Louisville and Boise State will meet for the second time when the two schools meet in the 2004 Liberty Bowl on December 31. The Cardinals and Broncos met in the 1999 Humanitarian Bowl in Boise, Idaho, with the Broncos winning, 34-31.
Junior running back Eric Shelton is close to becoming just the 15th back in school history to rush for 1,000 yards in a season. Shelton needs just 138 yards in the last game to become the first running back to rush for 1,000 yards since Frank Moreau rushed for 1,289 yards in 1999. The Cardinals have had just five 1,000-yard rushers since 1980.
The Cardinals are averaging 235.08 yards per game and have rushed for more than 200 or more yards in 21 of 24 games. Between 1998-2002, the Cardinals yielded just 143.0 yards per contest. Prior to 2003, the Cardinals averaged more than 200 yards a game on the ground on three other occassions. Louisville averaged a school record 265.7 in 1977 and 233.8 yards in 1978. The only other time the Cards averaged better than 200 yards a contest was in 1969 when Louisville averaged 231.0 yards a game.
The Cardinals lead the nation in total offense in 2003 at 536.7 yards per game and amassed over 500 yards in eight games.
The Louisville offense continues to be very effecient on third down. In 11 games this season, the Cardinal offense has converted 51.4 percent on third down, which is first in Conference USA. The Cardinals converted 74-of-144 attempts on third down this season.
Louisville enters the 2004 Liberty Bowl averaging 50.3 points per game to lead the country in scoring offense. Over the last five games, the Cardinal offense is averaging 60.2 points per game.
After giving up 361 points in 13 games a year ago, the Cardinal defense has rebounded to allow just 196 or 17.8 points per contest. After giving up 20 or more points in 10 games last year, Louisville has allowed just 20 or more points in five games.
Eric Shelton (ITV)
The Broncos are 15-0 in games televised on ESPN or ESPN2, which includes victories over Louisville, BYU, TCU, Oregon State and Iowa State.
Known for their potent offense, Boise State also boasts of having the nation's 4th ranked rush defense, limiting opponents to just 83.5 yards per contest.
Making their fifth bowl appearance, Boise State currently holds an all-time mark of 4-0 in post season games.
The Bronco's set a new school record for rushing touchdowns this season with 46.
Boise State has the second youngest team in the nation with 72.7% of their roster as underclassmen.
Everyone is billing this matchup of top ten teams as an offensive shootout and it'll be just that. Both Louisville and Boise State run balanced offenses and are effective with each. However, the strengths of each will surface quickly as the Cardinals will attack the Broncos frequently on the ground, while Boise State will turn to the air and force the U of L secondary to stop their passing game.
Despite BSU only giving up an average on just 83.5 rushing yards an outing, they have yet to face a ground attack with the power of Louisville's. The Cardinals will be able to control the time of possession by utilizing it's stable of backs in Eric Shelton, Lionel Gates, Michael Bush and Kolby Smith. To make things worse for the Bronco's, their secondary has given up a number of yards through the air this season, so keep an eye out for the deep ball from Stefan LeFors and company.
Boise State will find success against the U of L secondary, but it's ground game will be limited, allowing pass help from the Cardinals linebackers. Boise State can't afford to turn the ball over, but I anticipate at least one interception, which will help Louisville gain control of the game.
Boise State tires late in the game. Louisville 44 Boise State 33.