With all due respect to everything the Tennessee Tech Golden Eagles bring to the table, I'd say it's pretty much a foregone conclusion that the main thing this weekend's game will produce is the least satisfying Louisville football win in recent memory.
Still, I think there are a number of things that this team can show Saturday to make us all feel better about the succeeding ten games.
Here are nine I'd like to see.
1. Running backs hitting the line of scrimmage at full speed
I realize that it doesn't take the same level of courage to barrel into Tennessee Tech's front four as it does Kentucky's, but seeing Powell, Anderson and Bolen break a couple of big runs after exploding through small creases would be a solid confidence boost for all involved.
2. No drop off in defensive intensity
The most disappointing thing about last year's defense, to me at least, wasn't the blown tackles or coverages, it was the apparent lack of effort. This is why watching what the Cardinal D was able to do last Sunday and the intensity with which they did it was so refreshing. If Ron English is able to get his troops to come out with the same level of energy that they brought against Kentucky, it will speak volumes about just how much he's been able to accomplish in such a short period of time.
3. A designed deep pass play going for 35 yards or more
Breaking a short crossing route would also be a welcome sight, but I'd really like to see Cantwell hit one of his receivers in stride on a play designed to pick up big yardage. Louisville's had a lot of success through the air against 3-4 defenses in recent years, and even with the offense's enormous struggles last week, the passing game should look significantly improved against this inexperienced and outclassed FCS secondary. If it doesn't, then things might be even worse than they presently appear.
4. Come out at least plus two in the turnover battle
Our secondary looked pretty stellar against an offense they knew wasn't going to take many chances, but I'd love to see them make some plays in a game where they know going in that the opposing quarterback is going to let it fly a little bit. Obviously, fumbles and interceptions played a large role in last week's margin of defeat, so seeing the offense not give it away for four quarters would also be a nice step forward.
5. Make a field goal
Putting that first one through the uprights is always a major weight off the shoulders of a first-year starting kicker.
6. Commit less penalties than the opponent
Even in last year's season-opening 73-10 stomping of Murray State, when all seemed right with the world, the team's propensity for picking up unnecessary penalties existed as a downer.
7. Clean up the kick/punt return/coverage game
Our special teams play as a whole last weekend bore an eerie resemblance to what you see out of 7th and 8th grade CSAA squads. It's a pretty high level of execution for 13 and 14-year-old kids, not so much for members of a BCS conference team.
8. Better play out of the tight ends
We heard line after line during the summer of 2007 about how much Steve Kragthorpe loves to utilize tight ends, well now that he's lost a pair of the best to ever come through the program, he'd better find a decisive answer to the question of which guy on the current roster can best help his struggling offense. It didn't look like Pete Nochta during the UK game, but both he and Johnnie Burns get another golden opportunity to make their cases on Saturday.
9. A win
You guys were pretty big favorites to roll over a seemingly inferior opponent at home the week after last year's disappointing loss to Kentucky...don't know if you remember, but, uh, did not go too well. Let's go ahead and make sure history doesn't come even remotely close to repeating itself.