I can only speak for myself, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen the Louisville Cardinal fan base as confident for a season opener against a legitimate team. Even without DeVante Parker, I’m confident that Petrino and the Cards will pull out the win, but a loss is certainly possible. Here are my five keys to the game.
1. Contain the run: Duke Johnson may be the best running back that the Cards will go up against this season. The junior was off to a huge 2013 campaign before going down with a foot injury. He didn’t play against Louisville in last year’s Russell Athletic Bowl. If Johnson is able to get going early on, that’ll definitely help true freshman quarterback Brad Kaaya get comfortable.
2. Get to the QB early: Brad Kaaya may end up being a fine quarterback for the Miami program down the road, but the true freshman will have his hands full in his first career game. Kaaya will make his debut in a very tough environment. If Louisville’s able to bring the pressure early on, it could rattle the 18-year-old rookie. If he’s able to keep his poise in the first couple of series, he could find some rhythm.
3. Rush for more yards than Miami: Bobby Petrino’s offense is known for big passing plays, but most folks forget how effective Petrino is at running the ball. Duke Johnson may be the best running back on the field tonight, but if Louisville is able to get solid carries out of the Bronwn-Dyer-Scott-Radcliff-Lamb committee, it’ll really open things up for the passing attack. Duke Johnson is going to get his, but Louisville’s collective effort from their running backs could outweigh Johnson’s impact.
4. Convert in the red-zone: With DeVante Parker out, Bobby Petrino has lost his biggest red-zone threat. Parker may in fact be the best goal line threat in the country at the wide recevier position. Last year we saw the Cards have a lot of trouble at converting in the red-zone when Parker was out. I’m confident that Petrino will be able to use guys like Brown, Christian, Rogers & Quick effectively in the redzone, but we truly haven’t seen it yet. I’m confident that Louisville is going to move the ball without a lot of trouble, but turning long drives into touchdowns instead of field goals will be crucial.