College Football

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       === Eighth-ranked Cardinals and Knights clash in key AAC tilt ===
 Louisville, KY ( - Yet another contender from the American
 Athletic Conference will take a shot at eighth-ranked Louisville when the
 Cardinals battle the UCF Knights in a game with major conference implications
 at Papa John's Cardinal Stadium.
 UCF is storming into this game with just a single three-point loss to South
 Carolina on its ledger. Other than that setback the Knights have been
 extremely formidable, with a 4-1 overall record that includes a marquee win on
 the road over Penn State. UCF might have been looking past its game last week,
 as it was nearly upset by Memphis in its AAC opener. However, the Knights
 scored a pair of touchdowns on fumble recoveries in the final 2:05 to escape
 with the win and keep the stakes high for this matchup.
 Last week Louisville took a real hit against conference rival Rutgers, who
 like UCF, was one of the teams thought to have had a chance at unseating the
 conference favorite Cardinals. Though they took home the victory, 24-10, the
 Cardinals moved back to No. 8 in the national rankings and now have some
 questioning their credentials as a top 10 team.
 UCF head coach George O'Leary isn't one of those people.
 "(Louisville) could beat a lot of teams in this country," O'Leary said. "I
 think we overrate a lot of conferences in this country. There's two or three
 teams, maybe four at best, that deserve the adoration they're getting. The
 rest are just teams."
 With a 6-0 record entering play and wins in its last eight games dating back
 to last season, Louisville is clearly a formidable foe to O'Leary and the
 This is the first meeting between these teams as conference foes and just the
 second all-time. In the first matchup, during the 1985 season, Louisville
 rolled to a 42-21 victory over the then Division II Knights.
 If UCF hopes to stun the Cardinals it will need to get back to the offensive
 success it had earlier this season. Against Memphis the Knights had just 270
 total yards and 16 first downs. Overall this season the Knights are averaging
 31.8 points, 19 first downs and 414 total yards per game.
 Blake Bortles is considered one of the best quarterbacks in the AAC and for
 good reason. Bortles has completed 64.8 percent of his pass attempts for 1,334
 yards and nine scores, while being intercepted just three times. However,
 Bortles did not look as efficient against Memphis. He threw for just 160
 yards, completing less than 50 percent of his pass attempts (17-of-36).
 When Bortles is on, Breshad Perriman and Rannell Hall tend to put up big
 numbers. Perriman (18 receptions, 397 yards, TD) makes the most of his chances
 with an impressive 22.1 yards per reception average. Perriman was leaned on
 heavily last week as he had seven catches for 107 yards. Hall (21 receptions,
 373 yards, three TDs) has two 100-yard games this season and leads the team in
 receptions. J.J. Worton (13 receptions, 177 yards, three TDs) has had a
 diminished role of late with just one catch for two yards in the last two
 In terms of running the ball, the Knights could do a lot worse than starting
 running back Storm Johnson. On the year, Johnson has reached the century mark
 in a game just once, but he still has 455 yards and seven touchdowns on 87
 carries. Johnson leads the AAC in both carries and rushing touchdowns.
 The defense has seen very little let up for the Knights. UCF is allowing just
 16.6 points and 353 yards of total offense per game. In fact the Knights are
 allowing fewer points than any team in the conference other than the
 Cardinals. The ability to create turnovers has been a positive trend for UCF,
 which has forced 12 takeaways.
 For the first time this season Teddy Bridgewater looked less than comfortable
 in the win over Rutgers. Though he threw for 310 yards and with two touchdown
 passes, extended his streak of games with a passing score to 18, Bridgewater
 posted his second-lowest efficiency rating (166.58) of the season and was also
 intercepted for just the second time. Bridgewater (125-of-176, 1,872 yards, 18
 TDs, two INTs) should continue to post strong numbers going forward but may
 have another rough time against UCF.
 "I think that we have raised his standard," Louisville head coach Charlie
 Strong said about Bridgewater. "I think that he plays up to where we want him
 to play at. For a quarterback, the standard is high, because the ball is in
 their hands."
 That is especially true with injuries taking a toll on his receivers. Last
 week leading wideout DeVante Parker (21 receptions, 375 yards, six TDs) was
 sidelined with a shoulder injury. Parker is listed as questionable again this
 week, as is Kai De La Cruz, who had three catches for 56 yards and a score in
 his first start. Those injuries mean Damian Copeland (23 receptions, 379
 yards, three TDs) will be called on to carry the load, perhaps even more than
 last week when he had eight catches for 115 yards.
 The running game might also get a bit more work than previous weeks. That
 should be just fine with the talented backfield trio of Senorise Perry (402
 yards, five TDs), Dominique Brown (271 yards, two TDs) and Michael Dyer (220
 yards, two TDs). Perry was a major contributor last week with 104 yards and a
 score. Brown led the team in rushing the previous two weeks.
 What has been overlooked about Louisville this year has been how stout it has
 been on defense. The Cardinals rank second in the country in total defense
 (229.5 ypg), while leading in points allowed (7.3). Heavy pressure from the
 likes of Lorenzo Mauldin (seven sacks) and Marcus Smith (six sacks) have
 allowed the Cardinals to keep opponents at bay. In fact, after posting eight
 quarterback takedowns against Memphis, the Cardinals are third in the country
 in the category (23.0).
 "We're going to bring a lot of pressure. We're a pressure team, " Strong said
 of his team's success in rushing the passer.
 10/16 10:44:27 ET

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