East Hartford, CT (SportsNetwork.com) - Nearly a year after suffering a stunning upset against Connecticut, the No. 20 Louisville Cardinals will be out for revenge in an American Athletic Conference matchup at Rentschler Field.
It took three overtimes but last season the Huskies pulled off one of the most stunning upsets of the year by handing the then No. 19 Cardinals a 23-20 loss at Papa John's Cardinal Stadium. The victory pulled the Huskies that much closer in the all-time series, which the Cardinals lead by a slim 5-4 margin.
Once again Louisville is in the national rankings as these two teams get set to square off. Even though they had their BCS title hopes doused by a difficult, 38-35, home loss to UCF in mid-October, the Cardinals are still sitting in prime position for an AAC title run at 7-1 overall and 3-1 in league play. The one loss against the conference means the margin for error is razor thin, but the Cardinals have proven to be a superior team despite the one stumble.
"We're sitting here 7-1, wishing we hadn't lost the one, but it's over with now," Louisville head coach Charlie Strong said. "You just like the way the team has developed and become a football team."
Last time out Louisville was matched up with South Florida in Tampa only to roll to a 34-3 victory.
Even though last year's upset was surprising, it would be shocking if the Huskies were to do it again. The Huskies have struggled this year, losing all seven of their contests, including their first three in league play. Though they have lost a pair of games by three points, the last two losses to Cincinnati and UCF have come by a combined 103-33. The Huskies were on bye this past weekend, giving them some time to rest up for one of the toughest dates on the schedule.
"I think there is a lot of hype for it and a lot of players are fired up. I tell them the same things; if we can make more plays than them, we're going to win the game. That's got to be our focus,"UConn's interim head coach T.J. Weist said. "You have to use that hype, that momentum and intensity on the football field to make good decisions, to be physical, and to make plays."
The hiccup against UCF clearly didn't have much effect on the Cardinals' offense. Louisville has consistently been the best offensive team in the AAC, racking up nearly 500 yards of total offense per game.
The much hyped Teddy Bridgewater leads the way for the impressive offensive machine. Bridgewater had a nearly flawless game against USF as he threw for 344 yards and three touchdowns, while completing 25-of-29 passes. It was the fourth-straight 300-yard game of the season for Bridgewater, who has thrown a touchdown pass in 20-straight games. In all Bridgewater has thrown for an AAC best in yards (2,557) and touchdowns (23), while completing an incredible 73.7 percent of his throws. Despite constantly having the ball in his hands, Bridgewater has also been guilty of just a pair of interceptions.
The receiving corps that Bridgewater gets to throw to is a talented one. DeVante Parker (27 receptions, 457 yards, TD) has been hampered a bit by injury of late but is still a more than capable target. With Parker limited, Damian Copeland (33 receptions, 486 yards, four TDs) has taken up the mantle of No. 1 receiver, while Eli Rogers (31 receptions, 422 yards, four TDs) and tight end Gerald Christian (21 receptions, 321 yards, four TDs) have seen there production rise as well.
The Cardinals are also fortunate enough to have a talented stable of running backs. Chief among them is Dominique Brown, who is coming off a season-high in carries (18) and yards (125). Brown has now piled up 484 yards and four touchdowns this season, while Senorise Perry (455 yards, five TDs) is also a 400-yard rusher.
Louisville hasn't just been posting impressive efforts on offense. The Cardinals are leading the conference in both total defense (244.5 ypg) and scoring defense (10.6 ppg). Both of those marks have the Cardinals among the nation's elite. The pass rush, led by Marcus Smith (eight sacks) and Lorenzo Mauldin (seven sacks), has been the driving force for the unit.
As might be expected of a team still struggling to collect its first win, UConn has not enjoyed much success on the offensive side of the ball. The Huskies are averaging just 293.7 yards and 16.4 points per game on the campaign, ranking near the bottom of the AAC in each category.
Finding the right man for the starting quarterback job has been a real challenge, as the team has trotted out three different signal callers this year. Chandler Whitmer, who started the year as the No. 1 option, is listed as doubtful for this game with a hand injury so it will be Tim Boyle and Casey Cochran that will compete this week. Boyle has gotten the most opportunities and has not taken advantage, completing just 42.7 percent of his passes, with five interceptions and not a single touchdown. Cochran has been a bit better in limited time (11-of-19, 117 yards, TD, INT).
The most productive receivers for the Huskies have been Geremy Davis (35 receptions, 544 yards) and Shakim Phillips (22 receptions, 314 yards, three TDs).
The passing game hasn't gotten much help from the running game, as the Huskies have just 537 rushing yards as a team. Lyle McCombs has accounted for 466 of those yards, while scoring all but one of the teams five touchdowns on the ground.
Thanks to Yawin Smallwood the Huskies have not been a complete wreck on defense. UConn isn't among the AAC's best units, but ranking sixth in total yards allowed (399 ypg) certainly has them in a more competitive range. Smallwood leads the way with a team-high 79 tackles, as well as one of only five sacks by the Huskies. Smallwood has nearly 30 more tackles than the next closest player on the roster.