What is in fact Louisville's conference opener is on the field merely just a tuneup for more challenging competition. This afternoon the 7th ranked unbeaten Cardinals (4-0) travel to Philadelphia to take on the winless Temple Owls (0-4). While the Cards are focused on beating who's on their schedule and not the strength of it, a win this afternoon isn't quite exactly going to boost their BCS profile.
Louisville entered the season facing such foes in a revamped American Athletic Conference without Syracuse and Pittsburgh, who left what was known as the Big East for the Atlantic Coast Conference with the Cardinals due to follow next year. The schedule does get a little tougher as midseason rolls around but even on paper Louisville looks just too balanced to miss out on the BCS party. As most have remembered if you follow the JTG camp took this same Louisville team like white on rice covering a 42 point spread at home against fearful Florida International by 30 while pitching a shutout.
Teddy Bridgewater (79/110 1214 14 TD 1 INT) has put up some Heismann worthy stats through the first 4 games leading the Cards to an average of 48 points per contest. The versatility and teamwork behind this well-oiled machine is also completed by a solid running game led by Senorise Perry (44-245 5.6 4 TD). Bridgewater has shown plenty of poise in the pocket behind a sizable front 7 with a receiving core led by Devante Parker (19-331 6 TD), Damian Copeland (14-240 3 TD) and Gerald Christian (13-158 2 TD). There is plenty of speed on this squad who have run successful crossing routes over the middle and towards the corners. Anytime your QB is on target of 72% of your throws and it will no doubt throw fear in opposing overmatched secondaries.
The Cardinals have played better on the other side of the ball this year, ranking first in the nation in scoring defense (6.8) and third in total defense (220.5 yards). That doesn’t bode well for a Temple team that averages just 18.0 points per game. Players have certainly become comfortable with defensive coordinator Vance Bedford's relentless philosophy encouraging his players to stay aggressive and take advantage of opportunities when key plays are made. The Cardinals defense is led by DE Marcus Smith, Lorenzo Mauldin who has intimidating speed and presence on the outside and CB Charles Gaines who has not allowed opposing receivers much room to expose open routes nor room to scramble in the open field.
The Owls are coming off Saturday's 26-24 loss at Idaho, which followed a 30-29 upset by FCS Fordham. They've split six games with the Cardinals but have lost the last three in the series including 45-17 last season. Connor Reilly (73/139 746 2 TD 2 INT) has looked mediocre at best but does have a similar receiving core similar to Louisville's in terms of balance. Ryan Alderman (15-221 1 TD) is Reilly's top target along with Jalen Fitzpatrick (14-119) but a lot of his throws have been underneath which hasn't led to much success when threatening in scoring situations especially in the red zone. A bright spot is the running game led by Kenneth Harper (47-222 4.7 6 TD) and Zaire Williams (38-219 5.8). Temple will try and slow down the pace by using the ground game to keep Louisville's explosive offense off the field. However there is a disadvantage on both sides of the line, so that philosophy may just wear off as the game progresses which could lead to fatigue given the Cardinals are so complete on both sides of the ball. Reilly needs to get it going in the passing game if this offense is to have any success for the rest of the season as well.
If Temple could give their defense some time to rest, they could have split their first 4 games. They would also look a lot better on paper coming into this week. When you're playing close games its imperative that your defense doesn't stay on the field too long. . Temple is always on the shorter side in time of possession making it difficult for their defense to stop teams consistently. The front seven is led by the nation's second leading tackler Tyler Matakevich and all-name first teamer Blaze Caponegro. However they've had yet to record an interception and lack the depth as an overall unit. Bridgewater's accuracy and arm strength will pick apart one of the more vulnerable pass defenses this afternoon.
Some may dismiss the Cardinals due to their conference and easy schedule, but this is a legitimate title team.Louisville will blow this one open quickly behind another strong showing from Bridgewater through the air and for the Cardinals to fluster Connor Reilly with aggressive blitzes. Best of luck however you play!
YTD 5-1 .833