LOUISVILLE CARDINALS (2-0, 1-0) AT VIRGINIA CAVALIERS (1-1, 0-0)
Game Time: 12:30 p.m.
Location: Scott Stadium: Charlottesville, Va.
Television: ACC Network/WAVE-3
Announcers: Tim Brant (play-by-play), David Archer (analyst) and Rachel Baribeau (sideline)
Favorite: Louisville by 6.5
All-Time Series: Tied 1-1
Last Meeting: Virginia won 16-15 in Charlottesville in 1989
Virginia will continue to go with a two quarterback system after Greyson Lambert andMatt Johns have both had one good game and one not so good game. Both are big kids with plenty of arm strength to get the ball down the field. Lambert won the starting job in the offseason but was benched in the first half of the UCLA game after the offense gave up three defensive touchdowns. Johns came in and immediately looked like a much better weapon for the offense. He connected on multiple deep balls to his taller receivers down the field. However, last week against Richmond Lambert was nearly perfect and moved the offense fairly well. John's threw a really bad interception on a deep ball.
Whichever quarterback is taking snaps should get used to seeing constant pressure from Louisville's defense. Todd Grantham has crowded the line of scrimmage in both games this season and challenged teams to block well enough to get the ball down the field. While Murray State had a few big plays last weekend, the defense has been stifling for the most part.
Kevin Parks is one of the better all around running backs in the country. Parks ran for over 1,000 yards last year while also nearly leading the Hoos in receiving. He's a small back that relies on his quickness to get around the edge but he can also get tough yards up the middle. Yards have been much harder to come by on the ground this year with Parks only averaging 3.6 yards per carry. Louisville held Duke Johnson in check in the first game of the season and it will need to do the same against Parks. He can take a lot of pressure off of the quarterbacks if Louisville has to bring another defender in the box. I suspect that Virginia will use screens heavily in this game with Louisville being so aggressive so far.
The Cavs aren't overly athletic at the wide receiver position but Darius Jennings is definitely capable of taking a short pass and taking it the distance. He has great feet and can make guys miss in open space. Louisville's tackling has been excellent and it will need to be when he has the ball. Virginia also has a lot of size outside. Jennings is the only receiver on the depth chart under 6-1 with everyone else also being 210 pounds or heavier. Louisville doesn't have a large secondary and John's has shown that he likes to throw the ball up and let his receivers make plays. That could be a factor in the game.
Virginia's offensive line has been outstanding so far this year. The line is comprised of five guys that are practically the same size and stature. All tall, long guys that don't carry a ton of weight. Virginia runs a spread attack that likes to push the pace at times. The skill of the line allows them to be pretty balanced on offense. The line has only given up one sack in two games while also allowing only 5 tackles for loss. For context: Louisville's line that has been playing pretty well has given up 14 tackles for loss and five sacks. The line's ability to handle Louisville's relentless pressure will be the biggest factor in this game in my opinion. Louisville has been collapsing the line of scrimmage in the run game and if Virginia can't get something going there, there defense will tire just like Miami's did in game one.
KEY PLAYERS: RB Kevin Parks, WR Darius Jennings, QB Greyson Lambert
Virginia's defense has really played well so far this season. They list their defense as a 4-3 on their depth chart, but I have yet to see them play it other than on short yardage plays. They typically are in a 3-3-5 nickel package that for the most part only has two down linemen. They have started both games this way and I don't see that changing Saturday. Eli Harold has been the star of the defensive line so far with 3 TFLs, a sack, a forced fumble and fumble recovery for a touchdown. He is a stand up defensive end that has done pretty well at holding his ground at the point of attack even though he is a little undersized. He has really caused some havoc with his ability to get off the ball at the snap. He will be matched up with Jamon Brown for the most part but could cause some issues for Ryan Mack if the line flips on some passing plays.
Henry Coley, Max Valles, and Daquan Romero have been all over the place as linebackers. Each has at least one sack and multiple tackles for loss with Max Valles also doing a great job opposite Harold as a rush linebacker at times. Coley has done so well with crashing the line against the run and supporting the two down linemen in the scheme. Jon Tenuta's defensive philosophy is based on pressure and his team has brought it so far this year with the linebackers leading the way. At times the pressure has left the middle of the defense susceptible to crossing routes and option routes. Two things that Louisville's offense has used very well.
Virginia's secondary is led by All-American Anthony Harris. Harris led the nation in interceptions last year while also making 80 tackles. He is joined this year by Quin Blanding who was a consensus 5-star prospect in last year's class and has had a strong start to the season. Both are asked to do a little of everything. They play the run, cover out of the back field as well as being deep zone safeties. One has to wonder how much more aggressive this defense can be with two stud safeties to erase mistakes. Very reminiscent of Louisville's defense last year. The cornerbacks are a fairly deep group without any real standouts. They all have great size but have been beaten in coverage quite a bit. How they handle Michaelee Harris and Eli Rogers in the slot will be something to keep an eye on.
KEY PLAYERS: DE Eli Harold, MLB Henry Coley, SS Anthony Harris, FS Quin Blanding, DT David Dean
Excitement Level: 8.8
I've said it a few times this week, but I'm pretty jacked up about this one. First ACC road game against a team with a lot of talent, but still a squad that you'd still expect Louisville to take care of -- this is one of those situations where you find out a lot about your guys. This is also the first morning where it really feels like we're in the midst of our first big five conference season. Starting that conference season 2-0 would be cool.
Pregame Meal: Not 100 percent sure yet. Leaning towards snagging a buffalo chicken quesadilla via Drake's carry-out. More updates to follow.
Game Attire: White long-sleeved Louisville basketball shirt, khaki shorts, red Cardinal bird shoes, red and white Cardinal bird hat
It's a comfortable shirt.
Bold Prediction: Louisville has at least one pass play that goes for 60 or more yards
Incredibly bold considering the way the first two games have gone.
Okay, so I fully intended on making a defensive player (probably James Burgess) my PSOTG, but then Thursday night I had a dream. In this dream, James Quick had just finished hauling in his second deep touchdown pass of the game, and I was furious that I hadn't tabbed him as my pick to click (these are the most important thoughts buried in my subconscious, apparently). So here he is. If Quick finally does go off, feel free to be just as freaked out as you were when my "first career touchdown" prediction came true after the fumbled punt return against UCF last year.
Griffin Uhl Playing Alert Level: Rose Dust (don't think he makes it two in a row, but who knows, the road is weird)
Motivational Opposing Player Tweet:
On to my team tho #BeatLouisville we can do it!— CP#⃣3⃣1⃣ (@_ChrisPeace) September 13, 2014
Pretty weak yet again, so we'll toss this in from the father of starting cornerback Maurice Canady:
Been doing my research on U of L our new rivals in place of UMD. Good REPLACEMENT.... They are just as obnoxious as UMD. #BeatLouisville— Maurice Canady Sr. (@Mo_Can) September 12, 2014
@TheUVAFool Agreed.— UVA Football (@HoosFootball) September 12, 2014
Virginia over Louisville is Phil Steele's upset special this week.— Keith Wynne (@Keith_Wynne) September 13, 2014
--A Louisville victory would give the Cardinals 3-0 starts in back-to-back-to-back seasons for the first time in program history.
--Virginia is 0-6 when facing a new ACC member for the first time in conference play, dating back to when Georgia Tech joined the ACC in 1979.
--A Louisville win would give the Cardinals nine consecutive victories away from home, the longest such streak in program history.
--UVA will be suiting up in their all-navy home uniforms. Louisville will counter with its all-white road unis.
--Louisville's current streak of eight consecutive wins is the second-longest in the country behind only Florida State (18). The Cards and Seminoles will meet at Papa John's Cardinal Stadium on Oct. 30.
--Saturday will be Military Appreciation Day at Scott Stadium.
--Mike London is the second straight coach the Cards will face that has won an FCS National Championship.
--Virginia is 22-38 all-time in ACC openers, and has lost their last four.
--Saturday is a meeting of two of the ACC's top three defenses against the rush. Louisville is No. 1 at 55.5 rushing yards per game, while UVa is No. 3 allowing 87.5 yards per game.
--Since joining Conference USA in 1996, Louisville is 10-8 in conference road-openers. Bobby Petrino was 2-2 in his first conference road games at U of L between 2003-06.
--Virginia's Henry Coley leads the ACC with 22 tackles.
--The Virginia defense ranks second in the nation in turnovers (9), third in tackles for loss, and seventh in sacks.
--Under Bobby Petrino, Louisville is 15-1 in the month of September.
--Legend has it that Washington & Lee baseball fans dubbed the Virginia players "Wahoos" during the fiercely contested rivalry that existed between the two in-state schools in the 1890s. By 1940, "Wahoos" was in general use around Grounds to denote University students or events relating to them. The abbreviated "Hoos" sprang up later in student newspapers and has gained growing popularity in recent years.
--Virginia has lost 10 straight ACC games and 11 straight games to FBS opponents.
--UVA returned four kicks for 200 yards against Richmond, breaking the program record for average per return for a game at 50 yards per return.
--Bobby Petrino is 39-5 at Louisville against unranked foes, and owns an 18-game winning streak against such teams.
--Louisville is 25-3 since the start of the 2012 season, the second-best mark in the FBS over that span.
--Dating back to 1980, Louisville is 145-15 when scoring 30 or more points in a game.
--"We have a good challenge on the road against a team that I think's playing real well and looks very, very well-coached." --Bobby Petrino
--"I've had a chance to meet Coach Petrino over the last couple of head coaches meetings. I've known him over the years and his coaching accolades and things that he brings to his team. Their team is playing very well. This will be a great challenge for us. We're excited about the challenge as these guys come into Charlottesville." --Virginia coach Mike London
--"Just being from Maryland, when we did play them it was always special for me, whether I was going back home or seeing guys I grew up with. That was always nice. Now, we have another great opponent. They're coming into the ACC, and it will be my first time playing them. I don't know if you can call it a rivalry now, but down the road in the future I can see it becoming one." --Virginia receiver Darius Jennings
--"I think the thing that will be unique is that when we do start playing them year-in and year-out, we'll really get to know all of their players. We'll know who their recruits are. Right now, everything is so new to us. We're just learning all about them. But I think it will be fun. We're going to recruit that area. We run across them throughout the country in recruiting. I think it will be a fun rival game, if that's what you call it, because you play them every year from the other side of the division." --Bobby Petrino
--"It's just another opponent that we have to face. It's another opponent trying to get in the way of our success. I wouldn't call it a rivalry, just another game. And the most important game is the next game, so it's another team we have to play. I wouldn't call it a rival." --Virginia DE Eli Harold
--"They've got two physical tailbacks that are on the ball. So our work will be cut out for us because we'll see what that plan is as Saturday starts to unfold. But, again, I go back to our guys knowing the run fits and the gaps that's helped us much more than in the past. We're going to have to have those types of efforts again this week." --Virginia coach Mike London
--"Coach Tenuta always tells us the key to our success is turnovers." --Virginia safety Quin Blanding
--"We just changed our mindset. After the last game (in 2013), we just decided we're going to come together as a group and we're not going to let anything break us. I think it has helped us grow and mature as men, and as a team as well." --Virginia WR Darius Jennings
--"They have two pretty good pass rushers on the edge and the defensive ends, they have some pretty stout guys on the inside. It really comes down to us doing our job as an offensive line, making sure that we protect the passer when it's time to protect the passer and making sure we open holes when it's time to run the ball." --Jamon Brown
--"You know, I think this was one of the exciting things when we joined the ACC ... to look at our road games and see the different venues that we're going to go to and all of the newness, not only for our staff and our players but for our fans." --Bobby Petrino
CC Prediction: Louisville 27, Virginia 17
Time to get a little bit better and find out a little bit more. And win.