OFFENSE DUE FOR BREAKOUT
Prior to the season, the popular question asked by Louisville fans was: Can this offense be stopped? After the opener against Ohio, that appeared to be a legitimate question. Louisville’s offense had their way with the Bobcats through air and on land. Since then, the Cardinals offense has been up-and-down. The well-oiled machine that Shawn Watson has created with a V-6 engine of Teddy Bridgewater leading the way has sputtered in the past two games. Whether the transmission problems have been found in the rushing attack or the red-zone is no matter, Louisville must correct them. Offensive Coordinator Shawn Watson has no worries.
“Those are easy fixes,” Offensive Coordinator Shawn Watson explained. “They are simple things like running the right route or hitting the right spot, you may be one hat [away]. You don’t panic. That’s not what this is all about. You just keep working. This is easy stuff.”
Easy fix or not, Louisville needs to cash in when they have there chances. In the last two games the Cardinals settled for Field Goals 72.3% of time when in the redzone. It’s a mysterious stat considering the depth of the WR corps that’s regarded as one of the best in the Country.
Central Florida brings in a Defense that doesn’t exactly knock your socks off. Their overall small physical build may be the reasoning for that, as the Knights have two linebackers that see considerable playing time under 200 pounds. Yet, still. They do the little things right. They fit their blocks well, they are aggressive to the ball, they make you beat them. I suspect Louisville will rise to that challenge.
With one of the most explosive offenses in the Country, Louisville is due for a breakout performance after two that were “sub par”. It’s only a matter time. Louisville played good enough to win last Thursday night against Rutgers on the National stage, but the QB Teddy Bridgewater said Louisville left ‘about 17 points’ on the field. That left a sour taste in some of his teammates mouth as they also felt unhappy with their performance.
Louisville has been chomping at the bit to change some of that sharp criticism they left after Thursday. Look for them to possibly put together one of the most impressive offensive displays all season on Friday. They know this may the last time the nation sees them before a bowl game. They want to leave a lasting impression. An offense this good not fulfilling their goals on the big stage two times consecutively? I don’t see it.
CAN LOUISVILLE GET PRESSURE?
Something has to give.
Louisville lays claim to one of the best defensive end combos in College Football in Marcus Smith and Lorenzo Maudlin. Central Florida offensive line ranks in the Top 50 of College Football in preventing sacks, mostly due to their seven-down lineman schematic that they show to opposing defenses.
“It makes us more hungry,” DE Marcus Smith explained. “They’re a team that does a lot of seven man protection, which means that they have all the tackles set around the Defensive Ends. Then they’ll bring the Tight Ends and Running Backs to the Defensive Ends. It’s gonna make us work that much harder to get off and get sacks.”
When the Knights took on South Carolina this season they gave up two sacks. However they held another good Defensive End tandem in Heisman Candidate Jadeveon Clowney & Chaz Sutton to one sack. Clowney didn’t even register a tackle until the third quarter.
Defensive Line Coach Clint Hurt’s proclamation of Louisville having the ‘best Defensive Line in the Country’ will be put to the test on Thursday. If the Cardinals can apply pressure on Bortles, it may spell doom for the Knights. Since he hasn’t seen much pressure all season, I don’t expect him to react favorably. You saw what happened to Rutgers QB Gary Nova when he got pressured last week– he gave Louisville 4 gifts. Friday night could very well be a repeat.
My Prediction: Louisville records 3 or More Sacks
BORTLES VS BRIDGEWATER
Central Florida QB Blake Bortles is highly regarded across the Country. He’s efficient, he doesn’t beat himself, he simply makes plays. It’s led him to preseason accolades such as a Maxwell Award Watch List, Davie O’Brien Watch List, the list rolls on. It’s deserved. Bortles could elevate his status in a major way Thursday night.
“They’re both very poised guys who make good decisions,” UCF Head Coach George O’Leary stated. “They’re very productive players. That’s what I look at. They’re both very difficult to defend because they do so many things so well.”
Everyone knows the story of Teddy Bridgewater. The Heisman Candidate. The proverbial savior of Louisville Football. He’s the guy on the very top of NFL GMs mock drafts. I don’t need quotes to tell you his story and his talents. Everyone knows he’ll preform under the National stage when these two tee it off.
The Maxwell Award- awarded to the Nation’s Top QB- will be watching how Bortles and assuredly Bridgewater perform:
Blake Bortles (QB, UCF) vs. Louisville
Bortles almost took down South Carolina and will look to finally take down a top 25 team with a matchup against Louisville. Louisville’s defense has been extremely sharp, as it has let up 161.2 passing yards per game, but the Cards have yet to face a talented quarterback like Bortles.
It’s the tale of two outstanding QBs. One proven and one unproven. One heralded and one still working to get there. Obviously Bridgewater has more impressive numbers, but Bortles has been no slouch either.
It’s certainly going to be a joy to see them go head-to-head on Friday night.
My Prediction: Teddy Bridgewater throws for most yards he’s thrown all season. Blake Bortles also shows favorably under the bright lights, but a late interception damages that narrative.
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