Louisville vs. Pittsburgh: Complete Game Preview and Predictions

Jon Hancock@@JonKYSportscoSenior Analyst IOctober 10, 2012

Picture by Jon Hancock
Picture by Jon Hancock

The University of Louisville Cardinals will hit the field Saturday after a bye week last weekend. The Cardinals will take on Pittsburgh in their first Big East conference game.

The Cardinals come into the game 5-0 and ranked No. 16 in the nation according to USA Today's coaches poll.

“It’s all about the conference race and that’s what is critical right now,” Coach Charlie Strong said during his Monday press conference via UofLSports.com. “I know we’re playing Pittsburgh, but it’s the conference race that’s standing there in front of us. We have to make sure we don’t slip. It’s our first conference game and it’s on the road, so we need to go play well.”

Pittsburgh is 0-2 in Big East conference play, with losses against Syracuse and Cincinnati. Pitt's quarterback Tino Sunseri threw for 319 yards last Friday in their 14-13 loss to Syracuse, but was unable to throw a touchdown pass.

The Pitt Panthers did have a huge upset against Virginia Tech at home earlier in the season.

“We have a really good ranked team coming in, Pittsburgh coach Paul Chryst said via PittsburghPanthers.com. “I think they're obviously undefeated and have good players and are well coached. I think they're certainly balanced on offense. I think Bridgewater is a heck of a quarterback. They've got two running backs, almost identical numbers, and have a lot of players, a lot of guys that have scored, and a lot of guys that have got receptions. They're a balanced team and defensively they do a very good job against the run. They've got two safeties that are really good football players. It'll be a challenge and I really think with every challenge it means there is an opportunity. Hopefully our players are going to have a good week and we'll be ready for Saturday."


When: Saturday, October 13 at 11:00 a.m. ET.

Where: Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Watch: ESPNU

Radio: 840 WHAS in Louisville, KY.

93.7 The Fan in Pittsburgh, PA.


Betting Line: Louisville -3 per VegasInsider.com.


Weather: According to Weather.com, it will be in the 60's and partly cloudy in Pittsburgh, PA.


Players to watch for Pittsburgh

Tino Sunseri, Pitt's senior QB, is a very proficient passer. He has thrown for 1,463 yards and eight touchdowns so far this season. Sunseri's biggest issue is the number of times he gets sacked in a game. Last year Sunseri was sacked 61 times; he has already been sacked 13 times this season.

Ray Graham, Pitt's starting running back, has run for 419 yards and four touchdowns. Graham has benefited from sharing carries with talented freshman Rushel Shell, who has 231 yards and one touchdown in 45 carries.

Pittsburgh defensive backs Jason Hendricks and Jarred Holley will be in charge of covering Louisville's many talented receivers. Holley, a 5'10” senior, leads Pitt in tackles with 32. He also has one interception. Hendricks, a 6'1” junior, leads the team in interceptions with three. Hendricks stepped up big against Virginia Tech, nabbing two picks.


Things to note about Pittsburgh

-Pitt is 25-13 in Big East home games.

-Pitt has recorded at least one sack in 29 of the last 30 games.

-The Pitt Panthers have won the last 4 consecutive games against Louisville; they lead the all-time series 8-7.

-In their last three games, Pitt has given up just two touchdowns and two field goals.

-Pitt is ranked No. 39 in the nation in points allowed with 21.2 points a game.


Game Predictions

Louisville knows how important this game is, not just for conference ranking, but also because of national perception. Louisville is 5-0, but they have struggled to win the past two games against two mediocre teams. The Cards only beat Florida International 28-21, and barely pulled out a victory against an 0-5 Southern Miss team two weeks ago.

The Cardinals should come out swinging.

Expect Teddy Bridgewater to go long in their first drive. Bridgewater will continue to prove he is an elite quarterback; although he is a sophomore, he knows how to step up for big games.

Louisville has done a fantastic job using both Jeremy Wright and Senorise Perry at the running back position. Wright will use his speed to wear down Pitt’s defense. This could be another game where both running backs go over 100 yards rushing.

Louisville has some injuries at the linebacker position. The Cards' big defensive line will need to step it up and put pressure on Pitt's QB, Tino Sunseri.

Louisville's defense has allowed some big plays so far this season, Pitt has enough weapons to make this a game.

Louisville wins, 31-21.


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