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UC-Louisville preview

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It's funny how the atmosphere of this rivalry game has been turned around completely in a year's time.

 

Going into last season's game, the Bearcats faced a Cardinals squad they hadn't beaten in five seasons. There were seniors on the team who still remembered the 70-7 destruction from 2004. They were playing at Louisville, and it was UC's fourth game in 21 days. They were tired and perhaps a little unsure.

 

In fact, here's what I wrote in my pregame prediction:

 

I think UC will probably win tonight, but I can understand those fans who might have a bad feeling about this game. I agree it's a game the Bearcats definitely could lose. I just don't think they will.

 

Say, UC 31, Louisville 21

 

And I pretty much nailed it. With some major late-game help from hobbled quarterback Dustin Grutza, the Bearcats pulled out the 28-20 victory to win the Keg of Nails trophy and continue their magical season.

 

These days, does anybody think UC will lose this game? Does anybody think the Cardinals pose any kind of threat to the Bearcats?

 

Well, probably so. And it's not out of the realm of possibility that Louisville could play well enough to pull off the road upset, especially if Tony Pike doesn't play. But I don't think even Cardinals fans envision that scenario occurring, and just a year removed from a game that Bearcats supporters had major concerns about, it's a little strange that this game is being seen by so many as a walkover.

 

Just my observation.

 

--No matter who takes the snaps at quarterback for the Bearcats - and as I'm writing this, I'm not sure who that'll be* - wide receiver Armon Binns said the team would be fine with whomever is on the field.

 

*If I had to rank in order the quarterbacks I think we'll see, from most likely to least likely, I'd guess: Zach Collaros, Tony Pike, and Chazz Anderson.

 

"We're definitely comfortable with whoever is in there," Binns said. "They leave the offense pretty wide open, not matter who's in there. Obviously it's most helpful with Tony. But I've got confidence in all the guys to make all the plays and all the throws. You have the chemistry with Pike and all that, but both of (the backups) are very capable. It's really all about putting the ball there and letting us go get it."

 

I asked Brian Kelly if he would have to tailor his offense to Anderson or Collaros. After all, last season, while Anderson took over for the injured Pike, the Bearcats had to scale back their offense to make things easier for the then-redshirt freshman.

 

"You definitely want to tailor to the strengths and weaknesses of what you do," Kelly said. "You can't go too far outside your comfort zone. We're a spread offense. We're not going to come out in two tight end, two backs and one flanker. We have to be able to do the things we're good at - throwing the football and picking our spots to run the football. The only difference is we now have a quarterback who can run the ball (in Collaros). But if he can't throw it, we became a triple option team. I'm not good at that."

 

--The Cardinals have struggled this season, and they've lost four of their past five contests. But they have some strong players. Junior quarterback Adam Forman, at 6-4, is tall, and last week, he completed 16-straight passes while tossing for a career-high 295 yards.

 

His main receiving target is Scott Long, who's caught 28 passes for 468 yards and one touchdown.

 

And of course, the Bearcats have to beware running backs Vic Anderson and Bilal Powell - who have combined for 699 yards and nine scores.

 

During the week, Kelly said he could see the remnants of Louisville's offense beginning to take shape and play effectively as a unit. He also said he hopes the Cardinals don't figure it out completely in time for Saturday's game.

 

"They're a football team that's playing better and better," Kelly said.

 

--By the way, I just received word that I'll be covering the UC-Louisville game for CBSSports.com as well. So, add that Web site to the immense amount of national recognition the Bearcats have received lately (Sports Illustrated, Sporting News, Wall Street Journal, NY Times, ESPN and (plug alert) Bearcats Rising, etc.). And make sure to read my game column/analysis Saturday evening.

 

Prediction: It's hard to say, because it depends on who starts at quarterback. I like UC for the win regardless, but I don't know by how much. I'm thinking I'll take Pike + Collaros /2 and that =

 

Say, UC 31, Louisville 10.

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