Preview: Eastern Kentucky and the Spread

The CARDS come off one of the finest season openers in recent memory for Louisville, as well as one of the finest introductions to the season by any team in the country. They thoroughly dominated an Ohio team that will, by most accounts, finish in the top two of their conference division. Expectations were high going into the game, and they did not disappoint. Ted Tedded. Muscle Gerbil ran one in. Katch-up and Honey-Mustard smothered the secondary. With an enjoyable with for both fans and the team, all attention turns to game two. Eastern Kentucky will visit the Pop this Saturday for a "Nationally Televised" game on ESPN3. On the bright side, there is a 4% chance of Anastasia Saunders making an appearance on the sidelines. As an FCS opponent, Eastern has been alright against FBS Programs. They are 4-18 since 1978, including a 45-21 victory in 1985 against your Louisville Cardinals (Their last win over an FBS opponent). Revenge tour? Over the course of week one, 8 FCS teams defeated FBS teams, so this game should not be overlooked. The key to this game will likely be who can win the 3rd down battle. Last year, EKU was 5th in the nation in FCS for 3rd down completion percentage at 51.4%. Last week, against Robert "Big Blue Beater" Morris, they converted 64.2% on 3rd down. If Louisville can get their offense off the field, it will be a long day for the Colonels.

Players of note, Their starting running back according to their 2-deep happens to be named Jared Sanders. That’s right, Colonel Sanders. Just saying. They also have multi-position athlete named Ben De La Cruz. He is a wide out, but has also played Quarterback and DB at EKU. And their starting Quarterback, Jared McClain (Yippie Kai Yay Mother Digger) can score with his arm and his feet, with 2 rushing and 2 passing touchdowns against the RMU Catbeaters. However, there are a lot of new faces on this team. Something that set up nicely for a team looking to come in and kick one off the tee.

If you are new to this, the 10 areas that I judge an advantage or disadvantage for the CARDS are Offensive Line Play, The Run Game, Special Teams, Impact of "New" Players, Coaching, Depth, Defensive Pressure, Expectations, Position Edges, and Offensive Improvement. From that, I took each of those ten areas and did a moderately in-depth write up which were game and opponent specific. At the end of each section, I rated the advantage or disadvantage on a 5 point scale, -2, -1, Even, +1, or +2. The 2 point advantage were reserved for extreme advantages or disadvantages for the CARDS. I will warn you again, it is kind of long. Let's Begin. Saturday is on the way.

1. Offensive Line Play – The Offensive Line for the Eastern Kentucky Colonels is one area that they did not lose too much from last year. They have an All Conference 2nd team lineman in his third year in starting on the O-Line in Justin Meredith. Brett Eyckmans also started their last 6 games last year and got the nod again this year. They did replace their center with their backup from last year. That would be Dustin "Todd" Crane, who saw action in 9 games last year. They return some talent, which helped open up the run game last year. However, they average a weight of 295 lbs, 6’2½". The comparison between their guys and the CARDS is not really much of one. Louisville showed they can open up holes, pass block, concuss, and dominate an overmatched D-Line. Expect to see more of the same, and expect EKU to have trouble getting the ball away and accurately against the Cardinal D-Line. CARDS +2

2. The Run Game - As I mentioned earlier, Eastern Kentucky’s Running back, Colonel Sanders, carried the ball 8 times for 53 yards. They also had three other running backs carry at least 5 times in their win against the UKStompinBobbies. This is an area that Dean Hood has been working on for years. In four straight season, EKU has improved the rushing average. In 2012, they averaged 205.7 yards per game, and last week, they ran for 207. Don’t expect this to be the case when the CARDS D turns up the heat in the Oven. They will be lucky to break 100 yards on the ground, but will more likely look like the rushing attack they held the Robert MorewinsThanUKinTheNIT team last week, who had 55 yards on 25 carries. When you flip the script, Louisville has one of the better backfields in the country. The stable of running backs was cut down by one, when Corvin Lamb went down last week with an ACL injury, but don’t expect this to slow down the CARDS. The three headed monster of Big Carry Perry, Big Brown Truck, and Muscle Gerbil/Blow By-er Dyer, there is a lot to look forward to even we Ted isn’t Tedding. Running game duh. CARDS +2

3. Special Teams - Stanley Absanon is in his first year of returning punts for the Colonels. I am going to go ahead and say on his one or two chances for a punt return, he gets spooked and fumbles. Just a hunch, but big team, big game, inexperienced, just a feeling. Aside from their punt returner, Stanley Absanon (#27) has been a good return man in the Kicking game. If Louisville can keep him inside the 30, they are doing a good job with him. Their FG Kickers are alright, nothing to write home about. Last week, Andrew Lloyd (Webber) hit his only attempt, a 37 yarder. Last year, their back up kicker, Luke Pray (that he makes this one) hit 7 of 14 with a long of 37. Our one point of envy may be on Kickoffs, where 3 of their 7 kickoffs were touchbacks. With the CARDS lacking a player like Corvin Lamb back there, it opens up a spot for Katch-up Kai and even James Quick to get their hands on some returns, and expect a lot of them. Our FG Kicker was one of the most consistent in the country last year, and has yet to miss (or attempt) a field goal this year. He is a perfect 7/7 in Extra points. The biggest area for improvement in the special teams area is Kick Coverage. They need to stay in the gaps and not over-pursue. If they can do this, I think the coaches can be pleased with the improvement. Overall, the Kicking game gives the advantage to Red and Black. CARDS +1

4. Impact of "New" Players – Eastern will be starting quite a few new players this season, including their Quarterback, Running Backs, and Wide Recievers. I know there are those who do have game experience, but when you look at quality starts, a lot of these guys are starting their second game. While they did look quite impressive last week, they also did so against a "Basketball School"… get it? What can they do against a solid defense? They may be able to keep it close for a half, but don’t expect them to look like world beaters. The majority of their skill positions, while talented, are not experienced. The CARDS new players include two who saw limited action in week one. Michael "Muscle Gerbil" (hamster was taken) Dyer and James "Dayumeez" Quick will look to make definitive opening statement this week. We should see more playing time from Dayumeez this week with an expanded role in the return game and the passing game after halftime. Blow-Byer-Dyer will look to build off of his second carry of last week and show that he will demand more carries moving forward. Both teams have more new players, but the better prospects and more impressive are on the home team. CARDS +1

5. Coaching – Dean Hood is familiar with impressive, high powered Louisville Cardinals Offenses. He saw one in 2006, when he was the Defensive Coordinator for the Wake Forest Demon Deacons and saw Louisville Win the Orange Bowl. He said this week while preparing, he sees this offense as better than the one with Brohm because he feels there is not as much pressure on the quarterback to perform now with how much talent is in the backfield and catching the ball. Those are high praises for this Cardinals offense. Hood has brought the Colonels an OVC Championship twice in his five years at the helm, in ‘09 and ‘11. As the head coach, he now boasts a record of 35-23. He does have his drawbacks, however. He received his master’s in Physical Education from West Virginia University in 1989, a school who used to participate in football games regularly until 2011. He has done a very good job with the talent he has, but there is a definite talent gap between the two schools. The coaches for the CARDS vowed to be more like we expected them to be the last couple of years, and they did just that. Bedford had his D in gaps containing a very good running back last weekend and flying around the field well. The NASCARD Offense was pretty darned impressive, which Coach Bridgewater ran. Coach Watson has all sorts of weapons at his disposal when Teddy lets him call a play or two. On a short week, HCCS said he felt it was better as it would make his team have to get back and focus quicker to be ready for a good EKU team. There was less time to relax. The train is on its way down the tracks, and I expect it stay the (collision) course and keep on rolling in through this one game season. They should be ready for just about anything EKU can throw at them. CARDS +2

6. Depth – As I discussed earlier, there are a lot of new faces on this depth chart. 11 starters for the team in 2012 are gone, including their QB, RB, and Leading WR. With that being said, on their two deep, there are a lot of players who saw limited action last year or are freshmen this year. This does not stack up well for the Colonels. The CARDS are one of the deepest teams in the nation right now. They lost one of their running backs last weekend, and likely it will have little effect on the outcome of these games (prayin for you, Lambo). The CARDS 2-deep is loaded with starters as backups and gamers who just have yet to crack into that starting role. Games like Ohio and Eastern are allowing players like Katch-up and others to shine, especially after halftime when the starters are being pulled. Don’t want to see Boobie Miles on that field. Long story short, the CARDS are much more deep than the Colonels, and it should show. Gardner may look even better this week, as he settles into the back up position that he has earned. CARDS +2

7. Defensive Pressure – Three of the four defensive linemen for the Colonels return as multi-year starters. The fourth saw action in five games last year. If the game is going to be changed in one place, it is with EKU’s D-Line. They will need to hurry TD and try run stunts on the New-ish CARDS O-Line if they want to make a difference. The bad news, it is unlikely to happen. They are a good combination of size and speed, but the difference between size and speed between their D-Line and Louisville’s O-Line is similar to that of Ohio’s. Expect the CARDS to keep the Colonels at bay for much of the day. A couple of hurries, but very few hands on Teddy, unless he audibles into an option read for no reason. Roy "Pile-On" Philon looks to keep the pressure going up the middle this week, as he looked fantastic last weekend. Lozo "Loped" Mauldin and Philon should provide a sack or two each in this one, and the pressure will look to outmatch the Colonels O-Line often. We will really see what Coach Bedford was talking about with his blitz packages this weekend. Look for corner blitzes, QB Hurries, and a pick or two, more ordinary than Hakeem’s last week. I like the CARDS Pressure much more. CARDS+2

8. Expectations - Expectations remain high for the CARDS. With this game not being televised properly (after Dodgeball on the Ocho), the score will have to tell the story. There are expectations for another rout like Ohio last weekend. The last time we played this team, it was not quite that impressive, winning by 10 in 2010. This is a good benchmark game to see how far we have come and how far we can go this year. This year is easily the best chance for our favorite team to go undefeated and make it to the National Championship Game in the history of the program. Expectations are high for Teddy, but he has never been one to let pressure or situations affect him. He is so G.U.M.P. The Backfield and Wide-outs appear ready. The coaches are focused on leading them to an outstanding season. Last week was impressive. This week can help the story grow. The expectations at Eastern are quite high as well. They are picked 2nd in the OVC behind Eastern Illinois, and are currently ranked 21st in the FCS Coaches Poll. A good showing could be big for these guys, who are used to winning seasons. They have had winning conference records each year Coach Hood has been there, and winning overall records all but one year, 2009. With so much to play for for the CARDS and the issues with talent for EKU, I’ll give a solid edge to the CARDS. CARDS+1

9. Position Edges - If we found anything out last week against Ohio, it is that there is no doubt that the Ted is going to Ted, and numerous reports are giving indications that he is likely going to Ted quite often. After one week, 355 yards, 23-28 passing, and 5 touchdowns, it is easy to see why he is the Heisman favorite. He is just freaking good. Jared McClain looked good in week one against the Fighting Big Blue Beatin Bobbies, but he is no TD. The guys Teddy will be handing off to are just beasts. The 4 headed monster will take on just about any backfield and win, including this one. The Running backs we are facing performed well, rushing for 207 and 3 touchdowns. Our Wide Outs are loaded, while theirs are good, but just too young. Our D-Line will look to contain and stop the run, and assuming they look anything like they did last week, there will be few problems for the CARDS. Theirs will try to affect TD, but it shouldn't be too big an issue. The CARDS O-Line must continue to play as well as we did last week, and limit unnecessary penalties. Our Secondary appears to be miles ahead of theirs, and with the D-Line rushing the QB, look for some errant throws up for grabs. I think our D-backs should look better in this one with more big plays. Special teams even has an edge for the CARDS in the place kicking game. That being said, the CARDS are just the all around better team early in the season. CARDS +2

10. Offensive Improvement - Wow, last week, the CARDS looked really good. I don't know were they can improve. There is nothing they can do better. Everything was perfect last week. They did noting wrong, oh yeah penalties. This is the biggest thing last week that stood out as a room for improvement for the Offense. While the unnecessary false starts and holding penalties allowed the potential for Teddy to pick up more yards than the length of the actual drive, but those kinds of penalties can kill big drives in games against more difficult competition. If we can see some honest improvement here, this team could be one of the most complete teams we have seen represent the toothed-bird. The first game jitters should be all worked out, and the competition should not intimidate the CARDS O-Line. On the flip side, it would be really impressive to see improvement from the Colonels. They looked pretty impressive last weekend against lesser competition. I don't know if they can do much better. However, if we do see them looking like they did last week, that could spell trouble for the CARDS. Louisville should put up 5-6 TD's in this one, running a very balanced style of football. The running game will open up the passing game. The play action will be a killer all year long. Teddy goes to 10 different guys this Saturday and throws for 4 touchdowns. But don't expect for the CARDS to be a quick strike offense. The Run Game should slow the tempo and wear down the opponents D. If Ohio wants to stay in this one, they will really need to limit turnovers, score often, and get some breaks to win this one. I see them playing alright, but not being in it as the CARDS win big. CARDS +2

As of Thursday night, the spread sits with the CARDS favored by 40 - 40.5. This is a ridiculously large spread. I Can't Believe It's Not Butter would be impressed with this spread. I have the CARDS according to these stats at a 15 point advantage. On paper, it looks like you could certainly take the ChickenChefs and the points. I would be inclined to take the Colonels on that one, even though I predict them winning by 42. Even if the CARDS go up big, Charlie has never been one to throttle an opponent. Last week was the largest Victory in his tenure at Louisville, and although it was almost an accidental route, it was quite impressive. I like the CARDS to go up 14 before EKU gets on the board with a field goal. The CARDS score a couple more times, making it a 28-3 halftime score. Three touchdowns through the air, one on the ground. After halftime, the running game wears down The Colonels, and the momentum continues for Louisville. The CARDS get a few more Touchdowns in the second half, one from Ted's arm, two on the ground in clean up time. Eastern finishes with a touchdown in the fourth against our second team. Prediction, two INT's by the CARDS and one Forced Fumble. I like the CARDS to win this one big, and to defeat the Un-Popped-Corn in a good looking game from both sides of the ball. OSM Pick: 52-10 CARDS

**CCBMM Note: Okay guys, I know the Card March is early this week. 9:45 is early for anyone, but this is YOUR TEAM. This is the chance to show these guys that we are the real fans. Show them that we are there, even if a lot of the other fans not on CC are not there. If you have a CCBM, be there. If you don't have a CCBM, still be there! Anyway, back to what I was talking about, anyone with a CCBM, we are meeting at the Stadium side of the Football Tunnel of the Denny Crum Overpass again for the CCBMM and walking over to the site of the Card March at 9:30am. This weekend, we are actually going to do our best to be the hype men for the Card March. We will be walking through the Card March before the team gets there and getting the crowd super pumped. I will be there this Saturday around 9am, once again wearing a Red Anthony Conner Jersey as usual, White Uniform Game Pants, and a custom CCBM. Let's really make this a huge thing. It was great to see all of you there last week, I hope to see you all and more again this week. See you at the Tunnel. I think this is going to be really cool! It will be even bigger than last week. Lot's more pub. See you Saturday! Let's pop these Colonels.

Beat Ohio!!!

Then Beat Eastern Kentucky!!! Go CARDS!!!

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