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Houston Cougars vs. Louisville Cardinals Preview and Prediction

Bobby Petrino

Bobby Petrino

The Louisville Cardinals (0-1) went to Atlanta and sent a very clear message to the rest of the college football world. We are coming for you.

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Louisville, in a mistake filled game, pushed Auburn to its very limits and almost pulled off what would have been one of the biggest upsets of the opening weekend. After a horrendous first half filled with miscue after miscue, true freshman quarterback Lamar Jackson led the young Cardinals in the second half, outscoring the Auburn Tigers 24-14 and almost pulling off the improbable comeback.

This week the Cardinals will head home to host the Houston Cougars (1-0) who are coming off a great opening win against Tennessee Tech at home. The Cougars dominated their opening game behind a more than solid performance from starting quarterback Greg Ward Jr., who rushed for two touchdowns and threw for one in the win. 

This game promises to be a high-powered offensive showcase where both teams' potent attacks will be on full display. Louisville will try to slow Houston down and make the Cougars run the football. Georgia transfer Josh Harvey-Clemons looks to lead the Louisville defense and build on his two interceptions against Auburn.

Houston at Louisville

Kickoff: 11 a.m. ET (Saturday)

TV Channel: ESPN3

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Spread: Louisville -12.5

Three Things to Watch

1. Lamar Jackson

Remember this name, because he is probably going to be the starting quarterback for Louisville for the remainder of the season. The true freshman did make the expected mistakes in his debut, going 9-of-20 for 100 yards and gaining 106 yards rushing on 16 attempts. However, he showed many signs of brilliance and versatility, and kept the Auburn defense at bay all second half — almost leading the young Cardinals to victory. He is a young player with tons of talent and seemingly no fear. He will get better each week with each start, and that may begin with Houston.

2.The Cougars Can Score

Houston has traditionally been an offensive powerhouse, but in recent years the Cougars seemed to have lost their offensive way. New head coach Tom Herman, who had been the offensive coordinator for national champion Ohio State, has come in and in Week 1 helped to restore the high-flying offense that Cougar fans have grown to love. Quarterback Greg Ward Jr. went 21-28 for 275 yards and rushed for 107 yards and two touchdowns in just three quarters. He will look to build on that Saturday.

3.Louisville's Defense is Good

Louisville's defense did an excellent job containing Auburn quarterback Jeremy Johnson, limiting him to 137 yards passing and picking him off three times. The Tigers' 327 yards of offense was one of the lowest totals in the Gus Malzahn era. If the defense can put together another performance similar to this or better, then Louisville should be pretty good this weekend.

Final Analysis

This will not be a walk in the park for Louisville, but more like a walk in the woods. There is enough firepower on the offensive side of the ball for Houston that this young Cardinals team could be tripped up again if they do not correct the little offensive mistakes that crippled them against Auburn. However, I see no reason that the Cardinals can't correct those mistakes. Jackson looks like the real deal at quarterback and could potentially be the ACC's next breakout star. The Cougars are good, but I don't think they have the firepower nor the offensive talent to keep up with the Cardinals. Expect a breakout performance from Jackson in front of the home crowd, now that he has been given the starting nod.

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Prediction: Louisville 31, Houston 17

— Written by Lloyd H. Spence, Jr., who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Spence also has written for the Dallas Morning News, Yahoo!'s, and ESPN Louisville. He can be heard on the radio of "Talkin NOIZ" and "The Football Show of Collin County." Follow him on Twitter @TalkinNOIZ.