I know it's run through your minds on more than one occasion in the last few weeks. I know because it's run through my mind as well; and, even though we all sometimes disagree here at the Card Chronicle, we're always swinging out of the same corner. After embarrassing Syracuse last weekend, the prospect of royally sticking it to the realignment forces that be will once again present itself on Saturday. Louisville heads into Morgantown 1/3 of the way to letting the rest of the country know just how we stack up against the teams who were picked ahead of us in this saga. It won't be an easy task, but we do have a few things going for us.
Charlie Strong's teams have played far better on the road than they have at home thus far in his tenure. There are several reasons for this. First of all, he's awesome; second of all, there's something about playing on the road that often takes the pressure off of the visitors and puts it squarely on the home team. How many times have you seen it go down just like this: the underdog comes into the game loose and poised. They fly around on defense and frustrate the opposing crowd into not being quite so rowdy in the early going. Then, almost as if predetermined by destiny the home team starts tighten up; they over pursue on defense, miss open recievers on offense, and get out of their lanes on kick coverage.
They usually settle down and find their groove after a few possessions. That is unless the visitors are able to take advantage early, and keep the pressure on them throughout the game. That's the recipe for success on Saturday. If the Cards can come out early and establish themselves a new line of scrimage on defense and frustrate an offense that's used to moving the ball at will, the Mountaineers will become flustered and their defense will put far more pressure on themselves than they need to. Remember, they haven't been tested by a defense since LSU; and, in that game they were the dogs with something to prove.
The Louisville defense is good; we know this, they know this, and it's not going to shock anyone if they disrupt the WVU offense. Especially early on. The key to getting the win will be whether or not the Louisville offense can put points on the board early. My hunch, is that the Cards can't win a back and forth affair; nor can they win a come from behind affair. However, they can win a game where they build a 7-10 point lead and force West Virgina into obvious passing situations late in the game. Is it possible? Of course it is.
I said last week, that with the way the offensive line performed against Rutgers, this team was poised to finally put some points on the board against Syracuse and they did. A lot of that is because the offensive line is finally getting healthy and opening some holes for the backs to run through. As crazy as it may have seemed a few weeks ago after the Marshall game, this one is winnable. As a matter of fact, it's exactly the sort of game that's right up the Card's alley, directly in their wheel house,... you get the point. A road game where they're a double digit underdog to a ranked opponent. A game that no one, except the guys in the locker room and some hopeful fans, are giving them a chance. That's just what Dr. Strong ordered,...... take two and call me on Sunday when my pants will hopefully still be off.
Last year Louisville lost this game at home by seven. West Virginia had the best defense in the BE last year. Louisville has the best defense in the Big East this year; and, they've done nothing but get better every week. No reason to think that won't happen again this week. WVU just gave up a combined 80 points in their last two games to the same two teams that Louisville just held to a combined 24 (17 if you don't count the garbage time touchdown late against Syracuse). The Cardinal defense will once again keep them right in the thick of things. The catalysts to a victory on Saturday will once again be turnovers and penalties. Big picture, the only question you need to look for answers to are can the offense minimize their mistakes, and maximize those of the opposition? That's what this entire season has been about for this team, and it's not going to change between now and noon on Saturday.
Predictions? If the game is in the teens to low twenties, Louisville gets the win. If it's in the low to high twenties, it could go either way; and, if the score is in the 30s they'll be singing Country Roads all night long in Morgantown. The Cardinals haven't scored more than 27 all year, and I don't expect it to happen on the road this week; but, this game is winnable. It will be a hostile environment and I really-REALLY hope the folks in gold are particularly nasty to our boys; my gut tells me that a Charlie "Eff'n" Strong coached team will feed on that like a fat kid on Halloween candy and turn it into sheer unadulterated energy and focus.