NO. 7 LOUISVILLE CARDINALS (4-1) vs. DUKE BLUE DEVILS (3-3)
Game Time: 7 p.m.
Location: Papa John's Cardinal Stadium: Louisville, Ky.
Announcers: Adam Amin (play-by-play), Mack Brown (analyst) and Holly McGrath (reporter)
Favorite: Louisville by 34.5
All-Time Series: Louisville leads, 1-0
Last Meeting: Louisville won 40-3 on Sept. 7, 2002 in Durham, N.C.
Louisville Depth Chart:
Duke and football didn't really mix all that well in the past, but David Cutcliffe has completely changed the Blue Devil football program since he arrived on campus. Duke is not only a tougher school to get into than most, but they don't have the tradition, fan support, or facilities needed to attract top recruits. Cutcliffe has been able to land a handful of really good players and transfers as well as develop quarterbacks like he always has and that has been a good recipe for success for him. The issue he's faced this season is the injury bug. Senior quarterback Thomas Sirk was injured before the season and Duke has been forced to rely on redshirt freshman Daniel Jonesin his place.
Jones is a very talented kid and it showed early in the season that Duke wouldn't be completely lost on offense. Jones has great size and is plenty athletic enough to avoid pressure and pick up a first down or two when needed. He's also shown the ability to deliver deep passes with touch and accuracy that most young players struggle with. Unfortunately, he also turns the ball over a lot. Like a whole lot. Jones has turned the ball over 13 times on his own. That's worse than all but 14 teams in the entire country. Jones doesn't yet know how to make pre-snap reads to see blitzes coming and he gets rushed at times which has led to interceptions. Todd Grantham's pressure defense won't make Friday very easy for him.
Jela Duncan is Duke's leading rusher and most felt very good about the fact that the running game would be fine even if the quarterback position struggled. However, Duncan has been dealing with a leg injury for the last few weeks and he had to leave the game last week after getting his ankle/leg rolled up on. Cutcliffe hasn't said if Duncan will play Friday but I would be surprised if he did based on how the injury looked. Duke will go to backup, Shaun Wilsonwithout Duncan. Wilson is one of the few guys on Duke's roster that could take off into space and run away from the defense. He's a speedy guy that also returns kicks but he's only averaging 3.7 yards per carry on the year.
The Duke receivers are not very deep but their top two receivers and tight end are more than capable of making plays. T.J. Rahming is the smaller and quicker of the two receivers who fits into the Jamison Crowder mold for this offense. Crowder was a dynamic receiver for the Blue Devils and now plays for Washington in the NFL. Cutcliffe uses Rahming in a similar fashion as a do-it-all guy but he hasn't gotten as many targets this year as I expected. I'm not sure if that's due to the quarterback change or Rahming not being the route runner he needs to be, but I think their offense would be improved by getting him the ball more.
Anthony Nash is a big target at 6-5 but he's not really a burner so he's not a big-time deep threat. Nash is a long strider and is a good hands catcher but I haven't seen him do much damage down the sideline so far this year. The offense also doesn't seem to really press the issue.Erich Schneider is a strong tight end for the Blue Devils. He has great size and does well as a safety valve for Jones. Nash and Schneider could both be red zone issues for Louisville's defense with their size.
The Duke offensive line has also been bit by the injury bug with center Austin Davis likely missing the game. Davis has started every game and the line has already struggled with him. Duke is in the bottom half of the country in sacks allowed, tackles for loss allowed, rushing yards per game, and rushing yards per carry. Duke will be facing a defense that was embarrassed by Clemson's offense two weeks ago so the line will have to play at a completely different level if they want to move the football.
KEY PLAYERS: QB Daniel Jones, WR T.J. Rahming, WR Anthony Nash, TE Erich Schneider
The Blue Devils have been killed by injuries over the last handful of years and 2016 is no different. Devon Edwards was an outstanding player last season with 101 tackles and 7 passes defensed. He was also unreal as a return man with 3 return touchdowns. Following the tradition of impact players being lost to season ending injuries, Edwards was lost for the year. Edwardswas one of only a few returning starters and Duke was already struggling to replace All-American Jeremy Cash and now they're starved for playmakers on the defensive side of the ball.
The Blue Devils haven't had a lot of success on the scoreboard but the defense has done pretty well in a few areas. That's especially true when it comes to getting after the quarterback. the Blue Devils are among the national leaders in sacks as well as tackles for loss and A.J. Wolf is keying those numbers. Wolf is a long time starter and is one of the better defensive tackles in the conference. With Louisville struggling against Clemson's tackles last game, Wolf will be a key player for Duke. The rest of the line for the Blue Devils haven't done much at all this year and I think this will lead to the defense really struggling to stop Lamar Jackson. They don't have the athletes to contain him like Clemson and even Marshall did (to a degree) so they may have to scheme to help them.
Duke runs a true 4-2 nickel defense and their two linebackers have been very productive but they are very young. Ben Humphreys and Joe Giles-Harris have been responsible for over 20% of the team's tackles this year and both have made a handful of plays behind the line and caused a few turnovers. Humphreys played in every game last year as a redshirt freshman so he might be able to keep his composure a little better but I don't think that Giles-Harris will handle all of the misdirection and speed that Louisville hits teams with.
The secondary for Duke has been the strong point for the past couple of years but the loss of Edwards has made it somewhat of a weakness. Corbin McCarthy has taken over for Cash at the "Strike" Safety spot which is responsible for playing closer to the line and blitzing. McCarthy leads the team with 6.5 tackles for loss which isn't far off the pace of 18 which is what Cash finished with last season. The other safeties Deondre Singleton and Alonzo Saxton are experienced players but only Singleton has been an impact player.
Breon Borders is one of the best corners in the conference and the experienced corner has really stepped up this year with teams testing the secondary often. Borders is second in the country in passes defended with 1.83 a game. He's picked off two passes and broken up nine so far. He's also a very good tackler in space and has zero problem coming up in run support. While he's not a unbelievable athlete like some others, he makes a lot of plays which is all that matters. On the opposite side, Bryon Fields is having a solid year with two forced fumbles to his credit. Duke has given up more than their fair share of big plays this year but they're only allowing a 48% rate so far.
KEY PLAYERS: DT A.J. Wolf, CB Breon Borders, SS Corbin McCarthy, ILB Ben Humphreys, WLB Joe Giles-Harris
Excitement Level: 9.1
It's been a month since they did it at home and 13 days since they did it all, but a national championship calibre team with a Heisman Trophy favorite at quarterback is going to play football inside Papa John's Cardinal Stadium tonight. I don't care how many points they're favored to win by, that's cause for 9+ level excitement.
Game Attire: Jeans, black pullover, grey Louisville hat, Halloween socks
First jeans game of the year. I'm going with the black pullover that I won at this year's U of L golf scramble. Fits well, looks solid enough; has all the makings of a terrific game day outfit choice, especially on a black out. The grey hat is dark enough to not be noticeable, which is good since the black hat I wore to last year's Clemson game is 0-2 lifetime. Also, Halloween socks are cool.
Pregame Meal: Beer, something inside the stadium
The radio show doesn't end until six and I have to stop by the ESPN Louisville caboose to drop off a key afterward, so I'll be hustling to our tailgate spot just to get a couple of beers in. It'll be much like the Charlotte game, which wasn't ideal, but ended up working out ... for pretty much everyone but me. That's OK.
Bold Prediction: Louisville's defense scores a touchdown
Duke has been insanely turnover prone all season, so why not take a shot here?
Cole Hikutini Touchdown Alert Level: Raw Umber (good)
No big description needed, just good.
Predicted Star of the Game: Lamar Jackson
Once again: I will be selecting Lamar Jackson in this place every week going forward until he gives me a reason not to.
Motivational Opposition Tweets:
There's nothing of any real substance floating around out there, so here's the backup quarterback of a 6-6 Duke team talking smack from four years ago.
I don't think it's coming tonight.
--A win Friday night would be the 500th in Louisville football history.
--Under Bobby Petrino, Louisville is 10-0 all-time against teams from the state of North Carolina.
--Duke is 14-4 in road games since the beginning of the 2013 season. Those 14 road victories match the highest total among ACC schools in that time frame with Clemson and Florida State.
--Lamar Jackson is on pace to become the first player in FBS history with 6,000 yards of total offense in a season. The current record is 5,976 yards.
--Louisville is 33-3 over the last four seasons when attempting at least 35 rushes in a game. The only three losses came this season at Clemson, in 2014 at Clemson, and in the 2015 season-opener against Auburn.
--Duke is 27-136-6 all-time against nationally-ranked foes, including a 10-56-4 ledger versus teams ranked in the top 10
--Louisville is 33-4 under Bobby Petrino when winning the turnover battle. The Cardinals have lost the turnover battle in three of their five games this season, but have gone 3-0 in those games.
--Under Bobby Petrino, Louisville is 9-0 all-time in Friday night games.
--The Cardinals have lost eight of their last 10 Friday night home games.
--Duke is playing a football game in the state of Kentucky for the first time since winning Oct. 28, 1933, at Kentucky.
--Louisville has won 14 consecutive games when kicking off to begin the game, but has received to start all five games this season.
--Duke hasn't defeated an opponent ranked in the top 10 since a 1989 victory over Clemson.
--Louisville leads the FBS in points per game (58.0). The Cards also lead the FBS in total offense at 659.2 yards per game.
--Louisville is currently riding a consecutive game scoring streak that spans 204 games dating back to the 2000 season. The streak ranks as the third longest in the ACC behind only Virginia Tech and Georgia Tech.
--Louisville is 173-10 all-time when scoring 35 or more points in a game. The Cards are also 5-102 all-time when allowing opponents to score 40 or more points.
--"I've coached against at least 10 national champions, and I have never seen anyone with the weapons and completeness of this Louisville team." --Duke head coach David Cutcliffe
--"We still believe in our heart that our goals are sitting out there for us and we have a chance to go get it. But to do that, we have to line up and win this game this week and really focus on doing that, otherwise it means nothing." --Bobby Petrino
--"(Jackson's) their X-Factor, we have to make sure we know what he's doing on every play. You do your job and maintain your leverage just to make sure he doesn't run wild. They're a good team and they've thrown a lot of haymakers this year against everybody they've played. You just have to be able to respond. You've got to continue to bring the fight to them, you can't let them dictate what happens." --Duke linebacker Joe Giles-Harris
--"I expect it to be a great game. Duke is a great team and they do a lot of great stuff on offense, so I expect it to be a good battle and come out and play hard." --Josh Harvey-Clemons
--"We've got a lot of pride on this team. 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." --Bobby Petrino
--"This is a huge and monumental challenge for us. People have struggled to manage to stay on the field with them, that's the bottom line." --Duke head coach David Cutcliffe
--"It's going to be loud; it's going to be crazy. It's going to be a fun game. We're really looking forward to it." --Duke defensive end Dominic McDonald
--"They have a couple of playmakers. They have a great receiver, they have running backs...actually two great receivers, and their quarterback is good. It's all on us focusing on us, and doing our part." --Josh Harvey-Clemons
--"We were counted out against Notre Dame when we went in there. That just feeds the fire. You like being the team that nobody gives you a chance." --Duke linebacker Joe Giles-Harris