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Breaking down Monday night's Canes opener at Louisville on paper

A look at Monday night's showdown between Miami and Louisville on paper.

> WHEN THE CANES RUN THE BALL: The Cardinals led the nation in rushing defense last season (80.69 yards) and held the Hurricanes to a season-low 14 rushing yards on 28 attempts in a 36-9 blowout in the Russell Athletic Bowl. Part of those abysmal numbers were attributed to four sacks on Canes quarterback Stephen Morris. Monday night's matchup will be a little different for a pair of reasons: Duke Johnson will get a crack at the Cardinals (he was injured for the bowl game) and Louisville is replacing seven starters on defense. UM returns three starters on its offensive line -- left tackle Ereck Flowers, left guard Jon Feliciano and center Shane McDermott. In addition to only having two returning starters in the front seven, Louisville has switched from a 4-3 defense to a 3-4. Homestead High graduate James Burgess Jr., whose father played for the Hurricanes, and Miami Norland grad Keith Brown, a former teammate of Johnson's state championship team in 2011, are the two returning starters at inside linebacker for Louisville. Former defensive ends Deiontrez Mount (6-5, 243) and Lorenzo Mauldin (6-4, 252) are starting at outside linebacker. If UM wins this battle they’ve got a chance to win the game. Edge: Even.

> WHEN MIAMI THROWS THE BALL: Brad Kaaya will become only the second true freshman quarterback in the last 35 years to start for the Hurricanes in a season opener. The good news for Miami: he's got a strong cast of receivers loaded with experience including the speedy Phillip Dorsett, who didn't play in last year's bowl game. Louisville has to replace two starters at safety including Jets first round pick Calvin Pryor. But there is speed and plenty of talent from South Florida around including former Miami Central standout Charles Gaines (22 tackles, 5 INTs in 2013), senior Andew Johnson (Miami Southridge), junior Gerod Holliman (Southridge) and freshman Trumaine Washington (Killian). In the bowl game, Louisville held UM to a season-low 160 yards passing. I expect a better game for the Canes throwing the ball because of Johnson's presence in the backfield alone. But this is still a tough spot for Kaaya. Edge: Even.

> WHEN LOUISVILLE RUNS THE BALL: The Cardinals bring back four starters on the offensive line: 6-4, 304-pound right guard Jake Smith (38 career starts), 6-2, 312-pound left guard John Miller (34 starts), 6-6, 326-pound left tackle Jamon Brown (27 starts) and 6-5, 305-pound right tackle Ryan Mack (12 starts). With Teddy Bridgewater scorching the Canes for 447 yards and three scores in the bowl game, bruising tailback Dominique Brown (6-2, 241) didn't have much of the workload on his shoulders. He was still limited to 42 yards on 16 carries as the Hurricanes held Louisville to only 107 yards on the ground, one of their better performances of the 2013 season. Leading tackler Denzel Perryman has moved to  middle linebacker for the Hurricanes, who will rely upon him plenty to anchor a run defense which hasn't been very good for awhile. If new Louisville running back Michael Dyer (5-9, 212) is healthy enough to play he probably tips the scale the Cardinals way. Edge: Even.

> WHEN LOUISVILLE THROWS THE BALL: New sophomore starting quarterback Will Gardner threw for 542 yards and four touchdowns in Louisville's spring game and with offensive guru Bobby Petrino now in charge the feeling is the Cardinals won't skip a beat without Bridgewater. As ESPN analyst Lee Corso says -- not so fast my friend. Leading receiver DeVante Parker, who scorched Miami for nine catches, 142 yards and a touchdown, will miss the first six to eight weeks of the season with a broken bone in his left foot. That puts the onus on senior Eli Rogers (Miami Northwestern graduate) and tight end Gerald Christian to step up against the Hurricanes, who finished 59th in opposing quarterback rating last season. Except for injured safety Rayshawn Jenkins, UM returns its entire starting secondary and is hungry to make up for last year's bowl embarrassment. Edge: Even.

> SPECIAL TEAMS: Both teams have plenty of explosiveness in the return game. Cardinals punter Ryan Johnson, a three-year starter, averaged 41.2 yards a punt and had 11 land inside the 20 in 2013. Kicker John Wallace connected on 20-of-24 field goal attempts and was a perfect 9-for-9 from 30-39 yards. He is a perfect 16-of-16 for his career from that distance. UM's new punter is sophomore walk-on transfer Justin Vogel, who has yet to punt in a college game. Kicker Matt Goudis is back after going 13-of-17 on field goals in 2013, but he's not 100 percent healthy. Edge: Louisville.

> COACHING: Whether he's been at Louisville, Arkansas or Western Kentucky, Petrino's offenses have always been among the nation's best. He's 83-30 in nine seasons as a college head coach and inherits a program for the first time in his career that is already good. Defensive coordinator Todd Grantham spent his last four years at Georgia where the Bulldogs averaged 33 sacks a season over the last three years and ranked in the Top 36 in scoring defense every season but last. Canes coach Al Golden (58-53 in nine seasons) brings back all but one coach from last season and finally has the NCAA cloud in the rear view mirror for the first time in his tenure in Coral Gables. In the end, Petrino's track record is better than Golden's and defensive coordinator Mark D'Onofrio. Edge: Louisville.

PREDICTION: Louisville 34, UM 27

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