Louisville-Pittsburgh Preview

The Associated Press

Louisville is off to its best start in six years, but its run of futility against Big East rival Pittsburgh still weighs heavily on its players.

The 18th-ranked Cardinals look to remain unbeaten and snap a four-game skid against the host Panthers in their conference opener Saturday.

Louisville (5-0) won its first eight games on its way to a Big East title and Orange Bowl victory in 2006, marking the last time it started as well as this season's squad.

The Cardinals are coming off a bye week after a 21-17 victory at Southern Mississippi on Sept. 29, most of which was played during a torrential downpour.

Teddy Bridgewater attempted only 13 passes due to the weather conditions, but Senorise Perry ran 22 times for 118 yards and two touchdowns, including the eventual winning 14-yard score with 5:35 remaining.

''For us to come in and survive the conditions we played under just speaks volumes about our team,'' coach Charlie Strong said.

Strong now is preparing his team for a run in the Big East, which features two other ranked and undefeated squads. Louisville, though, hasn't won a conference opener since 2006.

"We know as we approach this season - this new season as we are going to call it - is so critical that we don't lose our focus and we maintain our preparation week in and week out," Strong told the team's official website.

"You look at (No. 20) Rutgers, which is 2-0 right now in the conference. (No. 21) Cincinnati is 1-0 in the conference. But you have three teams that are undefeated. So, as we prepare to go down that road, we have to know this, we have to be prepared and get ready to go play."

The Cardinals, though, haven't beaten Pittsburgh since a 24-17 victory Oct. 27, 2007. They fell 21-14 last season, and lost the previous three meetings by a combined 76 points.

"Not only last year, but for the last (four) years, we haven't beaten Pitt since (2007)," offensive guard Jake Smith said. "Traditionally, we're not very good against them, and that's one thing we have to be wary of. They do have a good football team, they're a good defensive team, and they're a very smash-mouthed offense. We're definitely aware of how we played last year, and we came out a little flat."

Bridgewater went 18 for 26 for 165 yards, one touchdown and one interception in last season's meeting. Despite the sophomore being limited last week, first-year Pittsburgh coach Paul Chryst said he's well aware of Bridgewater's talents.

"It sure seems like he has command of the offense," Chryst said. "I think a quarterback that is talented, looks like he plays with confidence and knows his players around him, that makes for a pretty good combination."

Pittsburgh (2-3, 0-2) has held its last two opponents without a touchdown pass while forcing two interceptions, though it fell 14-13 at Syracuse last Friday.

Ray Graham ran 24 times for 57 yards and a touchdown after averaging 97.0 yards rushing his previous three games.

The Panthers will look to upset another ranked team after stunning then-No. 13 Virginia Tech 35-17 on Sept. 15.

"There are lessons to be learned, I believe, in every game," Chryst said. "Certainly I didn't sense this with our group but I don't think anyone will be intimidated by the fact that a ranked team is coming in. I would hope that we'd continue to draw on all our past experiences and not just focus on (the win over) Virginia Tech."

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