Florida Internation at Louisville - Friday September 9, 2011 - 8:00 pm - ESPN
Papa John's Cardinal Stadium - Louisville, KY
Point Spread - Louisville -3.5
Louisville faces a significant step up in quality of opponent as week two of the college football season approaches. After sleepwalking through three quarters of a 21-9 win over Murray State, the Cardinals welcome in Sun Belt champion Florida International (FIU) to Papa Johns Cardinal Stadium for a Friday night battle. The Panthers dominated North Texas in their opening game 41-16 and looked impressive in doing so. FIU jumped out to a quick 28-0 lead before cruising to victory. After Thurday night's lethargic showing, if Louisville doesn't play with more intensity and consistency, FIU is definitely a team that could beat them.
Florida International (1-0)
Louisville opened the 2011 season with new faces all over the place, especially on offense, and it showed. Will Stein took over at quarterback, Victor Anderson and Jeremy Wright took over for Bilal Powell, and with a lingering injury to center Mario Benavides, the offensive line featured five new starters. With so many new pieces, it's no surprise that there were a multitude of false start penalties, missed assignments, and mistakes that kept the offense from ever finding a rhythm. Stein threw two touchdown passes, one to Scott Radcliff and one to true freshman Devante Parker, and Victor Anderson ran one in from two yards out.
A team can overcome being out of sync against a clearly inferior opponent like Murray State. Louisville's opponent this week is in no way inferior. FIU returns 16 starters from last year's team and is led by an experienced quarterback (Wesley Carroll, a former Ole Miss signee). Carroll was an efficient 16 of 22 for 193 yards and a touchdown against North Texas last week. Carroll posted a 75 PIF rating for his week one performance. His primary target is TY Hilton, one of the nation's most dynamic players. Hilton scorched North Texas for 181 total yards and hauled in a 60 yard touchdown pass in the second quarter.
This game will be far more competitive than most Louisville fans would like it to be. In fact, there's a very real chance that FIU wins this game. The Panthers have a deep, talented defensive line that could be a problem for an offensive line playing without Mario Benavides for a second straight week. The Cardinals struggled to run the ball efficiently against Murray State and if they play like they did last week, won't have success against FIU either. The Panthers held North Texas to 97 yards rushing on 38 attempts last week.
Louisville should have some of issues that plagued the offense worked out in time for this week and while the game will be close throughout, the Cardinals should hold on for a close win at home. The Cardinals will welcome back Brandon Dunn to the defensive line and will also welcome the first game action of former Florida cornerback Adrian Bushell. With first game jitters out of the way I expect Louisville to run the ball a little bit better but to attack FIU through the air for a close win.
Prediction: Louisville 28 FIU 20