Cards see opportunity against No. 14 USF

If Louisville still harbors Big East title hopes they'll have to go through No. 14 South Florida. With the Bulls coming to town this Saturday for a key conference matchup, Steve Kragthorpe's Cardinals see opportunity.

If Louisville still harbors Big East title hopes they'll have to go through No. 14 South Florida. With the Bulls coming to town this Saturday for a key conference matchup, Steve Kragthorpe's Cardinals see opportunity.

Though the Cardinals enter this weekend's contest against USF behind the eight-ball with an 0-1 Big East record, Louisville could quickly get back into the league title mix with a big win over Jim Leavitt's nationally-ranked Bulls.

"It's a great opportunity for us," Kragthorpe said. "Luckily we have them here at home. I think everybody has their eye on the prize right now of being Big East champion and now we've got to make a run for it."

It won't be an easy task. USF, 6-1 on the season, might be the most talented and athletic team in the Big East. The Bulls smashed the Cardinals last season in Tampa 55-17 and own a 3-2 record against UofL since 2003.

"They're a very good football team," Kragthorpe said. "All you have to do is turn on the tape to see their athleticism on defense. I think their offense is explosive and Matt (Grothe) is tough to defend because he does so many things so well."

On paper, USF looks like the best team Louisville has faced this season. The Bulls average 35 points and 436 yards total offense per game. On defense, USF has allowed just 17 points and 260 yards per game this season, including an impressive 77.3 yards on the ground.

"This is certainly the best defense we've seen," Kragthorpe said. "One of the things you have to look at is their speed and athleticism. They're getting healthy again and George (Selvy) is back. Even when George was out they were (still) very dominant on the front. They're playing extremely well on defense right now."

With Hunter Cantwell struggling with a sprained ankle and poor decision-making – he has thrown 8 interceptions in six games this season – Louisville has relied on its running game to keep the offense moving in recent weeks. The Cardinals rank 18th nationally in rushing offense with 211 yards per game. Victor Anderson, who is the nation's 15th leading rusher, leads the way at 110.5 yards per game.

Brock Bolen and the Louisville offense face
a tough South Florida defense this

"We're running the football a little bit better," said Kragthorpe, whose team was virtually shut-out on the ground in a 27-2 loss to Kentucky to open the season. "When you can run and throw the ball you can be more multiple."

Kentucky's defense certainly stopped Louisville rushing attack cold, limiting the Cardinals to just 53 yards. South Florida presents another big challenge for UofL's ground game. The Bulls limited Syracuse to just 230 yards total offense in a 45-13 win last weekend.

"I think it's a tremendous challenge going into the game because they're playing very well on the defensive side of the ball," Kragthorpe said. "They're good up front and you always want to be strong up the middle. They're very strong with their linebackers and they do an excellent job pursuing and containing the football.

"They've got speed, they've got athleticism and they've also got defensive linemen that push the pocket. It's certainly a big challenge for our offense this week because we're going to play a very good defense – one that is very athletic and runs to the ball well and doesn't give up big plays."

Will Louisville make any major changes this week in practice while preparing for the Bulls stringy defense?

"You don't make wholesale changes but we'll adjust some things to combat some of the things they do defensively," Kragthorpe said. "We're going to have to continue to improve and we'll have to play very well on offense against them."

Running back Victor Anderson and linebacker Chris Campa were named to the Big East Honor Roll this week for their performances against Middle Tennessee. Anderson rushed for 161 yards and one touchdown, while Campa made seven tackles and two tackles for loss.

Louisville is 2-0 at home against USF.

Running back Bilal Powell, wide receiver Troy Pascley and starting safety Latarrius Thomas missed the Middle Tennessee game due to injury. Their status for the USF contest is uncertain.

Louisville's rally from a 14-0 deficit against MTSU was the largest deficit the Cardinals have overcome since falling behind Rutgers 21-3 last season before coming back to win 41-38.

The Cardinals defense ranks 10th nationally against the run, giving up just 86 yards per contest. Louisville has allowed just three rushing touchdowns in six games this season.

Jon Dempsey leads Louisville with 34 tackles this season. Daniel Covington is second on the team with 32 tackles.

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