LOUISVILLE — Louisville players have frequently talked about measuring up Saturday against North Carolina, figuratively and literally.
The Tar Heels are big and long.
They are the biggest opponent the 19th-ranked Cardinals (2-0) have faced this season. The shortest player on the Tar Heels' offensive line stands 6-foot-4 and UNC also features a trio of 6-7 blockers upfront. North Carolina's receivers also have a distinct height advantage over Louisville's starting secondary.
Then there's North Carolina's defense. It's anchored by 6-3 tackle Sylvester Williams, who passed on entering last spring's NFL draft to return for his senior season.
Louisville's no slouch size-wise and showed at times during last year's loss in Chapel Hill that it could maneuver around the massive Tar Heels. Still, the Cardinals acknowledge the challenge looming ahead, and in many cases, over them.
"I don't think about it too much because we've just got a game plan," said Louisville junior defensive end Marcus Smith, who had three sacks at Carolina last year. "I'm just ready to go against these big guys.
"They're really big, (but) you can really run around these big guys. (We've) just got to get ready."
Defensively, Louisville's first two games have been a mix of encouragement and concern. It struggled in the opener against Kentucky's no-huddle set, allowing 373 yards and rarely getting pressure on Wildcats quarterback Maxwell Smith.
The Cardinals improved as expected last week against Missouri State, holding the Bears to 156 yards through three quarters in a 35-7 rout. But the defense also had moments of vulnerability against the spread offense and still hasn't generated the push that Cardinals coach Charlie Strong wants.
The upside is that both teams prepared Louisville for a fast-paced game that could help against a big North Carolina squad also playing a quick tempo under first-year coach Larry Fedora. The Tar Heels (1-1) ran 82 plays last week and are averaging 78 snaps through two games.
Gators-Vols relevant again
KNOXVILLE— When No. 23 Tennessee opens Southeastern Conference competition Saturday against No. 18 Florida, it will mark the first time since 2007 that both are ranked at the time of their annual confrontation.
"It's kind of an old-school feel," Florida linebacker Lerentee McCray said.
A rivalry that traditionally ranked among the nation's top September showdowns hasn't been nearly as relevant of late, nor has it been much of a rivalry. Despite both teams' recent struggles, Florida has a seven-game winning streak in this series.
Florida (2-0) came from behind to win 20-17 at Texas A&M last week. Tennessee (2-0) has gained over 500 yards in back-to-back games for the first time since 2000, giving the Vols reason to believe they can finally beat Florida.
Irish back to face Spartans
No. 20 Notre Dame (2-0) returns to Spartan Stadium to face 10th-ranked Michigan State on Saturday night. This is the earliest in the season the Spartans (2-0) have been in the AP top 10 since 1979.
The 2010 game between these teams was competitive but fairly uneventful until the stunning finish. The Spartans trailed by three before holder Aaron Bates threw a 29-yard touchdown pass on a trick play in overtime.