The Louisville football team is preparing for their first game of the 2018 season, as they’re heading down to Orlando, Florida to face the number one ranked team in the nation – the Alabama Crimson Tide. Nick Saban’s squad is obviously the clear favorite in this ballgame, but that doesn’t mean the Cards will fold easily, as Louisville has a great opportunity to show who they are on national television.
That said, take a look at three things to watch when the Cardinals take the field on Saturday night vs Alabama:
3) Can Louisville hold their own against a dominant Alabama defensive-line?
We’ve talked about it before, and it’s certainly not a surprising point, but one of the biggest question-marks heading into the weekend is how the Cardinals will compete in the trenches against Alabama. The good news is that Louisville is a little more experienced on the offensive line this year, but they’re about to face, arguably, the most-dominating defensive-line in the country on Saturday.
Even with a handful of running backs and first-time starter, Jawon Pass, ready for action, the Cardinals offense will have a very tough time moving the football if the offensive line plays like they have against elite competition. However, if they can miraculously hold their own, this game could get very interesting.
2)Will this be a coming-of-age moment for a young Louisville defense?
There’s really no question about it, this is a young and inexperienced group defensive coordinator, Brian VanGorder, inherited when he signed with Louisville this past offseason. If you didn’t know already, the Cardinals are only returning five starters from 2017, which automatically makes this game against Alabama extremely dangerous.
We all know that it’s going to take a miraculous effort for the Cards to knock of the Crimson Tide this weekend, but it could prove to be a serious coming-of-age moment for this young defense. If they can take the tough experiences with a grain of salt and use them as learned-lessons moving forward, I promise you it will serve them greatly as conference play begins.
1) Bobby Petrino vs Nick Saban
Regardless of the talent differential between Louisville and Alabama on Saturday, this match-up features two extremely talented head football coaches going toe-to-toe. One on side, Bobby Petrino owns a 117-48 career record, while Nick Saban 223-62 mark himself. I’m not even remotely saying Petrino is at the level of Saban, but the Cardinals head coach knows he has something to prove in front of the entire country.
Just take a look at this quote from Rick Bozich’s article from WDRB:
“They played four times. Alabama won four times by an average of nearly 23 points. Three of Saban’s four wins against Petrino were by 24 or more, even though Bama was favored by nine, 17 and 11 in those three games. Alabama out-gained Arkansas by nearly 110 yards per game. The Razorbacks’ quarterbacks threw two interceptions (10 total) for every touchdown. Arkansas failed to lead for a single second in three of the four games.”
As you see above, Petrino has been outcoached by Saban time and time again at the University of Arkansas. If we’re being honest, he probably had more talent and depth with the Razorbacks those years than he does right now at the University of Louisville.
In a game where the entire country will be watching on opening weekend, Petrino can ill-afford to have another letdown against the greatest college football coach of our generation.
Derek Snyder joined as a contributor for TheCardinalConnect.com in April of 2018. He previously covered everything Louisville Cardinals as the Site-Expert for BigRedLouie.com in 2016. Follow Derek on Twitter @dcolesny10.