The Cards have struggled out of the gate this season, dropping 3 of their last 4 games, including a 44-35 setback last week at home against Utah. Despite the disappointing early season result, Louisville still has a chance to repeat as Big East champions – at least on paper.
"I think we're a team that can compete when we play well," U of L coach Steve Kragthorpe said. "I really believe our team has the ability to compete for the championship. We just need to continue to fight, scratch and claw and find a way to get back on top. There's nobody giving up in this camp. Everybody is going to continue to fight and battle. We haven't had the results that we want but we're going to keep fighting."
But if Louisville, currently 0-1 in the Big East, is to challenge for the conference crown again this year they must do something no other team has been able to do this season – beat Cincinnati (6-0, 1-0).
The Bearcats, ranked 15th in the AP poll this week, are off to their best start in decades. The game is a sell-out and Bearcat fans should be in a frenzy to beat the Cardinals, something Cincinnati hasn't done in five years.
Cincinnati is coming off an impressive 28-23 comeback win over Rutgers last week.
"Cincinnati is a team that is playing extremely well right now," Kragthorpe said. "I've been very impressed with the way they've played all season. I thought they did an excellent job of keeping Rutgers out of the end zone. They gave up some passing yards but they did a nice job of creating turnovers. Rutgers had four turnovers in the game. We've got a big challenge this week and we look forward to going up there."
Cincinnati's defense leads the country in forcing turnovers. The Bearcats have intercepted 16 passes this season, including three last week against Rutgers.
"They do a good job of stripping the ball," Kragthorpe said. "They do a good job in their zone pass coverages and reacting and reading routes."
How does Kragthorpe plan to attack a Bearcat defense that thrives on turnovers and has not given up more than 23 points to any opponent this season?
tonight's game against the Bearcats.
Defensively, Louisville continues to struggle. Last week against Utah, the Cardinals often appeared confused and struggled to get lined up properly as the Utes shifted personnel and formations. Now, Cincinnati poses a unique problem for the Louisville defense – a no-huddle offense that is tilting the scoreboard - 43 points per game – this season.
"They do a good job of hurrying up to the line of scrimmage and putting you in a position where you have to get your call in quickly," Kragthorpe said. "We've got to do a better job of communicating and getting lined up."
Besides the no-huddle, Cincinnati presents other problems for the Cards. Louisville struggled mightily against the run last week in the loss to Utah. The Utes entered that game averaging less than 100 yards per game. And while the Bearcats might not be West Virginia, they do run for 185 yards per contest.
If Louisville tries to stack the box to stop the run, Cincinnati quarterback Ben Mauk, a transfer from Wake Forest, might have a field day. Mauk has completed 65 percent of his passes for 1,034 yards and 12 touchdowns this season. "Ben is really playing efficient football for them right now," Kragthorpe said. "Ben put the ball in some tight spots the other night against Rutgers."
The following players are listed on the injury report for the University of Louisville versus Cincinnati: WR Mario Urrutia- Questionable; DT Adrian Grady - Questionable; WR Troy Pascley - Questionable; DE Rodney Gnat- Questionable; TE Scott Kuhn - Probable; WR Harry Douglas- Probable; DE Maurice Mitchell - Probable; RB Sergio Spencer - Probable; RB Anthony Allen - Probable; RB Brock Bolen - Probable; CB Johnny Patrick - Probable; C Eric Wood - Probable