Cardinals quarterback Teddy Bridgewater could be in for a huge day against a porous Panthers' secondary. (Getty Images)
Kickoff: Saturday, 7 p.m. ET (ESPN 3)
Spread: Louisville by 13.5
Watchability: The Cardinals look to exact a measure of revenge for a surprising 24-17 loss to Florida International last season. The matchup could be worth watching even if Louisville takes a large lead to the half. Consider: The Cardinals led 36-7 at halftime last week against North Carolina, but needed a last-minute fourth-down deflection to survive, 39-34. The Golden Panthers, meanwhile, trailed 23-0 at the half against Central Florida but rolled up 280 yards in the second half before falling 33-20.
Shining stars: Louisville: QB Teddy Bridgewater. The sophomore has completed a sparkling 81.8 percent of his attempts this season. Bridgewater will face a Golden Panthers' defense that has surrendered 39 points per game and more than 291 passing yards per contest. Bridgewater could have a field day. Florida International: WR Wayne Times. Bridgewater's former teammate at Northwestern High School ranks in the top 10 in Florida International school history in at least 10 different statistical categories. Look for FIU quarterback Jake Medlock to target Times often. The senior currently ranks sixth in school history in receptions with 118. Times could prepare for the matchup by watching film on North Carolina wideout Romar Morris. Last week, Morris toasted the Cardinals' secondary five times for 149 yards and two touchdowns.
Who could steal the show: Louisville: RB Senorise Perry. The Cardinals' junior running back has been slippery all season, demonstrating a nice combination of power and the ability to change directions. If the Cardinals have a large lead at halftime they could go to Perry in the second half to chew up the clock. Florida International: DE Tourek Williams. The Golden Panthers' senior recorded two sacks in last season's upset over the Cardinals. There's a reason why Williams earned a spot on the 2012 Senior Bowl watch list. Last week vs. UCF, Williams had a sack, nine tackles, four TFLs and a forced fumble. For his efforts Williams earned National Defensive Lineman of the Week honors from the College Football Performance Awards.
You going? Ranking the road trip: The game will be a homecoming of sorts for Louisville. The Cardinals have 33 players from the state of Florida, including 20 from the Miami area. Five Cardinals including Bridgewater attended Northwestern High. The Golden Panthers have seven former Northwestern players on their roster, including Times and wideouts Dominique Rhymes and Clinton Taylor.
Magic number for Louisville: Minus-4: The Cardinals have been outscored 34-30 by their opponents in the second half this season. In the first halves of three games, Louisville has scored 76 points combined while allowing only 21.
Magic number for Florida International: 5. The Golden Panthers will have to find a way to rattle Bridgewater. Last season, FIU recorded five sacks against Louisville in the victory. Bridgewater sat for the majority of the game behind Will Stein, who went 30 of 43 for 349 yards.
The game comes down to: The Golden Panthers' secondary. Bridgewater will put points on the board, the question is how many. If FIU struggled to stop Duke, Akron and UCF through the air, it figures to have even more problems against the Cardinals' vaunted passing attack.
Eye on College Football's take: This game provides an excellent opportunity for Louisville coach Charlie Strong's club to put together four dominating quarters before Big East play begins. The Cardinals have gone conservative on both sides of the ball after building big leads against Kentucky and North Carolina, with the Tar Heels outscoring Louisville in the second half 27-3. The average total yards for the offense drops by more than 50 percent from the first half to the second, and while most of this is due to dominating early in the ball game -- it is still concerning when anything but a Big East title will be a disappointment. The Panthers have taken a big step back from Mario Cristobal's teams of the last couple years, but they are still talented enough to make Louisville pay if they sleepwalk through another second half. -- Chip Patterson
Prediction: Louisville 45, Florida International 24.
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