Pitt was able to break a short two-game losing streak by defeating the Duke Blue Devils on the road this past weekend? Next up for the Panthers, who will play their final two regular season games at home - the Louisville Cardinals.
After a rough start to the season, Louisville has rebounded to become one of the hottest teams in the conference. After dropping games to Auburn, Clemson, and Houston to begin the year 0-3, the Cardinals have won six of their past seven games. The lone hiccup along the way during that stretch was a 41-21 loss to Florida State. Things haven't been easy for Louisville, however. They defeated Virginia and North Carolina State by only a touchdown and knocked off Boston College and Wake Forest by a mere four points combined.
Both Pitt and Louisville have played Virginia and Syracuse. The Cardinals had more success against those teams through a 41-17 blowout win against Syracuse, while the Panthers defeated the Orange by only three points. Both defeated Virginia by seven.
Most Recent Game
Louisville defeated Virginia this past weekend, 38-31.
The Cardinals' best players are arguably on the defensive side of the ball. Linebacker Trevon Young has nine sacks, good for second in the ACC and in the top 15 nationally, and an interception on the year. Defensive end Sheldon Rankins is ninth in the conference with six sacks.
Louisville also boasts an excellent secondary with cornerback Trumaine Washington and safety Chucky Williams forcing a combined seven interceptions and two forced fumbles. Cornerback Shaq Wiggins and safety Josh Harvey-Clemons are also disrupting offenses with four combined interceptions. All four of the secondary players rank in the top ten in the conference in interceptions.
Freshman Lamar Jackson had led the Louisville offense and in him, Pitt would have faced yet another dual-threat quarterback with some mobility. Jackson has only thrown for 1,342 yards on the season, but is the team's leading rusher in yardage (529 yards) and touchdowns (six). However, he suffered an ankle injury and has barely played the past two weeks.
He's given way to sophomore Kyle Bolin (who Bobby Petrino already has confirmed would start against Pitt), who has gotten the majority of the playing time with Jackson out of action, leading the team to two victories in a row. Bolin isn't the dual-threat that Jackson is, but looks to have a better arm. He had an impressive day in the blowout win against Syracuse (362 yards, three touchdowns, and one interception).
While the team has scored some points on offense, the strength of the Cardinals is very clearly in the defense. Louisville ranks 14th in the nation in total defense, giving up 311 yards per game and 11th in the country in rushing defense, allowing only 109 yard per contest. They are 34th in scoring defense, giving up only 22.3 points a game.
Louisville hasn't been effective running the ball, ranking only 81st in the nation with 160 yards per game. Much of that, too, is from Jackson's scrambling ability as he leads the Cardinals in rushing. The team is also heavily penalized, racking up just over seven penalties and 95 yards each game on average, ranking near the bottom of the FBS. Louisville has also had problems in the red zone on both sides of the ball. On offense, they are only scoring points 80% of the time when in the red zone (90th in the nation) and defensively, have given up points 86% of the time (88th nationally).
This has the look of a difficult game for Pitt. Louisville's defense is very good and means the Panthers' offense is going to have to make some plays. The good news is we've seen them do that this year. The bad news is that it hasn't happened all the time and defense have stymied them at times.
I'm more concerned with Pitt facing Bolin. He has shown the ability to pass for a lot of yards and as we've seen, the secondary has had some very long days this year. At this point, I'd much rather face a mobile quarterback like Jackson than see Bolin back there. Getting the game at home could be the slight advantage Pitt needs but the Panthers will have their work cut out for them this weekend.
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