Sports

American Athletic Conference opponent preview: Louisville

In the second part of a series, we take a look at new football opponents.

Temple is a founding member of The American Athletic Conference. Since the Owls are playing in a new conference with new opponents, The Temple News will be taking a look at the new rivals of the football team and providing some important facts that Temple fans should know about the new conference opponents. Next up: the University of Louisville Cardinals.

The University of Louisville is located on the banks of the Ohio River in north-central Kentucky, 105 miles outside of Cincinnati and about 700 miles away from Temple’s main campus. The Cardinals play their home games at the recently expanded Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium. A renovation after the 2009 season increased the complex’s capacity from 42,000 to 55,000 — furthering Louisville’s status as a college town on Saturdays.

The football program was founded in 1912 as an independent team with no conference affiliation, under the leadership of head coach Lester Larson. In 1963, Louisville transitioned into the Missouri Valley Conference. After returning to its independent status from 1975 to 1995, the university entered Conference USA for nine years. Most recently, Louisville was part of the Big East from 2005 until last season. The Cardinals enter The American this year with a lifetime record of 466-440-17, equating to a .514 winning percentage.

Temple has played Louisville six times in its history. The two universities first met in 1980 at the Fairgrounds, where Temple won 17-12. In their two most recent meetings, however, the Owls have been blown out. In 2006, Louisville shut out Temple 62-0 at Lincoln Financial Field, while last year the Cardinals won 45-17 at Papa John’s Stadium.

Louisville has a 34-29 record over the past five seasons. Its current head coach is Charlie Strong, who has a 25-14 record since his appointment in 2010. Strong previously held assistant and defensive coordinating positions with six different colleges, including Notre Dame and the University of Florida.

The Cardinals are coming off a breakout season in which the team earned a Bowl Championship Series berth, ranked No. 13 and dominating the Big East Conference. Louisville finished the season 11-2 and upset No. 4 Florida in the Sugar Bowl.

Entering his junior year, quarterback Teddy Bridgewater is expected to continue leading one of the best offenses in college football. Bridgewater started 11 of 12 regular season games for the Cardinals and finished seventh in the nation in completion percentage. He completed 267 of 387 passes for 3,452 yards in the regular season. Bridgewater ended the year with 25 touchdowns and just seven interceptions. He earned the title of Big East Offensive Player of the Year, and was the MVP in the Sugar Bowl as he passed for 266 yards.

Junior DeVante Parker is another athlete the Cardinals will rely upon this season. In 40 catches, the wide receiver racked up 744 yards last year, including 10 touchdowns. Senior running back Jeremy Wright is another important piece to the offense, as he enters his final season having doubled his yardage last year from 2011, with 824 yards and 10 touchdowns.

On the defensive side, senior Preston Brown is one of the biggest assets on the roster. Last year, Brown was moved from strongside linebacker to middle linebacker to fill the void left from the departing Dexter Heyman. In his first year in the position, Brown totaled 109 tackles as a junior which led the team. Brown also led the Cardinals with 13 tackles in the Sugar Bowl.

Louisville has a long list of notable alumni who have gone on to have major success playing professional football. Its most famous, perhaps, is Johnny Unitas—who remains the only Louisville player to have his number retired from the university. Unitas was one of the most popular and successful quarterbacks of his era, and spent most of his career playing for the Baltimore Colts. Another notable player is Chris Redman, who is currently the Cardinals’ all-time passer with 12,541 yards. Former longtime Philadelphia Eagles kicker David Akers also calls Louisville his alma mater.

Temple will face Louisville at Lincoln Financial Field on October 5 at a time that has not yet been specified.

Avery Maehrer can be reached at avery.maehrer@temple.edu or on Twitter @AveryMaehrer.

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