Following a 31-10 victory at Connecticut on Friday night, the University of Louisville returns to Papa John's Cardinal Stadium for its first home contest since the mid-October loss to Central Florida.
The Cardinals (8-1, 4-1) welcome Houston (7-2, 4-1) for a Saturday night contest pitting two programs tied for second in the American Athletic Conference.
The Cougars bring a team that have played well all season, ranking among the top 30 offensively and first in the country in turnover margin.
"This is a team that has a lot of speed," U of L head coach Charlie Strong said on Monday. "You look at them defensively, they create a lot of turnovers, probably more turnovers than anyone in the country. Offensively, they are ranked 26th in the country in offense."
The Cougar offense is led by true freshman quarterback John O'Korn. Benefiting from his quick receivers that have turned many short slate pass routes into big gains, O'Korn has complied over 2,300 passing yards.
"Even though he's a freshman, he does a really good job of just managing that offense," Strong said, adding that "their wide receivers can create an issue in that they can get down the field and make a lot of catches."
While the Houston defense is allowing 427 yards a game, it's attacking style has led the Cougars to a nation-leading 32 take-a-ways, including 18 interceptions.
"Take-a-ways is what's keeping them in the game," said Strong. "They are getting the back for their offense. Their offense strikes so quick and I think until the last game they have scored in every quarter, but the defense is getting the ball back for them."
Dropped balls equal less heat
The U of L offense derailed itself multiple times on Friday. In addition committing 6 penalties, the unit also suffered from numerous dropped balls.
"We had nine drops," said Strong, who stated the drops resulted in the loss of at least an additional 100 yards.
The drops were a group effort, including from typcially sure-handed receivers.
"Any time that a receiver faces up and the ball hits them in the hands its a drop and we had plenty of those the other night."
"I always say if you touch the football it's a drop, especially if you get two hands on it."
Despite the cold weather drops, Stong, who had heated benches and warmers on the sidelines, says he has no concern about it becoming a trend.
"Sometimes guys let weather play a factor into it, which you shouldn't."
"Probably had too much stuff. Next time I'm going to take those benches away and make us stand up and we'll be okay. I've done it before and think we need to do it again."
Post season aspirations
While the UCF victory over Houston on Saturday greatly diminshed U of L's chances of playing a BCS bowl to cap the season, the Cardinals are still working towards that possible outcome.
"I tell them that we are still alive for a BCS, so let's keep playing," Strong said. "It's not so much where we're going to end. It's guys we're still alive, we can still win this conference. Central Florida still has four games left and we have three, so let's keep playing."
Transfer running back Michael Dyer did not travel with the Cardinals to East Hartford, Conn., but Strong said the junior will be back on the sidelines this weekend.
"Dyer was at practice yesterday, so he will be on the field."
Louisville hosts Houston on Saturday night for an ESPNU televised contest. Kickoff is scheduled for 7:00p.m.