Rested No. 7 Louisville hosts Duke coming off bye week
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) Bobby Petrino isn't concerned about his No. 7 Louisville Cardinals being rusty after getting some rest.
If anything, the Cardinals coach said the bye-week practices have been as intense as previous workouts that helped them surge from their preseason Top 25 ranking into the national title discussion. Louisville begins the second half of its season Friday night against Duke, looking to bounce back from their disappointing 42-36 loss at Clemson and return to the playoff picture.
Louisville (4-1, 2-1 Atlantic Coast Conference) hosts the Blue Devils (3-3, 0-2 ACC) in their first home game since drubbing then-No. 2 Florida State 63-20 nearly a month ago. That signature win vaulted the Cardinals to No. 3 and sparked talk of them running the table in the conference before they fell just short against the Tigers on Oct. 1.
Louisville needs a lot of help from other teams to unseat Clemson and possibly win the Atlantic Division, but the goal is winning out to stay in consideration for the four-team playoff. Judging from the Cardinals' practice habits, they're eager to start another run.
''We've got a lot of pride on this team,'' Petrino said. ''It's always hard when you lose a hard-fought contest, but we're working as hard as we can on bouncing back. They've shown a lot of resiliency, have come to practice and worked hard. ... That gives us a chance to get to where we know how to play and really excel here in the last part of the season.''
Though favored by 35 1/2 over the Blue Devils, the Cardinals are wary of Duke's penchant for meeting big challenges this season.
Duke upset Notre Dame 38-35 on the road last month and beat improved Army 13-6 last week. While heavy rain from Hurricane Matthew no doubt factored into the Black Knights gaining just 165 yards rushing, the Blue Devils' defense did their part in holding Army more than 200 yards below its FBS-best 374-yard average per game to gut out a tough win.
However, Duke coach David Cutcliffe acknowledged that stopping Louisville and Heisman Trophy contender Lamar Jackson will be a whole different challenge. Especially with the Cardinals recharged after a week off.
''I haven't seen anybody with the weapons and the completeness this Louisville team has,'' Cutcliffe said. ''There's a reason they're playing as well as they are. So, that combination has been lethal for them. We've got our hands full.''
Here are other things to watch as No. 7 Louisville returns to action against Duke:
LAMAR STILL LEADS: Louisville's dual-threat sophomore quarterback continues to lead the nation in several offensive categories despite the week off. Jackson is No. 1 with 14 rushing touchdowns, 168 points responsible for and 16 points per game. He's also second in total offense with 462.6 yards per contest.
MILESTONE NEAR: Duke rushing leader Jela Duncan is probable despite leaving against Army with a leg injury after gaining 40 yards on 10 carries. His 354 yards rank 10th in the ACC and he's 54 shy of becoming the program's sixth player to reach 2,000 career yards.
BALL HAWK: Louisville cornerback/return man Jaire Alexander has been a force on defense and special teams. He leads the Cardinals with three interceptions after picking off two at Clemson along with forcing a fumble. The sophomore also leads the ACC in punt return average (15.5 yards) and returned one 69 yards for a TD against FSU.
SHORT-WEEK PROBLEMS: Duke coach David Cutcliffe says the quick turnaround means the Blue Devils have yet to review film of last week's Army game. They'll do that during next week's bye, and it helps that the following opponent - Georgia Tech - also runs a version of the triple option used by the Black Knights.
500 CLUB: A Louisville victory would mark the program's 500th in 98 seasons of play against 450 losses and 17 ties.
AP Sports Writer Joedy McCreary in Durham, North Carolina, contributed to this report.
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