Week 13 – Connecticut at Louisville

Posted Nov 21, 2012

Week 13 Fearless Prediction – Connecticut at Louisville

Connecticut (4-6) at Louisville (9-1) Nov. 24, 12:00, Big East Network

Here's The Deal: For the first time this season, Louisville is facing adversity. With a lot at stake, it has two weeks to showcase its mettle.

The Cardinals were crushed by Syracuse, 45-26, two weeks ago, ending dreams of a perfect season. But what really has changed? A dented psyche aside, the program still controls its own destiny in the quest to capture the Big East championship and the automatic BCS bowl bid that goes with it. Provided Louisville wins its next two games, it's guaranteed to get a marquee venue in January, likely the Orange Bowl. Now the Cards just have to go out and prove that the Carrier Dome collapse won't define them in 2012.

Louisville has been bowl-eligible for over a month; Connecticut is still scratching and clawing to join the Cards. The Huskies built a little momentum before the bye week by beating Pittsburgh on Nov. 9, 24-17. However, the road has been unkind to Paul Pasqualoni's program, which is a miserable 1-4 outside of Storrs.

Why Connecticut Might Win: If defense was the only measure of success, the Huskies might be traveling to Papa John's Stadium with first place in the Big East at stake.

Connecticut has had just one bad game on D all year, yielding less than 300 yards per game. It's tough in all phases; the front seven gets a relentless push from linemen Trevardo Williams and Ryan Wirth and linebackers Sio Moore and Yawin Smallwood. And a veteran secondary has allowed just 10 touchdown passes in 10 games. This is going to be a tough spot for Louisville to begin life without leading rusher Senorise Perry, who tore the ACL in his right knee in the Syracuse game.

Why Louisville Might Win: The Cards have Teddy Bridgewater behind center. The Huskies have … problems.

Bridgewater is mature beyond his years, so the loss to the Orange—and the loss of Perry—will only inspire him to raise the level of his game. He's a sophomore, with all of the poise, savvy and cool demeanor of a fifth-year senior. Connecticut, to the contrary, has Chandler Whitmer, who has thrown six more interceptions than touchdown passes this fall. Considering the Huskies' inability to extend drives and reach the end zone with consistency, winning away from home is going to being a very tall order. Not only are they 1-4 on the road, but Louisville is a crisp 6-0 at Papa John's Stadium, norming 35 points in those wins.

What To Watch Out For: If Louisville is going to get its act together on defense, it better start this week against the feeble Huskies.

Louisville head coach Charlie Strong continues to talk about the importance of gap control, which is code for filling running lanes, and wrapping up in space. The Cardinals have done neither especially well over the last month, allowing at least 196 rushing yards in each of the last four games. Connecticut will attempt to attack the Cards with Lyle McCombs, a gifted second-year back who just hasn't gotten much support from his blockers or his passing game. Louisville will be looking for a big day from the Browns, junior Preston and rookie Keith, in order to break the cycle of sketchy defense.

What Will Happen: The week off has been good for Louisville, which finally got the time it needed to rest, refocus and reload for the final stretch.

Strong's Cardinals are a better team than they showed in Upstate New York. Yeah, the D has regressed from 2011, and Perry will be missed, but the backfield of Bridgewater and RB Jeremy Wright will pick up the slack. Bridgewater will be tough to stop in his own backyard, even against that feisty Connecticut defense. He'll play mistake-free in the pocket, directing the offense efficiently, and locating WR DeVante Parker for a couple of deep connections. The Huskies lack the weapons to take advantage of the opponent, or to thrive in comeback mode once Louisville jumps out in front.

CFN Prediction: Louisville 31 … Connecticut 16
ATS Consultants Line (Click for more lines and picks) Louisville -12 O/U: 44.5
Must Watch Rating (5 – Beware of Mr. Baker, 1 – Life of Pi): 2.5