As a majority of top-tier FBS programs go barreling toward the meat of their schedule, it's increasingly rare for a Top 25 team to get a layup victory. But as No. 20 Louisville prepares for its Friday night clash against Connecticut, it's hard to see this contest being anything less than a gimme.
The Huskies, formerly a burgeoning program under Randy Edsall, have fallen into possibly the greatest abyss in their program's history. They have lost each of their first seven games, scoring no greater than 21 points in any contest and losing all but two by double digits. Paul Pasqualoni, who took over for Edsall, was dispatched after the fourth loss, and things haven't been much better since.
Connecticut has lost a combined 103-33 in its past two games, and things don't seem likely to get better against the Cardinals.
Though prone to frustrating inconsistencies, Louisville is still competing to be the class of the American Athletic Conference. Teddy Bridgewater's Heisman hopes have been thrashed, but the Cardinals still have a shot at making a BCS bowl if they win out and get help from the other teams within the AAC. Bridgewater and Co. recovered from their loss to UCF two weeks ago with a 34-3 win at South Florida and seemed back to running on all cylinders.
But remember: Most thought the same thing a season ago. It was then that Louisville's inconsistencies reared their ugly heads, with UConn pulling off a triple-overtime upset to end what little chance the Cardinals had of making the national title game.
With that in mind, let's check in just prior to the game with a preview of Friday night's action.
When: Friday, Nov. 8 at 8:30 p.m. ET
Where: Rentschler Field in Hartford, Conn.
Spread: Louisville -27.5 (Vegas Insider)
All things considered, no first-unit player should see action after the third quarter for Louisville. The talent chasm between these two teams is massive, Connecticut is undergoing incredible upheaval in its locker room and the Cardinals still have long-term goals for this season.
Plus, Bridgewater is kinda-sorta good. Pegged seemingly for the past two years as the guaranteed No. 1 overall pick in next May's NFL draft, Bridgewater's season-long excellence has strangely gotten swept under the rug of late. He's no longer mentioned with the Marcus Mariotas, the Jameis Winstons or the Johnny Manziels.
Hell, he can't even touch Connor Shaw. According to ESPN's Heisman tracker, Bridgewater wouldn't even receive a vote if the ballots were due prior to this week's games. Now, keep in mind, Pittsburgh defensive tackle Aaron Donald received a fifth-place vote.
Bridgewater has been pushed to the back of the national lexicon despite having thrown just two interceptions against 26 touchdowns heading into Friday. He's completing nearly 74 percent of his passes, sits third behind Bryce Petty and Winston in quarterback rating and has essentially propped up an otherwise shrug-worthy team.
Bridgewater may be able to return to the background of the Heisman fray come Week 12. The Huskies are a quietly solid pass defense, allowing opposing quarterbacks to complete just 56.2 percent of their passes and throw for just over 200 yards per game. When shuffling through the $5 bin of winless teams, you're not going to find a better pass defense than that. Should Bridgewater torch Connecticut like he has most other teams this season? Those who have been paying attention should give him a bump.
If not, the Cardinals' running game will take care of business. For as solid as UConn has been against the pass, it's been equally dreadful stopping the run. Opposing teams are averaging 172.1 yards per game and have found consistent success grinding out attempts on the inside. Dominique Brown and Senorise Perry are quietly one of the more effective running back tandems in the league, and Louisville has three regular fixtures who average nearly five yards per carry when Michael Dyer is added to the mix.
On the other side of the ball, the contest again looks like a perfect storm in Louisville's favor. The Huskies are averaging under 300 yards per game, ranking second-worst in both yardage and scoring offense. They will have a difficult time changing that streak against the Cardinals, who rank second in the nation in scoring offense.
Louisville has allowed 13 points or fewer in seven of its eight games this season, with the only exception being its 38-35 loss to UCF. The Cardinals returned to their stellar ways by allowing only three points to South Florida the following week and should be motivated to keep that streak going.
In case you all haven't figured it out by now, Louisville will and should win this game handily. Bridgewater may well end up with his best game of the season here. The Cardinals receive the check mark in every category. They're superior on offense, defense, special teams and certainly in the coaches' box.
Right now, Connecticut quarterbacks have thrown six touchdowns against 12 interceptions. The Huskies are averaging 2.4 yards per carry. Continue on down the depth chart and it becomes readily apparent that finishing this season without a win is a possibility for this squad.
Louisville, meanwhile, needs all the help it can get. The Cardinals' strength of schedule won't get them into an at-large BCS conversation, so they merely need to win out and hope for the best. If you are a fan of either team, I'd look to have plans around 10 p.m. ET.
Score: Louisville 49, Connecticut 3
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