National rankings aside, both teams boast a sophisticated passing attack and both feature a former Elite 11 quarterback who is averaging a 70% completion ratio, and both feature a relatively young and inexperienced secondary, so it won't be a surprise to see the scoreboard light up.
The biggest difference between the two teams in the running game. While Oregon State did improve on their running game in the contest against Boise last week,
questions about their ability to run the ball linger. Louisville has more
answers than questions: At 6-3 and 240 pounds, Michael Bush looks the part of an
NFL back and has the skills to thrill, and is one of the reasons why the Cards
are looked at as possible dark horse contenders for the national title in their
inaugural campaign in the Big East.
The Cardinals rushed for 209 yards against in-state rival Kentucky in their
opener, en route to piling up 388 yards of offense - which was only the third
time in the past 26 games that Louisville failed to eclipse the 400 yard mark.
Of those 388 yards of offense, an eye-popping 220 came on just 6 plays - yet UL
coach Bobby Petrino would like to see more big-play production from his offense.
"We threw for a very high percentage (against Kentucky), but we need to get more
big plays," Petrino said. "We've been working hard on running after the catch,
breaking tackles, and throwing it down the field a little bit more."
Quarterback Brian Brohm is a threat to score with his legs as well as his arm,
rushing for 2 scores against the Wildcats.
Oregon State will call on their linebackers to make big plays, after the trio
rolled up a combined 36 tackles last week against the Broncos. They will have
their work cut out for them with the Cardinal rushing attack. The secondary will
likely get a workout as well, as Louisville will look to again test out the
young corners at Oregon State.
No doubt Louisville defensive coordinators have spent the week scheming to
control Oregon State wide receiver Mike Hass. A player who is often described by
weary defenders as "sneaky fast" has been a nightmare to cover so far this year,
and holds a 6 game streak of 100 yard games. He and Oregon State quarterback
Matt Moore have quickly developed a chemistry that has been critical to the
production of the Beaver offensive machine.
"You bring a guy in, he ends up starting, and you worry about chemistry," Oregon
State coach Mike Riley said. "By the end of the year last year, I think Mike and
(former quarterback) Derek (Anderson) were on that proverbial same page. They
could reach each other very, very well. I worried about missing that. I don't
pretend we have it (back), but Matt and Mike have come a long way in a short
time." Moore has come on strong, throwing for 323 yards per game, five
touchdowns and just one interception, completing 53 of 76 passes.
Louisville's defensive weakness so far has proven to be the secondary, and they
will certainly face a stern test this week. Star defensive end Elvis Dumervil
will need to have an impact to slow down Oregon State's passing attack and get
pressure on Matt Moore. The senior standout notched Big East and school records
with 6 sacks against Kentucky, and will be a load for Oregon State to contend
with. First year starting free safety Brandon Sharp will need to improve quickly
after an uneven performance against Kentucky in the opener, allowing a 4th
quarter touchdown that nearly let the Wildcats back in the game.
The game will kick off at an eye-opening 9 a.m. on ESPN. Break out the Bloody
Mary mix (or the coffee, whatever your fancy) and settle in - it should be a
HIGH NOON: Shootout at Papa John's Stadium
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