LOUISVILLE CARDINALS (5-2, 3-2) VS. North Carolina State Wolfpack (4-3, 0-3)
Game Time: 3:30 p.m.
Location: Papa John's Cardinal Stadium: Louisville, Ky.
Television: RSN/Fox Sports South/YES/ESPN3.com
Announcers: Wes Durham (play-by-play), James Bates (analyst) and Hans Heiserer (HANS HEISERER!) (sidelines)
Favorite: Louisville by 17.5
All-Time Series: Louisville leads 3-1
Last Meeting: NC State won 31-24 in the 2011 Belk Bowl
Schedule of Events:
About NC State:
The Wolfpack have benefited greatly from the transfer of Jacoby Brissett. Brissett got tired of sharing snaps with Jeff Driskel at Florida and decided to transfer. He has had some really great moments for the Pack so far this year but he is playing with a very limited supporting cast. He commands a wide open spread offense that often operates with five wide receivers. The issue is that a lot of those receivers are inexperienced. Brissett spends a lot of time surveying his options for an open target only to have to tuck the ball and run. Brissett is no statue, but he's not a running quarterback at all. I would compare him to Teddy in that respect. Brissett has been fairly accurate this year and has only thrown two interceptions. He has, however, been extremely careless with the ball and has somehow just not been punished for it. Last week he was being sacked and found it to be a good idea to pass the ball backwards to his running back while being spun around. Luckily his back bailed him out and somehow only lost a few yards. Some quarterbacks don't do a great job of "living to fight another day", Brissett is a very good example of one. Against a ball-hawking defense like Louisville he will need to tread lightly.
Matt Dayes, Shadrach Thornton, and Tony Creecy are all averaging six yards per carry or better this year and Louisville will probably see all three running backs this week. Thornton is the best back on the team but he is battling injuries and has been listed third on the depth chart this week. Realistically, it shouldn't matter much which back is in the game as much as it matters how they are utilized. NCST tends to get a little pass heavy at times and in general none of the backs ever really gets in a rhythm. I would have to imagine that the committee system is by design to keep all of the backs fresh for late in games, but I'm not sure it's working very well. Over the last three weeks NCST has only averaged 3.1 yards per carry and are barely getting 8 rushing first downs a game. With the offense so spread out it can be hard to get a solid running game going, but NCST has to find a way to get it's best position on offense more touches.
Wide Receiver is an area that really has been lacking this year for NCST. Bo Hines was a very nice prospect coming out of high school this past year, but he's not the type of talent that should be leading your team in receiving. The group as a whole just doesn't have a lot of speed and they've had issues getting separation from defenders. That makes it that much harder for Brissett to get the ball to them and when they get the ball it cuts down on yards after the catch. Doeren doesn't have a true deep threat on this team and every defense knows it. They've pressed receivers and dared the offense to go deep and when they have gone deep they haven't fared too well. The real issue that it causes is that it makes the quick screens the offense runs pretty ineffective. Boston College had zero respect for anything going past five yards last week. They just waited for the short pass and made the sure tackle. I would imagine that Louisville will have the same success.
The offensive line for NCST has been a bright spot for the offense. They have done a pretty good job of protecting Brissett with most of the sacks they've given up being due to coverage or Brissett holding the ball too long. They have also done a good job of run blocking if you take the entire season into account. They haven't done too great over the last two weeks, but they have also faced two very good run defenses. The line does a pretty good job getting out in front of screens and cutting down defenders on the quick passes the offense likes to run. Sometimes it's really about how good the line does in the system that they are assigned too and not really about how talented they really are. NCST seems to have that going for them. They do what they are assigned and they do it pretty well.
KEY PLAYERS: QB Jacoby Brissett, RB Shadrick Thornton, RB Matt Dayes, WR Bo Hines
The defense as a whole has a ton of issues and the defensive line is where they start. The line doesn't do a very good job of getting pressure on opposing passers which always causes problems for the defense as a whole. The line has combined for 10 sacks on the year while also being absolutely blown off the ball on run plays. Throw in the lack of speed at the defensive end positions and it's easy to see why Tyler Murphey and Deshaun Watson absolutely killed them on edge runs on designed QB runs the last two weeks. Even Jameis Winston had a 20 yard run against them. Thomas Teal is a very talented defensive tackle, but he's been facing double teams this year because of the lack of talent around him. The Louisville offensive line held their own pretty well against a really good Clemson defensive line. This could be an opportunity for another big step forward for the group.
The Wolfpack defense is led by a redshirt freshman middle linebacker, Jerod Fernandez. Unfortunately, Fernandez is one of the suspended players this week and true freshman Airius Moore will be taking his place. I haven't seen Moore play as he has only had 67 snaps this year, but I can't imagine that he has a complete grasp of the defense or the intensity that Fernandez does. He will get some help playing next to senior Rodman Noel, but being out there on the field in front of a hostile crowd could be too much for the freshman. Neal and the rest of the defense do one thing extremely well. They all can flat out run. They tend to have issues with what to do when they get to where they're running to, but they get there fast. Neal does a pretty good job of shooting gaps on stretch plays and playing sideline to sideline. That's something to keep an eye on with Louisville's off tackle and toss plays.
When you play such a large number of young guys mistakes tend to happen in bunches. A big factor with the defenses issues lately is how undisciplined they are. Guys tend to just run to the ball instead of minding their assignment. Coverages have been blown in the secondary because guys aren't communicating. The secondary has been put in a bad spot at times due to the lack of a pass rush and they have been absolutely burned the last few weeks. Watson and Winston completed deep passes with ease while also having their short options open all day. Pass coverage just hasn't gone well for the Wolfpack back line. If there's an area to be happy with it has to be the aggressive tackling from the safeties. Josh Jones has been suspended but Hakim Jones is a very good open field tackler and he likes to make his presence known. The aggression of the secondary has caused some issues this year with them overrunning plays and pursuing plays well outside their assignment. The throwback plays that Petrino called last week could be there again this week.
The Wolfpack defense is just a very undisciplined group. Guys over-pursue plays. They don't do a good job of staying with their defensive assignments. They're a stereotypical young team that makes a lot of young mistakes. This is the opportunity that Louisville has been waiting for to truly see what this team can look like when playing an over-matched team. They are not at all lacking team speed or a solid system but they haven't yet acquired the depth or experience to really be very good. The Cardinals need to take advantage of the situation and make some strides on offense.
KEY PLAYERS: DT Thomas Teal, WLB Rodman Noel, CB Jack Tocho, FS Hakim Jones
Excitement Level: 8.2
I'd be lying if I said that a mild hangover from everything that happened last week wasn't having an effect on this week's level number. It also hurts a little bit that this, as things stand now, appears to be the weakest opponent remaining on Louisville's schedule. Still, the weather looks solid, there's a chance we're going to see Lorenzo Mauldin named Homecoming King at halftime, and if there was ever a day the Louisville offense was going to move the ball effectively, it's this one.
Pregame Meal: Assorted dips, football rice krispie treats and other assorted tailgate items
Going to feel good to be home.
Game Attire: Red Louisville football shirt under black pullover, jeans, red Cardinal bird shoes, red U of L Titleist hat
Cooler weather offers up the opportunity to go back to the Syracuse look. I'm excited about it.
Bold Prediction: DeVante Parker catches a touchdown pass
There's a part of me that really wants to go 0-for-the-season, but that doesn't mean I'm going to just stop trying here.
Predicted Star of the Game: Will Garnder
Go big or go back to writing for blogspot.
Griffin Uhl Playing Alert Level: Almond (Probably the best it's going to be for the rest of the regular season, but still not good)
Motivational Opposing Player Tweets:
Not going to lie, I didn't have very much time to look this week. This is going to have to suffice...
Game tomorrow #BeatLouisville— Bra'Lon Cherry (@BCherry_13) October 18, 2014
I'm ready to run through a wall.
--Under the direction of Bobby Petrino, Louisville has won 21 consecutive home games.
--The Louisville defense has not allowed a touchdown in their last 17 quarters. The last time an opposing offense found the endzone against the Cards was in the third quarter of the game against Virginia on Sept. 13. This is the longest such streak in FBS play since 2005.
--Before last week, Louisville had not lost a game as an underdog since the 2011 Belk Bowl against NC State.
--All five members of the NC State offensive line have played every snap in each of the Wolfpack's last three games.
--Since 1985, Louisville is 39-2 at home when favored to win by at least 15 points. The last time the Cards lost such a game was in 2007, when Syracuse stunned U of L, 38-35.
--Louisville linebacker Lorenzo Mauldin is one of five finalists for U of L's Homecoming King. The winner will be announced at halftime of today's game.
--Seven NC State players have been suspended for today's game following an undisclosed incident involving a BB gun. The group includes defensive starters Jerod Fernandez and Josh Jones.
--Louisville is 5-6 all-time in games played on Oct. 18. A year ago, the Cards fell to UCF on this date. Oct. 18 is also the date of Bobby Petrino's only loss to Kentucky, which occurred when he was at Arkansas in 2008.
--Before last week's game against Boston College, NC State quarterback Jacoby Brisett had thrown 187 passes without an interception. He'll be facing a Cardinal secondary this afternoon that leads the nation in picks.
--Louisville's defense enters today ranking No. 1 in the country in total defense, No. 1 in rushing defense, No. 3 in scoring defense, No. 6 in turnovers produced, and No. 11 in passing defense.
--Louisville is 13-4 in the month of October with Bobby Petrino as the head coach.
--Louisville is 19-1 over the last three seasons when attempting at least 35 rushes in a game. The lone loss came last weekend at Clemson.
--Louisville has scored in 26 of its 26 trips to the red zone this season, good for the 27th-best percentage in the FBS.
--U of L safety Gerod Holliman leads the FBS with seven interceptions.
--The Louisville defense has kept opponents from crossing the 50-yard line into their own territory on 73.3 percent of the drives they've faced, easily the best rate in the country.
--Cardinal foes have started drives in U of L territory 16 times this season, and only twice have they been able to put the ball in the endzone (13 percent).
--Just seven teams in the country have played more freshmen this season than NC State.
--Louisville and NC State are the only two teams in the ACC that have yet to enjoy a bye week.
--NC State enters today's game averaging 6.7 yards per play on first down.
--Louisville is currently riding a consecutive game scoring streak that spans 180 games dating back to the 2000 season. The streak ranks as the third longest in the ACC behind Virginia Tech (251) and Georgia Tech (218).
--Dating back to 1980, Louisville is 146-15 when scoring 30 or more points in a game.
--"When we earn an ACC win, we'll have one. That's where it is," Doeren told Mark Thomas and Mike Maniscalco on 620 AM The Buzz. "I'm like everybody, I want to win. It would be great to get one this week." --NC State head coach Dave Doeren
--"Honestly, I just want to win another game. We have a conference game at home. It's really about wins and we want to make sure that we can do our part and play to our potential and help our team win. That's been our focus, is executing the game plan to win the game." --Todd Grantham
--"We can definitely (get bowl eligible). We have the schedule, and we have the team to where we can put it together, win some games, go to a decent bowl." --NC State defensive lineman Mike Rose
--"The mood is just going out and improving. We just have to get better. Everybody has been enthusiastic and excited and ready to practice. That's one thing about this team is that everyone always wants to get better and that's what we're going to do every day for the rest of the season - get better." --Jake Smith
--"We've got to be able to stop the run. Their quarterback can make some plays with his feet and throw the ball down the field so, you know, it's really about us executing and getting better. We just have to understand the game plan and go do it." --Todd Grantham
--"Every goal we have is still out there. Nobody's panicking here; nobody's pressuring us. I just hate losing. That's it." --NC State head coach Dave Doeren
--"We really want to play well in front of our home crowd. I always try and stay positive about what we do moving forward and what we learned is that on a night that we didn't do too much we had an opportunity to win that game in a tough environment." --Garrick McGee
--"It's good to be home. One of our goals was to win all of our home games, and we have an opportunity to (continue) that this week." --Bobby Petrino
Card Chronicle Prediction: Louisville 34, NC State 17