Louisville-FIU Preview

BY foxsports • September 17, 2012

Louisville has enjoyed the comforts of home, getting off to its best start since 2006.

The No. 20 Cardinals now have a month to prove they're just as stout on the road.

Louisville travels Saturday to Florida International and Southern Mississippi the next week before a bye separates a two-game stretch beginning with its Big East Conference opener at Pittsburgh on Oct. 13.

That means five weeks between home dates, making Louisville (3-0) one of two current ranked teams to play three consecutive games away from home, according to STATS LLC.

Fifth-ranked Georgia is the other, playing Oct. 6 at South Carolina, Oct. 20 at Kentucky and against Florida on Oct. 27 in Jacksonville. The Bulldogs have a bye on Oct. 13.

"It's going to be a great challenge for us," Louisville coach Charlie Strong said. "We're just going to see how strong a football team we are and how well we can play away from home."

Louisville actually has played better on the road than at home during Strong's first two seasons, winning seven of 11 road games and splitting bowl games at neutral sites. Strong's lone win against a ranked opponent was a 38-35 victory at West Virginia last season.

This week's visit to Miami provides a chance for revenge against the Golden Panthers (1-2) and a homecoming for a large chunk of the Cardinals' roster. Louisville has 33 players from Florida, with more than 20 from Miami and south Florida.

Miami's Northwestern High School is well represented with five Cardinals, including sophomore quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, and seven players from FIU.

"I have some time blocked out for them to see their families," Strong said, noting that it will be nice to have the extra fan support while away.

"But this is a business trip."

FIU topped Louisville 24-17 last year in Papa John's Cardinal Stadium, giving the Golden Panthers their first win against a Big East opponent in six tries.

"They return eight starters on offense. Their quarterback (Jake) Medlock is playing really well right now," Strong said. "He has not thrown an interception. They have a really good running game in (Darian) Mallary and (Kedrick) Rhodes."

Louisville has started sharp in its three home wins but slowed in each second half. Last Saturday the Cardinals nearly let a 36-7 halftime advantage evaporate as North Carolina outscored them 20-3 in the fourth quarter. The Tar Heels would have taken the lead in the game's final two minutes if not for a pass breakup in the end zone by Louisville's Andrew Johnson, sealing the 39-34 win.

Strong said last week's scare provided a teaching moment, humbling his team a bit while still picking up the win entering its first road test.

"You know what's amazing and what was really good about that game is that when the players came in the locker room, it was that feeling that they had lost the game," he said.

"That's what you want them to feel like because a year ago you lost the game and they didn't feel as bad as they felt on Saturday."

FIU is looking to get off to a better start after falling behind 23-0 at halftime last Saturday en route to a 33-20 loss at Central Florida.

The Golden Panthers had only two first downs and 26 yards of total offense in the first half before rolling up 280 yards in the final two quarters.

"We really liked the way we came out in the second half," coach Mario Cristobal said. "We did good things, moved the ball right down the field and scored right away. It was a big first half hole we dug ourselves in."