When: Saturday at 7:00 p.m.
Where: Papa John's Cardinal Stadium
Series: Tied 7-7. Last meeting, 2004 65-27 (Louisville)
About each team:
Now that the Cardinals are riding a two game winning streak after defeating Connecticut last week 31-10, they look to continue the streak as the Houston Cougars come to town.
The Houston Cougars are coming off of a tough loss as they fell to Central Florida last weekend 19-14. The Cougars are (4-1) in conference play, and have experienced success this season, winning five straight to start the season before losing two of their last four.
Louisville head coach Charlie Strong holds a 33-15 career record after the Cardinals‘ latest win. Strong has guided the Cardinals to a bowl in each of his first four seasons heading the program.
Houston is coached by Tony Levine who is entering his second season as the Cougars head coach. Levine, before becoming a head coach, spent his previous four seasons on the UH staff, and spent two years as an assistant head coach. Levine took over two weeks before the bowl contest and not only led them to victory, and their first end of the season national ranking since 1990. He was the first UH head coach to open his career with a win against a nationally ranked opponent since Harold Lahar in 1957. Levine spent two seasons at U of L during the Bobby Petrino era, one as Director of Operations and year two as linebackers coach.
Inside the numbers
72 - The percentage of passes that University of Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater is completing thus far this season.
38 - The number of points per game that the Cougars are averaging thus far this season.
470 - The number of yards per game that the Cougars are averaging thus far this season.
10.5 - The number of sacks that University of Louisville senior defensive end Marcus Smith has thus far this season, which leads the country.
21 - The number of consecutive games that junior quarterback Teddy Bridgewater has throwing at least one touchdown pass.
6 - The number of times this season that the Cards have held an opponent to less than a 100 yards rushing.
44.8 - The number of points per game that the Cardinals are averaging at home this season. 5 - The number of turnovers that the Cardinals forced against The University of Connecticut, which equaled a season high.
What to watch for
It will be interesting to watch how the Houston Cougars respond coming off a tough loss that was both physically and mentally draining. The Cougars almost completed a great comeback against UCF, but it was not to be had. The Cougars are known for turning their opponents over, as they forced UCF into three of them, but were only able to turn one of them into points. If the Cougars look to pull off the upset, they must capitalize on each opportunity they receive.
Will the offense for the Cardinals be able to finish drives, and put touchdowns on the board instead of field goals? It will be interesting to see if the Cards are still plagued by penalties, and dropped passes or will that be cleaned up since it has been a focal point in practice this week. The rushing attack did not experience much success against UConn, as they only rushed for a total of 81 yards. It will be key if the Cardinals want to continue their winning ways that the running game gets back on track.
The University of Houston is led by a freshman quarterback John O'Korn who has passed for 2,352 yards, and 23 touchdowns, while only throwing six interceptions. He has been the leader of a very potent offense as they are averaging 38.1 points per game, and 470.2 yards of total offense per game. The Cardinals highly-rated defense must slow down Houston's high-octane offense.
Keys to the game
The key for Louisville's offense will be getting off to a fast start offensively, and try to prevent the dropped passes and penalties from plaguing them. It will be key for them to finish off drives by scoring touchdowns, and not just field goals. If they can punch it across early that can only mean good things for the Cardinals, as they return home for the first time in 29 days.
Houston's main objective will be trying to continue their scoring ways against the defense that ranks second nationally. If the Cougars can have success on the offensive side of the ball then an upset could be brewing. Jim O'Korn must continue his passing ways, and Kenneth Ward and Ryan Jackson must be able to form some type of running threat, so that Cougar offense does not become one dimensional.
Louisville's secondary must continue to come up with big plays like they have in weeks past. Charles Gaines and Terrell Floyd are the first two that come to mind as they have both created big plays over the past couple weeks. The play of secondary will be key, as the Cougars are putting up nearly 40 points per game while Louisville's highly-touted defense is only giving up 10.6 points per game. Look for the entire defensive unit to be aggressive early and often.
Even though the Cardinals still need some things to happen in order for them to earn a bid to a BCS bowl, Coach Strong insists that they are not thinking about that, and they are just taking this one game at a time.
"I always talk about November and that is when championships are won," Strong said. "There is a lot of football that is still left to be played. I told them yesterday a year ago we were 9-0 and no one ever thought we would go into Syracuse and get slapped around. Then come back home against a Connecticut team and get beat. Then, we had to go and win the last weekend on the road; it can very easily happen. We just have to make sure we take care of our business."
Coach Strong knows that his Cardinals must take care of the ball Saturday night, as the Houston defense is known for causing turnovers. This is a defense that has caused multiple turnovers in 15 straight games.
"The thing that Houston does is force turnovers and they strip balls," Strong said. "I think they have 18 interceptions. You see people drive the ball on them and they get down in the red zone and they tighten down their coverage. They force them into throws and they end up coming away with some good interceptions. Then, around that tackle, there is always someone running up and trying to strip the ball. That is how they create the turnovers."
Kickoff between the Cardinals and Cougars is set for 7 p.m. ET and will be televised on ESPNU.
Michael McCammon - Louisville leads throughout. Cardinals win 37-20.
Ryan Marchand - The Cougars keep it close throughout the first half, but the Cardinals pull away in the second as they win it 41-17.