GAME FIVE: Louisville at Temple

Teddy Bridgewater

Following a week off, the 7th-ranked University of Louisville Cardinals return to action on Saturday afternoon with a game against the Temple Owls at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia.

Who: No. 7 Louisville Cardinals (4-0) at Temple Owls (0-4)
When: Saturday at noon
Where: Lincoln Financial Field (Philadelphia, Pa.)

Series History
Series record: Tied 3-3 - Last meeting: 2012, 45-17 (Louisville)

About each team

** Back in action after a bye week, the No.7-ranked Cardinals will fly north to Philadelphia with an unscathed record of 4-0. Their last outing was a 72-0 romp over Florida International in which nine different Louisville players scored touchdowns. The meeting with Temple marks the Cards‘ first American Athletic Conference game of the 2013 season.

** Still looking for their first win, Temple welcomes Louisville to town for their second conference game of the season. Despite their winless record, the Owls have been competitive- their last two losses (to Fordham and Idaho) have come by a combined total of three points. The team runs a balanced offense that posts average numbers of 204.3 pass yards-per-game and 160 rush yards-per-game. The defense is allowing opponents 26.5 points per-game, which ranks 71st nationally.

** Now with a 72-0 victory on his head coaching resume, Louisville's Charlie Strong enters the game against Temple with a career record of 29-14. Strong's team has fielded few complaints from fans so far in 2013, as his club has been dominant through the season's first weeks.

** The Owls are headed by first-year coach Matt Rhule. One of nation's younger head coaches at 38 years old, Rhule was named Temple's head coach last December when former coach Steve Addazio left for the same position at Boston College. Rhule filled various assistant positions on the Temple staff from 2006 to 2011 and spent last season as an assistant with the New York Giants. This season's defeats from Notre Dame, Houston, Fordham, and Idaho are the only samples on Rhule's resume.

Inside the numbers

6.8 - Points per-game allowed by the Louisville defense through four games. The average ranks the defense tops in the nation in terms of points allowed. The team has surrendered a total of just 27 points on the year.

110 - Where the Temple offense ranks nationally in average points for, with 18. The low ranking is an anomaly, as the Owl's offense generates better than 360 yards of total offense per game.

72 - Both the amount of points scored by Louisville against Florida International two weeks ago and the total amount of points scored by Temple so far this season.

1 - Third down conversions allowed by the Louisville defense in its last two games. Kentucky and Florida International combined to convert one out of 26 attempts.

10 - Consecutive games in which Louisville wideout DeVante Parker has caught a touchdown pass. Parker is closing in on former Pittsburgh Panther Larry Fitzgerald's NCAA record of 18-straight games.

6 - Rushing touchdowns this season for Temple running back Kenneth Harper. The Louisville backfield has a combined total of eight rushing scores.

1 - Interception thrown by Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater this season. Coupled with 14 touchdown passes, the lone interception is better than several of the nation's top passers, including: Texas A&M's Johnny Manziel (4), Georgia's Aaron Murray (3), UCLA's Brett Hundley (3), and Fresno State's Derek Carr (3).

128-29 (Louisville) - The combined score of the last three meetings of this series. Before handling the Owls 45-17 at Papa John's Cardinal Stadium last season, the Cardinals defeated Temple 62-0 in 2006 and 21-12 in 2003.

What to watch for

- Saturday's meeting with Temple will mark the fourth consecutive game in which Louisville has faced an opponent with a losing record. Just as they have all year, the Cardinals will enter the game as the heavy favorite, which means complacency may be a bigger obstacle for the team than will the Owls. Going through the motions has halted the Cardinals momentum in the past; after a 9-0 start last year, the team dropped back-to-back contests to Syracuse and UConn. With big games against Rutgers and Central Florida looming, the matchup with Temple could prove to be a trap game.

- The Owls have two capable running backs in Kenneth Harper and Zaire Williams. Sharing carries throughout the season, Harper and Williams have combined for 441 rushing yards through four games. The duo are more grinders than home run-hitters- their longest run is a 28-yarder against Idaho. If the pair can wear down the Louisville defensive front, they may be able to pick up yardage in chunks.

- One thing to watch in the passing game will be the role of Louisville receiver Michaelee Harris. In the fourth quarter of U of L's matchup with Florida International, Harris caught an 11-yard touchdown strike from backup quarterback Will Gardner; Harris' first since 2011. Since becoming a Cardinal, Harris has undergone six separate knee surgeries. As a redshirt freshman, Harris was one of the team's more dependable receivers, catching 37 passes for 455 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Prior to finding the end zone against the Panthers, the Louisville offense targeted Harris on several occasions. With newfound confidence and comfortably stemming from the scoring grab, it will be interesting to see if Harris can return to 2011 form, and find his way into the regular rotation at receiver.

Keys to the game

- Key for the Owls defense will be to force Louisville to change-up their offensive play-calling. So far this season, Louisville's offense has found a formula for scoring points. Though the formula has undoubtedly worked, the team's play-calling has become mildly predictable- i.e. the team's affinity for throwing the "jump ball" to DeVante Parker in the red zone. Thus far, the Cardinals have been able to win games on the basis of talent superiority, hence their script-like play-calling. If Temple can push U of L off their routine, they may have a shot.

- The Cardinal backfield trio of Senorise Perry, Dominique Brown, and Michael Dyer, whose production and chemistry has grown since their breakout game against Kentucky, may be in for another big day against Temple. The Owls have allowed opponents to rush for an average of nearly 194 yards-per-game, which ranks 92nd in the nation. The Cardinals have rushed for a combined 372 yards in their past two games, and will look to dominate once again against Temple.

- Teddy Bridgewater & Co. may also be able to exploit Temple's 120-ranked pass defense, which has allowed opposing passers to average 322.5 yards-per-game. Bridgewater has thrown for 1,214 yards on the season, and the number could increase if the Cardinals chose to take to the air on Saturday.

- Heading into their matchup with Florida International, the Cardinals' greatest deficiency seemed to be their kickoff return coverage. That weakness was eradicated against the Panthers with a stellar performance by kicker John Wallace, who booted seven touchbacks on the afternoon. More of the same from Wallace would benefit the Cardinals during their trip to Temple. Putting the defense on the field with a long field behind them will be key in keeping the Owls off of the scoreboard.

Final word

Once again, the Cardinals find themselves entering a game as a double-digit favorite against a struggling team. Things will change in the coming weeks, as the team will prepare for what many believe to be the Cards' most important regular season games against Rutgers and Central Florida in back-to-back weeks.

Asked at his weekly press conference on Monday how his team will keep from looking ahead, Charlie Strong said the focus is on improving themselves.

"You have to tell (the players) that it is all about us and all about our preparation. It is all about going to be the best. If you are going to be the best team, you are going to have to play like it. The leadership of the team has to take over the team now."

"What is critical is that guys have to understand that we might be the best team, but we have to play the best on game day."

Staff predictions

Jody Demling: Louisville wins it's AAC opener in a big way. 45-7.

Michael McCammon: The offense clicks and the defense dominates. Cardinals take first step to claiming league's BCS birth. 52-13.

Corey Goodlett: Another opponent that the Cardinals are simply bigger, stronger, faster, and better than. Cards get to 5-0 before dinner time on Saturday. 45-10.

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