker, Damian Copeland, Eli Rogers, and Robert Clark, the Cardinals have a mix of size, speed, athleticism and experience with which they may be able to overwhelm the Bobcats.
A chance for the Ohio defense to keep things interesting may be generated by getting pressure on quarterback Teddy Bridgewater. As has been well-documented, Sunday will be the first chance for the Louisville offensive line to find their footing. With Jake Smith shifting from guard to center, Jamon Brown flipping from right to left tackle, and new faces scattered throughout, the Louisville offensive line may be exploitable for the Bobcats.
The Louisville defensive backfield also has some adjusting to do in Sunday's season-opener. The Cardinals enter this season having lost their best cover corner, Adrian Bushell, to graduation and will be relying on two converts (Jermaine Reve, a former safety, and Charles Gaines, formerly a wide receiver) to support veterans Terrell Floyd and Andrew Johnson at corner. The Bobcats identity lies mostly in the running game (only 367 pass attempts for Tyler Tettleton in 2012), but could take a few shots at Reve and Gaines should they suspect a mismatch.
The Cardinals kick off the season on Sunday facing unprecedented excitement and expectations. Despite this, head coach Charlie Strong and the Louisville staff feel confident about the team's mindset heading into the opener.
"I would say this is probably the most focused we've been (coming out of camp), but it is also a much older team," Strong said.
"Teddy is a much more mature players at quarterback and he has a lot of players surrounding him on offense. So we have a team that really understands and they go about their business the right way and they know how to work."
Jody Demling: The build up has been unprecedented and the Cardinals put on a show in week one. Yes, they are really good. Louisville 42, Ohio 21
Michael McCammon: The Cardinals quickly prove that they are worthy of all the preseason hype. Ohio keeps it close for a half, but Louisville removes any doubt by the end of the third quarter. Louisville 41 Ohio 13
Corey Goodlett: Louisville will have to make a statement every week to impress the BCS committee. The team will make their first statement with a win against Ohio. The U of L offense will light the scoreboard quickly, allowing Strong to ease off the gas pedal early. Louisville 45, Ohio 14