LOUISVILLE — Charlie Strong remembers the chain of events that led to his first national championship while defensive coordinator at Florida. Now the Louisville coach is sharing that history with his Cardinals, who are unexpectedly chasing Big East hardware.
Strong recalled this week how Florida was No. 6 in the BCS standings in 2006 with just a few weeks left in the season. Losses by Rutgers, Michigan, Notre Dame and USC allowed the Gators to leap-frog into the title game where they routed undefeated Ohio State 41-14.
Louisville (5-4, 3-1) is in second place in the Big East following last week's 38-35 win at then No. 24 West Virginia. The Cardinals host Pittsburgh (4-5, 2-2) on Saturday and Strong's message to his team is simple: Take care of business and anything can happen with three games left to play.
"Just make sure that we don't stub our own toe looking ahead to somewhere else," Strong said.
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WKU not afraid of LSU
BATON ROUGE, La. — As far as Western Kentucky Coach Willie Taggart is concerned, No. 1 LSU is so loaded with pro prospects that one might as well call the Tigers "a minor league NFL team."
That doesn't mean Taggart expects the Hilltoppers to be intimidated when they enter Death Valley on Saturday night.
"It is a big opportunity for us," Taggart said this week. "It is a great opportunity for our program and for our guys to go up and see how far we are from being the No. 1 team in the country."
WKU (5-4) has won five straight and is contending for a Sun Belt Conference title, but oddsmakers still seem to think the gap between the Hilltoppers and LSU (9-0) remains pretty wide. The Tigers have been listed as nearly six-touchdown favorites against their homecoming opponent.
"Of course, no one is going to believe we can win," WKU tight end Jack Doyle said. "They can say what they want. When it comes down to it, I am 21 years old, and they are 21. We both grew up the same way, why not play football together?"
LSU is coming off its biggest victory of the season, having edged then-No.2 Alabama 9-6 in overtime in front of a hostile crowd in Tuscaloosa.
Expect a busy scoreboard
Leave the defenses down in Dixie.
In the Pac-12's marquee matchup Saturday, No. 3 Stanford and No. 6 Oregon feature a pair of the nation's highest-scoring and most innovative offenses, showcasing schemes and stars that take remarkably different paths to success.
Power vs. Speed.
Luck vs. LaMichael.
Two contrasting styles that promise points — unlike top-ranked LSU's 9-6 overtime victory over previously No. 2 Alabama last week — when the Cardinal (9-0, 7-0) host the Ducks (8-1, 6-0).
First team to score 50 wins?
"It's all about putting points up on the board. Our offense tries to do that and their offense does, too. It doesn't matter how you get to that point," Stanford quarterback and Heisman Trophy hopeful Andrew Luck said. "So long as you score."
Oregon's spread-option, no-huddle offense headlined by running back LaMichael James relies on speed and misdirection. And while Luck anchors a prolific passing game, the Cardinal count on a powerful pro-style offense, bunching up formations that often include three tight ends or seven offensive linemen.
"It's not just Andrew Luck," Oregon Coach Chip Kelly said.
The Ducks and Cardinal lead the Pac-12 and also rank among the Top 10 in the nation in almost every major offensive category. The staggering statistics are the kind usually reserved for video games. Stanford averages 48 points and Oregon 46 points.
Beware of the fake punt
BOISE, Idaho — Nothing seems to jolt the Boise State football team out of an offensive funk like a fake punt.
The Broncos used fakes in the second half against Colorado State and UNLV to spark blowout victories this season, and famously scored their only offensive touchdown in the 2010 Fiesta Bowl against TCU with help from another fake.
The No. 5 Broncos will meet the Horned Frogs for the first time since that Fiesta Bowl matchup Saturday.
"The last couple times we've done (fake punts), it's been a big momentum shift," senior wide receiver Tyler Shoemaker said. "That's always helped us.