Bobby Petrino & Garrick McGee vs. Will Muschamp
These guys have also met before. First in 2002 when Petrino was the Offensive Coordinator at Auburn and Muschamp was the defensive coordinator at LSU. Auburn whipped LSU 31-7 in a rain-soaked affair in 2002, but Petrino’s offense was only able to manage 321 yards (105 passing, 216 rushing) and only attempted 11 passes with Jason Campbell on the day. In 2008 Bobby Petrino & Garrick McGee had a tough time in Year 1 at Arkansas vs. Will Muschamp’s Defense at Texas. Petrino said in post-game “That’s a beating”. Arkansas was limited to just 251 yards (240 passing, 11 rushing) and scored its only touchdown late in the 4th quarter on a scoop & score off of a fumble.
This time around there will be no weather in the dome it’s Muschamp’s first year after inheriting a sub-par defense from a year ago. Louisville didn’t light up scoreboards as fans are accustomed to with a Bobby Petrino offense either. The Cards look to improve from the 72nd offense (394.7 yards per game) from a year ago with a new offensive line. Auburn hopes that Will Muschamp can turn the Auburn defense around quickly after posting the 66th defense (398.8 yards per game).
There is a lot of unknown here (unlike Auburn’s Offense vs. Louisville’s Defense). Auburn was horrendous a year ago at producing sacks. Louisville was more than willing to give up sacks last year. Which side improves the most?
Additionally, Bobby Petrino’s offenses have always historically been based on running the football and Louisville’s 1st down production in 2014 was putrid, dooming its ability to convert 3rd downs. Auburn on the other hand was pretty soft against the run but still managed a respectable 3rd down defense. Petrino has stated several times that he intends to run the football better in 2015….Will Muschamp has vowed to correct Auburn’s Rush Defense.
So what’s going to happen? It’s been our opinion for a few months now that Reggie Bonnafon will be Louisville’s starter in 2015. That hasn’t changed. Reggie has now installed the offense 6 times during his 14 month career as a Cardinal as opposed to just twice prior to the 2014 season. He is extremely athletic and showed much improved decision making at the end of Spring ball. Now we get to see the progress Bonnafon has made over the summer.
Louisville’s offensive line is still in development. We’ve heard great things about the talent along the offensive line….. are they ready? The good news is that Auburn really isn’t an overly big defense…the bad news is that they are built for speed. UofL has been going against its own defense (one of the best in the country) for weeks now. Gus Malzahn has called his Defensive End Carl Lawson ‘unblockable’ and DT Montravius Adams is an exceptional talent in the middle. Can the new Offensive Line isolate Lawson? Can it run the ball? Can it protect the QB?
One advantage is Louisville’s size in its WRs & Tight Ends relative to Auburn’s secondary. Even the Tigers’ Safeties are not overly sizable in Auburn’s mostly man-to-man defense. Coach Petrino and Garrick McGee have talked about being able to ‘throw open’ receivers against Auburn because of their style and their size will allow the Cards to have an advantage in that regard. However, CB Jonathan Jones is exceptional and has played with Cardinal WR Ja’Quay Savage since childhood. Auburn was susceptible to the Tight End a year ago and really everything in the short-to-intermediate passing game was a challenge for the Tigers in 2014. So Louisville’s slot, James Quick, and its Tight Ends should be able to find some room to work and provide outlets for the Cards in the passing game.
When it comes to running the football with Brandon Radcliff, L.J. Scott and Jeremy Smith the Cards ‘should’ be able to gain some traction here, especially compared to what it was a year ago. Going by the OL depth chart, it appears that Louisville is planning on aggressively attacking Auburn in the run game. If the Cards can consistently gain 3,4,5 yards on 1st down the improvement from a year ago would be tremendous. Radcliff is certainly up for the challenge in getting the tough yards, L.J. Scott will be a weapon in the passing game (another point sorely lacking in ’14) and Jeremy Smith is a home run hitter capable of breaking off a LONG Touchdown run at any moment. For Auburn, stopping the run is about attitude & culture as much as it is scheme. Will Muschamp is a great teacher at stopping the run and Auburn has recruited at a high level over the past few cycles. Given that, there is no excuse for Auburn’s rush D to be where it was a year ago and while I do think the Tigers will be improved against the run attitude and culture is built over time. The same goes for Louisville’s rush offense. Both teams are moving their respective Rush O/Ds in the right direction….but who is better on September 5th? The winner of this match-up probably wins the game.
The Cards will be balanced and will not try to avoid becoming one dimensional, but I do think Louisville is loading up to run the football against AU. Look for UofL to attempt to establish its running game early (with a lot of Reggie Bonnafon mixed in if he starts) and then go to the vertical passing game. Auburn & Louisville are both a work in progress in this match-up. I like that even with some key personnel leaving the UofL offense that it is Year 2 for Petrino and Auburn also lost some talent off its defense and it is just Year 1 for Muschamp. I think because of that, the Cards may hold a slight edge in this match-up.
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