A new game week feature, Cardinal Authority collects questions, selecting five, from our premium subscribers regarding the upcoming contest and attempts to answer them for a regular Tuesday feature.
Here's the five questions for Louisville v Auburn:
1. Does U of L have to many questions to overcome in order to beat Auburn?
The short answer is no. However, with the numerous questions lingering about a number of starting positions – most in particular at quarterback and offensive line – it's right to be concerned. While head coach Bobby Petrino won't tell us, the question about the starting quarterback has been answered, but the question as to how he'll perform still lingers.
In addition, there are new faces at many key positions on both sides of the ball, but Petrino and his staff have restocked well through recruiting and transfers. The Cardinals have the talent and enough depth that they should quickly erase many of the concerns once the game is underway.
What hasn't changed for the Cardinals is the coaching staff. Unlike Auburn, the U of L players had to deal with no staff turnover during the off season, which is something that can not be overlooked, especially in a season opener.
2. Due to recent injuries, will the coaching staff have to rely heavily on young players at wide receiver?
The Cardinals suffered a bit of an injury bug at the wide receiver spot during the early stages of fall camp, with Alphonso Carter, Ja'Quay Savage and Jamari Staples all spending time away from the field for rehab. Only Carter, who has worked out recently in a limited setting, remains sidelined. During his weekly press conference, head coach Bobby Petrino stated that the is “pretty healthy” heading into the opener. Of course, while Savage has been on campus for a year, he hasn't played in a game since transferring from Texas A&M after the 2013 season.
James Quick, the lone returning vet with experience, Staples and Savage are expected to be the go-to guys at receiver this season, but that still leaves plenty of pass attempts available for some of the freshmen.
Carter continues to struggle with a hamstring issue that has hampered him for quite some time.
3. If so, which of the new wide receivers are standing out?
The easier question might be, which aren't... if any. The new crop of Cardinal receivers are very impressive and they've displayed that since arriving on campus. While a junior, Jamari Staples is a newcomer to the roster after transferring from UAB and he's expected to become one of the primary targets this fall. However, in regards to pure rookies, four – Jaylen Smith, Emmonee Spence, Devante Peete and Traveon Samuel – are all listed on the initial depth chart and it's likely that all will play this fall.
4. Will there be many recruits either at the game or watching with keen interest? Specifically, does a win in the head to head match-up pay dividends for recruits?
Unlike home games, team's aren't able to provide tickets or host recruits at a neutral site game like the Chick-fil-A Kickoff. With that said, a number of prospects are likely to be in the stands just as the regular folks attending the game. At the game or not, the majority of recruits in the region will have an interest in the game and how both teams perform.
As we've already seen with in recent recruiting classes, Louisville and Auburn frequently compete for the same prospect. Neither team will win all of the recruiting battles, but the Cardinals have faired well when recruiting against the Tigers recently. Last season, G.G. Robinson, who's father played at Auburn, signed with U of L over the Tigers and more recently, four-star quarterback Jawon Pass pledged to the Cardinals after narrowing his options to U of L, Alabama and Auburn.
Louisville is a growing recruiting presence throughout the southeast, but the 'buzz' surrounding a program is one that must be maintained. Not only for the current recruiting class, but for those in the upcoming classes, as well. The Cardinals staff discusses the opportunity to win big games like this and compete for the ACC title when they visit recruits, so as assistant L.D. Scott recently said, “we have to go out there and win games to prove what we've been telling all these people.”
5. What do you think is going to be the toughest match-up for us against Auburn?
The most obvious answer, and rightfully so, is the Cardinals offensive line versus the defensive front of Auburn. Up to a dozen players continue into the start of game week competing for spots along the offensive front. Not having something solidified does send up a red flag, as does the idea of a true freshmen among those competing for spots. However, this is another area that the coaching staff focused in on moments after taking over the program reigns. Depth and talent is there, but who will it be and how well will they work together, especially with the possibility of a high substitution pattern.
How the Cardinals defensive front performs against the Auburn ground game is also a key factor, and possibly the toughest match-up that the Tigers face on Saturday. Should the Cardinals limit the Tigers ground attack, the rebuilt secondary could play a significant role in determining the final outcome.
As the saying goes, 'games are won in the trenches.'