As the Utes ready for the Cardinals, I had the opportunity to ask Mike over at Card Chronicle some questions about the upcoming game and their program. You can read my answers to his questions here.
Hopefully this will give you a feel of what to expect Saturday.
Block U: Steve Kragthorpe entered the season on the hot seat. Has anything changed two games into the season?
Card Chronicle: Not really. Louisville looked awful against probably the worst program in all of college football (Indiana State) and then Kragthorpe dropped to 0-3 against Kentucky, in the process producing the program's first three-game losing streak to its arch-rival since the series renewed in 1994.
He has to be competetive in the Big East and take this team to a bowl game to win back even a small portion of the fan base.
Block U: Do you feel better about the Cardinals' prospects after their comeback loss to rival Kentucky?
Card Chronicle: I do. Admittedly, I thought the game was going to get ugly but Louisville played as inspired a four quarters as they have in the Kragthorpe era and really should have come away with a victory against a team that appears a lot stronger than they do on paper. Quarterback Justin Burke looked light years ahead of where he was in the season-opener, and Victor Anderson showed again that he's worthy of the hype surrounding him.
The biggest issue now is how will this group bounce back from such a deflating loss. These guys have been through a lot over the last couple of seasons, and a win against an arch-rival that was supposed to beat them by two touchdowns would have been enormous. After the game a lot of the players were very emotional and it made you wonder how they were going to be able to regroup after coming up just short in a game they'd put so much emphasis on winning.
Block U: There has been a great deal of change on the offensive side of the ball since Utah and the Cardinals met last season. Can you go into a bit of detail about what has changed (and I'm not just talking players, but if the offense has changed its philosophy since 2007).
Card Chronicle: Well, pretty much everything besides the head coach has changed. The program has lost its hype, gone from Big East powerhouse to doormat, and about 85% of the talk amongst the fan base on any given day surrounds the topic of who the next Louisville coach should be.
Kragthorpe has had a new offensive and defensive coordinator in each of his three seasons. This year he brought in former Utah State head coach Brent Guy to lead the defense while promoting himself to offensive coordinator.
With Brian Brohm gone and Victor Anderson now roaming the backfield, the strength of this team lies in its rushing attack. Anderson was the Big East's Rookie of the Year in 2008, and is off to another great start in his sophomore campaign. U of L is still deep in its receiving corps, but the offensive line isn't nearly as strong as it was in 2007 or 2008. The defense is very much the same, and that's not good.
Block U: Who do you think is the biggest offensive threat this year?
Card Chronicle: It's Anderson. The kid's the real deal.
Block U: Two years ago, the Cardinal defense was abysmal and the Utes had no problem moving the ball on them. Has that changed?
Card Chronicle: The defense showed signs of improvement under Ron English last season, and really didn't play that poorly against Kentucky a week ago. The defensive line has some talent, but they produced zero pressure on UK quarterback Mike Hartline. The strength of the unit lies with its linebackers who are fast and experienced. The secondary outside of cornerback Johnny Patrick is a sore spot once again.
Block U: What type of game do you expect?
Card Chronicle: Honestly, I'm having a hard time putting my finger on it. If the Louisville players come into the game with the same mindset they had against Kentucky, I really think the Cards have a shot to spring the upset. If not, well, then I think a lot of people here are going to be happy that they don't have the CBS College Sports channel.
I can't really see either team taking a lot of big chances, so I don't to see anywhere near the offensive showcase we saw two years ago. Turnovers and time of possession will likely dictate the victor.
Block U: How many wins does Kragthorpe need to save his ass?
Card Chronicle: Six or seven, whichever gets U of L into a bowl. That probably saves his job, but it won't necessarily get him back in the good graces of the fan base. Block U: How do Cardinal fans perceive the Utah program?
Block U: How do Cardinal fans perceive the Utah program?
Card Chronicle: Well, I can't speak for everyone but I have a great deal of respect for what Utah has been able to accomplish over the last decade or so. Regardless of where you're playing or who you're playing, two unbeaten seasons in such a short period of time is a remarkable accomplishment. When I hear "Utah Utes," I no longer think Rick Majerus and Keith Van Horn, I think football, which is a testament to just how amazing it is what Meyer and Whittingham have done there.
Block U: Is Bobby Petrino a bad word in Louisville?
Card Chronicle: Not at all. The complete and sudden collapse of the program following his departure was the best thing that could have happened for his Louisville legacy.
Block U: Predict the final score.
Card Chronicle: I really think Louisville can keep it close, but I just can't see them coming home with a W.
Utah 27, Louisville 21