Both Louisville and Kentucky are coming off of very disappointing performances after week two of the 2011 season. Obviously the big game is this weekend. Both teams have tons of question marks at this point. Here's ten questions for Louisville that will determine both the game on Saturday and the course of the season.
Will the offensive line develop any sort of chemistry?
Starting out with an obvious one. I personally believe that this all hinges on Mario Benevides returning from his staph infection. If this is the case, then it doesn't look good. If he starts healing at a rampant pace, then we can go ahead and move Alex Kupper over to left tackle, and move Hector Hernandez over to the bench. I cannot stand him. I will forgive a player if he makes a mistake because he isn't really all that talented, or isn't very experienced, but when you give up, give zero effort against smaller players you should be manhandling, I will rip you. Anyway, so far, the o-line has sucked. No way around that. They have to keep Danny Trevathan off of Will Stein and Victor Anderson. If not, it's going to be a long game.
Where is the big play threat on offense?
This has not really been a hot topic at all, but is very underrated. For the most part, Stein has been dinking-and-dunking over to recievers for small gains, or getting medium to long gains off of throws on the run. But as of now, there are no players on our team to keep the defense honest. You know, that guy who is like T.Y. Hilton and can just burn a defense, or a back like Bilal Powell who could turn a six yard gain for most backs into an eighty yard touchdown. DeVante Parker and Eli Rogers both have the tools to get there someday, but Parker has had quite a few drops (or so I think) and Rogers has made typical freshman mistakes. I don't think they're ready. Josh Chichester can definitely catch and get seperation, but he is very big and fairly slow and has very little breakaway speed. I like him going over the middle and lining up split out for the occaisional 30 yard gain. Andrell Smith has played really poorly the past few games, and I can't understand why. He has all of the tools to be a great possesion reciever. I don't know what's been wrong with him of late, but I think the answer is Josh Bellamy. Bellamy has very nice speed to burn you out on the edges and is shifty enough to get very good yards on a screen.
Can the defense force turnovers?
Don't lie. Our defense has been awful with forcing turnovers. We could not force a turnover on FIU last week, and got very lucky off of bad decisions by the Murray State quarterback in week 1. I think the stars are aligning to get this one fixed though. Greg Scruggs will probably be at 100%. B.J. Butler returns. Jordan Paschal may return and Adrian Bushell will surely play. Morgan Newton is ungodly shaky with kind of everything in general. UK's recievers are notorious for drops and are almost not a threat. So, in short, yeah.
Which back will be more effective?
Jeremy Wright's running style definitely would serve us better behind a weak offensive line, but Victor Anderson has been the much better back statisticly. Wright has also had problems holding on to the football. Vic has had almost double the YPC of Wright. I like Vic here. I kind of just wanted to ask this question, won't have much effect on the game.
How will the second youngest team in the country handle its first away game?
We're the second youngest team, next to Auburn (I think). How are they going to handle 80,000 screaming fans who've been drunk in the parking lot for three hours? It all depends on our start, which I can't say I can predict right now.
Can Will Stein keep on running?
Will Stein has done an adequate job of throwing on the run (in case you haven't noticed, our line sucks horrible). But, are the bigger, stronger, faster lineman of Kentucky going to catch up to him? Will he possibly get popped and get hurt? Another question with a lot of variables in it.
Will Teddy Bridewater and Dominique Brown get snaps?
Will Stein is the man. Not going to deny it. But Teddy is being so sparingly used to the point of him forcing the issue because he knows that he's got one shot. I honestly don't see that changing in the first game of his career against THE rival. If Charlie won't use him against Murray, and Teddy is uncoordinated against FIU and Murray, I can't see this happening. Later in the season though, especially if things are going badly, he's going to be used a lot. Dominique Brown is a different story. He has only ran one or two plays thus far out of the WildCard. But, on the road against archrival UK, he's going to run a trick play. He's got a cannon, and if he takes the crowd out of the game, then that's one more advantage for us. He'll also probably run to keep them honest.
Can we convert on third down?
Here's a biggie. We have shown that we can move the ball, unlike UK's offense. Sometimes it gets a bit sporadic, but we can move the ball. We just have a big tendency to
A) Shoot ourselves in the foot in some way/shape/form (Turnover, penalty, etc.)
B) Give up a sack
Converting on third down means being in manageable situations, and being in managable situations means not getting sacked or doing something stupid. I can't really say that there's any physical evidence that we'll do any better, but as Lou Holtz said, you have a different team on the field every week. Maybe the line can develop cohesion. That is not out of the queston, though Mario being out is really screwing things up. In short, I think it will go from terrible to below-average.
Will Mike Sanford's play calling become a little less vanilla?
Mike Sanford's play calling was straight awful last week. We were running sweeps on fourth down with a line that could hardly get a puch going straight, and the offense had about zero creativity. But I do believe to a lesser extent that he was holding some of the more interesting plays back for the UK game and beyond. But I believe to a very large extent that our young guys who didn't enroll early are still learning the playbook and will get a bit more each week. And it's the perfect time to throw some trick plays and such at the opposing team. I 'm going with a yes.
Will Louisville spring the upset?
Homer time. I think that the conditions are right for the upset. We had a loss the week before to refocus the team. Charlie Strong has been telling them that they aren't good enough all week long. UK players seem overconfident. We've been mainly burnt through the air. UK's recievers can't catch. Morgan Newton sucks, as the great Victor Anderson said. Josh Clemons and Raymond Sanders haven't exactly been lighting it up either. I'll pull the trigger here. We get quite a few injured players back. B.J. Butler will be able to terrorize the QB again. Adrian Bushel looks to FINALLY get on the field. Jordan Paschal may return. Brandon Dunn and Greg Scruggs at full strength? Ownage. Conditions are favorable now.
The HorsePig55 Official Prediction: Louisville 16, Kentucky 14
Streak's gotta end sometime you know. I fully expect a defensive battle with Chris Philpott smashing home three field goals to earn the win for the Cards. Make sure you comment and put in your answers to each questions and thoughts. I'm putting out a very early prediction because I'll be in Las Vegas later this week. Any good locations for game watching? Anyway, I think that this is our year to finally win. It's been too long Cardinal fans.