The Cardinals (2-0) and Hurricanes (1-1, 0-1) will square off Saturday afternoon at 3:30 in front of a capacity crowd at Papa John's Cardinal Stadium and an ABC national television audience.
This game is a must win for both teams. For Louisville, the Cardinals need a win to show the nation they can beat one of college footballs ‘Big Boys.' For Miami, the ‘Canes need a win to prove to the nation that they still are a ‘Big Boy.'
The game pits Louisville's top-ranked offense against Miami's highly ranked defense. Whichever unit wins that battle will likely win the game.
Louisville, playing without star running back Michael Bush, leads the nation in scoring and total offense and ranks third in rushing offense. The Cardinals have rushed for more than 300 yards in each of their first two games and will need another strong effort on the ground to slow down Miami's pass rush.
"I'm definitely confident in our running game," said U of L quarterback Brian Brohm. "We've got a lot of speed back there and a lot of different types of running backs that can go in and play for us. I think that will give a little different look for their defense because they won't know who is in there."
The ‘Canes intend to pressure Brohm and try to confuse him with different coverages to try to slow down an offense that has been nearly impossible to stop at home the past three years.
"They always come after the quarterback," Brohm said. "They put their DB's in one-on-one matchups. (FSU quarterback Drew) Weatherford threw the ball up on some fade routes and his receivers made some plays for him. It's going to be a big challenge for our receivers – they're going to be one-on-one. We've got to get the ball out there to them."
"I've got to be able to recognize the defense and know where to go with the ball," Brohm added. "I've got to be able to see what defense they're going to be in, know where I'm going with the ball and do it quick. That's the key – to do it quick."
The one-on-one matchups between Louisville's wide outs and Miami's defensive backs could determine who comes out with an important victory this afternoon.
Louisville will need a strong effort on the
ground to knock off Miami.
"We've got great receivers," Brohm said. "It's going to be a challenge one-on-one. Whoever wins that matchup is going to be successful in this game. Hopefully with two games under our belt we can come out clicking on all cylinders."
If Brohm is to have enough time to take some shots and find his receivers down field, he'll need a solid effort and good protection from his offensive line.
"This will be our biggest test this year as an offensive line," center Eric Wood said. "They're very big and very fast up front. Miami has a reputation for being big, fast and intimidating. To be in a game like this is exciting as a player to step on the field against guys like this and feel that your team's evenly matched with them."
Wood said a strong performance against Kentucky's defensive front in the season-opener has provided U of L's re-tooled offense line with confidence they can open holes for running backs Kolby Smith and George Stripling.
"Kentucky had great linebackers and a good defensive front and we were able to run the ball against them real well," Wood said. "That gives us confidence as an offensive line and as a team. We haven't played a team like Miami yet, but we're executing and that's what you want to see at this point of the season."
While Louisville scored 59 points against Kentucky and 62 points last week against Temple, the Cardinals won't find things as easy against the ‘Canes defense.
"We can't get frustrated if we're not making plays," Brohm said. "We can't get down. If we get down this game will be over. If something goes wrong, we have to stay in there, be positive and know that we're going to score the next time we have the ball."
GAME NOTES Louisville will be without defensive tackle Adrian Grady, defensive end Jonathan Holston and cornerback Rod Council. The Cardinals will get back 6'4, 255 pound defensive end Brandon Cox. Cox didn't play in Louisville's first two games.
Miami will be without starting offensive tackle Reggie Youngblood. True freshman Jason Fox will replace Youngblood up front for the ‘Canes. Tyrone Moss, who tore his ACL against Virginia Tech last season, will see action as the Hurricanes short yardage running back.