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Oregon State/ Louisville: Five Questions With Card Chronicle

We visited with Mountain West Connection in preparation for the TCU game... we'll continue the trend today by visiting with Mike Rutherford of Card Chronicle. Mike does a great job covering Louisville athletics for SB Nation-- stop by and say hello. 

Louisville has a big, strong, experienced offensive line. Bilal Powell has had a good start to the season, but while Victor Anderson has had a good total yardage start, he hasn't run for a lot of yards. I expected the Cardinals, with that line, to have run even better than they have in their first two games. Why do you think think Louisville hasn't been even stronger rushing the ball, and do they think the Cardinals will try to physically dominate the Beavers' defensive front, and play keep away from the Rodgers brothers in the process?

I don't think the running game has been too much of a disappointment. Bilal Powell ranks 14th in the nation in rushing and the Cards have outgained their opponents on the ground by about 40 yards, but yeah, the numbers certainly aren't awe-inducing.

U of L fell behind by double-digits quickly against Kentucky and probably had to throw a little bit more than Mike Sanford or Charlie Strong would have wanted. The offense was very, very vanilla against Eastern kentucky, which probably played a role in the lack of production there. There's also the fact that both defenses sort of dared Adam Froman to beat them through the air, a task he hasn't handled particularly well to this point.

It will be interesting to see what Sanford's POA against Oregon State is. Much of the fan base has been disappointed in the simplicity of the spread offense thus far, but I think a lot of the reason for that is because he's working with a below average quarterback and a below average corps of receivers. Taking these facts into consideration, I think Louisville trying to win this game on the ground and through ball control is a safe bet.

Jacquizz Rodgers hasn't rushed for over 100 yards in his last three games. Any way the Cards can make it four?

Probably not. The Cardinal front seven has played above expectations to this point, but they're very undersized and not exceptionally talented.

Their main weakness thus far has been an inability to limit the big play. Louisville kept Randall Cobb and Derrick Locke in check for a solid portion of the Kentucky game, but a small handful of big plays resulted in the bulk of the Wildcats' rushing yardage and probably were the difference in the final score.

Louisville is going to have a tough road to hoe in the Big East this year... what would fans consider "progress" to be this season? With the loss to Kentucky, does Strong need to beat the Beavers to get back on track?

Expectations heading into this season were understandably low. While winning any more than five games and going to a bowl game would mark an almost unbelievable turnaround, progress this season can simply be defined as a team that appears enthusiastic and competent.

Any loss to Kentucky is a blow, but I think it was more expected this season than any other since the series was renewed in 1994. Not many people are expecting Strong to beat OSU, and even if the final score isn't close I can't see his approval rating dropping. If he beats the Beavers then expectations for this season and beyond will automatically reach unreasonable heights.

Former UNLV coach Mike Sanford is now the Louisville offensive coordinator, and last year, he nearly beat Oregon St. because of an effective down-field passing game. The same defense, with most of the same players in the secondary, are still there for the Beavers. How much will Louisville leverage Sanford's rather successful plan from last year on Saturday?

Froman has not been very good this season (or very good last season), so I'm very interested to see just how much Sanford puts on is shoulders this weekend. The quarterback can't be blamed for all of Louisville's woes through the air, though. Froman's receivers have dropped seven balls in two games, and three of his main targets have been dealing or are out with injuries. And even when everyone's healthy, there's not a player among the group with the ability to turn a five-yard out into a 65-yard touchdown, and those are the types of weapons you need in order to have a fully functioning spread offense.

Sanford may attempt to utilize a similar game plan, but I have strong doubts that the results will be comparably successful.

Ryan Katz's performance against TCU wasn't spectacular, but decent for a first-time starter against a top ten defense. He showed he has the ability to throw the long ball if James Rodgers can get open downfield. With Johnny Patrick dealing with an injury, how do you expect the UofL secondary (which already lacks depth, we hear) to fare against the OSU passing attack?

Outside of Patrick, Louisville's secondary is very young and very inexperienced. In terms of playing time, Strong has heavily favored youth in the secondary, which has led to some surprises on the two-deep, especially at the safety position.

The Cards haven't faced an elite quarterback yet, but Kentucky's Mike Hartline didn't have much trouble finding open guys on Sept. 4. Strong has stated that the secondary has to find "playmakers," which is the main reason he moved sophomore Darius Ashley from running back to corner during the offseason. If Patrick can't go on Saturday, it will be Ashley - who notched his first interception last weekend - who takes his place.

The secondary's youth is most evident when you look at how few chances the group takes. If those cushions are again present then it shouldn't be hard for Katz to find open receivers, and this could be a solid confidence-building game for him.


Thanks to Mike at Card Chronicle for taking the time to chat with us. 

--Jake | (