The toughest test to date for the 19th ranked University of Louisville Cardinals comes to Papa John's Cardinal Stadium this Saturday at 3:30 in the form of the North Carolina Tarheels. Not only will this game provide a gauge on how good these Big East leading Cards are, but it hits in the backyard of Coach Charlie Strong.
In 2003-04 in the midst of Charlie Strong's stint as defensive coordinator for the University of Florida, the offensive offensive coordinator at that time was Larry Fedora, now at the head of the UNC program. He formerly coached at Southern Mississippi so this won't be the first meeting between the coaches. In 2010 the Cards defeated the Fedora-led Golden Eagles in the Beef O'Brady's Bowl, 31-28.
Now Fedora brings in a Tarheel squad that runs a no huddle offense. That's the same attack that allowed the University of Kentucky to hang in the game longer than their talent dictated, though it was less effective for Missouri State. Someone must have written a game plan that said play hurry up against Louisville since their first three opponents use it. In this game UNC quarterback Bryn Renner, a 3000 yard passer a year ago, will trigger the pace and his left guard, preseason All-American Jonathan Cooper, will try to keep the Cardinal defensive line at bay.
At the same time, Louisville has to get pressure up front as a way to get the no huddle attack to make mistakes. That's the battle to watch. Offensively, the Cards have to punch open holes to get Senorise Perry loose. Perry and Jeremy Wright are an effective one-two punch which, when used properly, allows more vertical passing for an increasingly accurate Teddy Bridgewater. Defensively for Louisville, the team must line up right every time and play their coverages instead of hot dogging. If they can stay at home, they can deliver.
The Cardinals have to prove their mettle in this game. Are they worthy of their 19th ranking in the AP (20th at USA Today)? Signs point to a 28-20 Louisville win and proof that the Cards can hang with the big dogs.
Photo: Louisville.com/Tim Girton