Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Virginia Tech Hokies take on Louisville Cardinals

The No. 3 West Virginia Mountaineers and the No. 5 Louisville Cardinals take center stage on Thursday night, with each team looking to keep their BCS title hopes alive.

Louisville and West Virginia are both 7-0 SU, including 2-0 in the Big East, and are two of six remaining unbeaten teams in Division I-A. Thursday's matchup will be the first between two top-five Big East teams since the rebuilt conference lost Miami, Virginia Tech and Boston College to the ACC.

Louisville and West Virginia were considered the top two teams in the conference at the beginning of the season, and Thursday's game has long been anticipated as one that would determine who would win the conference title and the league's automatic BCS berth. It's arguably the best Thursday night contest ever. Louisville backers are happy to note: The Cardinals are 5-2 ATS in their last 7 Thursday night games. West Virginia and Louisville, both coming off bye weeks, each have tough games ahead that could boost their BCS numbers, including matchups against Pittsburgh and No. 15 Rutgers. When coming off bye weeks, the Mountaineers are 8-1 ATS in their last 9. Last year, the Mountaineers trailed the Cardinals by 17 points in the fourth quarter before rallying to a 46-44 victory in three overtimes.

West Virginia RB Steve Slaton rushed for five TDs in that game, while Louisville's Michael Bush ran for four.

The Mountaineers have won a school-record 14 straight games, including a 37-11 victory over UConn on Oct. 20. The winning streak is the longest in the country behind Ohio State's 16 in a row. The Mountaineers are 9-2 ATS in their last 11 games following a SU win. As well, they are 8-1 ATS in their last 9 games after allowing less than 20 points in their previous game.

West Virginia leads all I-A teams with 319.0 rushing ypg and ranks fourth with 459.3 total ypg. Slaton is third nationally with 151.3 rushing ypg, and QB Pat White has run for 349 yards with five TDs in the last two games.

However, Louisville owns the second-best offense in the country with 496.1 ypg, and ranks seventh in the nation with 216.0 rushing despite losing Bush for the season to a broken leg in the season opener against Kentucky. The Cardinals also rank 10th in the country with 280.1 passing ypg. Defensively, the two are very solid. Both are among the top 25 teams in the country in total yards allowed, and surrender fewer than 90 rushing ypg to rank among the top 15.

The Cardinals are 7-0 SU for the first time since 1925 and have won 15 straight games at home, the second-best mark in the country behind USC's 30 straight home victories.

Louisville will be without receivers Chris Vaughn and Scott Long, who were suspended after being arrested on charges of second-degree assault for allegedly shooting a woman with a paintball gun on Oct. 22. Vaughn has four receptions for 54 yards this season, while Long does not have a catch.

West Virginia leads the all-time series SU 6-1. Louisville's only win was a 9-7 home victory in 1990.


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