Josh Harvey-Clemons In Man Coverage Vs. Christian Kirk and Ricky Seals-Jones
Just like last season I've had the tendency to sound like a broken record in these posts. Last year the issue with the defense was edge runs. Pretty much everyone after the N State game figured out that Lorenzo Mauldin wasn't accustomed to playing against the run in space. they also figured out that Gerod Holliman had no interest in tackling anyone one-on-one. So, going into the bowl game it was a huge concern that Nick Chubb would run wild. Well, Nick Chubb ran wild as the defense continued to not adjust to compensate for their weakness. This year has been no different.
Josh Harvey-Clemons has been a liability in pass coverage for the vast majority of the season and week after week he continues to be matched up against guys that he just can't cover. In the interest of brevity: JHC is too big to run with small receivers who are in the slot to create mismatches against bigger players. UofL has faced a few players this year that are very good slot receivers. The combination of Ricky Seals-Jones and Christian Kirk is a completely different thing.
The Aggies have been forced to rely on the arm of an untested third string quarterback which means they will try to give him the easiest passes they can. Kirk and Seals-Jones have been targeted the most out of the wide receivers and I think that that continues in the bowl game. In my opinion, Kirk can not be covered by JHC (Or anyone, really) so UofL has to make an adjustment to put their players in the best position to succeed.
Garrick McGee Vs. John Chavis
The Louisville offense has struggled this year after being somewhat effective last year. The Aggie defense has one of the worst run defenses in the country but it has improved as a whole from last season. Both McGee are highly respected and highly paid coordinators so it's only natural to wonder how these guys will fare against each other.
Chavis will throw out an aggressive defense that uses stunts and blitzes to get to the quarterback. He inherited the best defensive end in the country in Myles Garrett and stumbled onto a very good player opposite him in Daeshon Hall. Because he has two ends that can get to the quarterback so well, Chavis has been able to play press coverage like he wants to while also keeping safeties over top. The defensive tackles for Chavis' system are extremely important and they haven't been very good against the run. LSU always had really good defensive linemen that did a great job of keeping blockers off of the linebackers. That's not been the case for TAMU this year and that has led to their awful run defense numbers. Chavis will likely try to contain Lamar Jackson with his normal scheme and adjust if it doesn't work. Donovan Wilson could be used as a spy if he adjusts.
The Louisville offense will have to run the ball well and I'm sure McGee will focus the game plan there. When you play a team that is terrible at one aspect of the game you have to exploit that weakness. Brandon Radcliff does a good job of hitting the hole quickly and breaking arm tackles. What Louisville will really need from him is his ability to hit the edge and turn the corner. The Aggies have been gashed on every type of run you can imagine but the edge runs have been especially problematic for them. In the passing game I think it would be best to be conservative. Texas A&M have veteran cornerbacks that play the ball in the air very well. They've been beaten on slant routes a good amount this year and Jackson has been very good throwing slants to Jamari Staples this year. Stick to what has worked in the passing game and take advantage of the poor run defense. I think that strategy works best for UofL.
Myles Garret and Daeshon Hall Vs. Geron Christian and Aaron Epps
The biggest mismatch in this game will likely be Myles Garret against anyone he lines up against. Garret came to College Station as the best defensive recruit in the country and he proved that he was worth the hype with 11.5 sacks on the season. He's followed that up with 12.5 sacks this year while being moved around the line on third downs. Garret is quick off the snap and he has a great ability to bend when coming off of the edge. Aaron Epps has struggled enough that he was benched for Kenny Thomas earlier in the year. Throw in the fact that Geron Christian had a rough game against Shaq Lawson and it doesn't bode well for the Louisville tackles.
Daeshon Hall had one monster game this year and it skewed his numbers a bit. However, when Hall is on his game he is the type of player that Louisville has had some trouble stopping. Hall is a speed rusher that can flat out blow by people. He doesn't have any power moves and relies on that first step and his athleticism to get around guys. Epps has the length to handle Hall's long frame but he hasn't been all that great at being able to move his feet to cut off the path of rushers. If Hall brings his "A" game, Lamar Jackson could be running for his life.
Keith Kelsey and James Burgess Vs. Tra Carson
To put it bluntly, Tra Carson should not be able to run for more than three yards per carry against Louisville. The Aggies are starting their third string quarterback and Carson only averaged 4.8 yards per carry in the regular season. That's not a bad number and he's not a bad running back but against the best defenses on their schedule, Carson was a non-factor. LSU, Ole Miss, Alabama, and Arkansas all held him in check and the Cards should be able to do the same.
This matchup is really important because Carson doesn't have the speed to consistently get around the edge. The offense likes to run between the tackles and that's where he's been successful this year. Keith Kelsey and James Burgess are the best two players on this defense and they have to be sure tacklers in the hole. hey can really impact the offensive game plan if they can shut down the interior running game for the Aggies. Even though Louisville has had some issues tackling guys on edge runs, I don't think it would be an issue with Carson. He's a big back but he's not a guy like Nick Chubb or Wayne Gallman that run through tacklers. He tends to try to shake guys in the open field or just put his head down to try to fall forward. Louisville has the speed to make sure he's being met by multiple guys on outside runs. That's why it's important that Burgess and Kelsey make the play when they run inside.