Five key things to watch as Louisville welcomes North Carolina State in an ACC football game on Saturday afternoon at 3:30 p.m. at Papa John's Cardinal Stadium.
1. PASSING CONSISTENCY: It's eluded the Cardinals offense through seven games, yet should it surface could transform the team into one that can compete on the highest level. The play of sophomore quarterback Will Gardner has shown improvement since the fourth quarter at Virginia. While he missed two games recovering from injury between appearances, Gardner's play has been on the rise since he struggled as the starter at Virginia. He later returned in the fourth quarter against the Cavaliers and nearly led the team to a come-from-behind victory. He was solid at FIU before being hurt and nearly helped guide the Cardinals to victory at Clemson last weekend. Since returning in the fourth quarter at Virginia, Gardner has completed 60 percent of his 55 attempts for 519 yards and 4 touchdowns without an interception.
2. PARKER PLAYS: The Cardinals record-setting receiver could see his first action of the season against the Wolfpack on Saturday afternoon. Should he play, his impact will be felt. No matter the number of passes that may come his way, his presence on the field will draw the attention of defenders and improving the opportunities for his fellow receivers. Look for Parker to be more of a decoy than a target agains N.C. State, but a ball or two should come his way.
3. DOMINATION: The defense has been the lifeblood of this season's team and it will need to continue to carry the burden as the offense continues to develop. It has been 17 quarters since a team scored a touchdown on this group and now they are driven to limit their opponents trips across midfield. The Cardinals, who enter the game giving up just 230 yards per game, face an offense that is averaging 414 yards an outing.
4. PUT 'EM AWAY: With a difficult test against defending national champion Florida State up next, the Cardinals could use a boost of confidence on the offensive side of the ball. A touch of offensive consistency, coupled with a defensive score or two, should help U of L build an impressive and confidence building advantage.
5. BOWL ELIGIBLE: A bowl-clinching victory fell a few yards short last Saturday, but the Cardinals won't come up empty on it's second attempt. Louisville is 2-0 against N.C. State at home and the Cardinals have won 21 straight games at home under head coach Bobby Petrino, dating back to his first term with the Cardinals from 2003-06.