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Thursday afternoon Cardinal news and notes

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Gary Simpson and Joe "JoJo" George -- the longtime owner of The Cardinal Inn -- are ready for the first of a string of weekends with both Cardinal basketball and football.

I_medium Spread check (football): Louisville by 35.

I_medium Spread check (basketball): Louisville by 18.5.

I_medium The U of L men's soccer team fell 2-1 in overtime last night at No. 2 Wake Forest in the ACC Tournament semifinals. The 10th-ranked Cards will learn who they'll face in the NCAA Tournament during the selection show on Monday afternoon.

I_medium Yahoo's Jeff Eisenberg makes 68 predictions about the college hoops season ahead. They include Donovan Mitchell being the breakout player in the ACC, and Louisville beating Michigan State in the Battle 4 Atlantis championship game.

I_medium I hope Louisville is really good in 2021-2022, becaus the Final Four that season will be played in New Orleans. On a related note, New Orleans should host the Final Four more than once a decade.

I_medium Impeccable timing:

I_medium In his first season at Kentucky State, John L. Smith has led the Thoroughbreds to the SIAC championship game, which will be played Saturday. 

I_medium If the Cards are able to open their season tomorrow night with a win over Evansville, it will be their 100th inside the KFC Yum Center.

I_medium You've got until 7 p.m. to get your picks in for this week's pick 'em contest.

I_medium Bill Connelly and Chris Fallica take an analytical look at the current AP top 25.

I_medium The last tie in college football history might have been the most forgettable memorable game ever played.

I_medium Internet users in the Comonwealth are very curious about Kentucky football's futility.

I_medium Wake Forest is bowl eligible for the first time in five years. That news is especially sweet for third-year quarterback John Wolford (Will's nephew), who took some vicious hits the past two seasons behind a young offensive line.

If anyone were permitted a moment to exhale, a moment of respite, it had to be Wolford, who bore the brunt of all those early hits and all those early losses for a program whose situation looked bleak from the outside looking in.

He had to grow up fast, and few moments prepared him better than that rookie campaign that saw his team lose nine games by an average of 17.8 points.

"That's one of the hardest things, just because I was so young," Wolford said of 2014. "It taught me my position (is one) everyone's going to look at, so if you get your head down and get discouraged then that can really wear on an offense and how they approach each snap, because they're going to have confidence in you, you're going to have confidence in them. So that's what I try and do, and if I throw a pick, if I mess up, I can't be sitting on the sideline with my head down sulking, throwing my helmet off."

Progress was measured in increments last year, like in losing nine games by just 14.4 points, or getting sacked just 23 times, or rushing for 67 total yards on the year, a far cry from the minus-151 the barrage of sacks had left Wolford with in 2014.

His sharing of quarterback duties with Hinton meant a decline in passing yards, touchdowns and picks, too, but internally he saw that the Deacs were learning how to win and that the culture was taking its proper shape, which allowed for zero tension at the position and, therefore, throughout the rest of the roster. The two split time again early this season before injuries gave way to Wolford full-time, and he ran with the opportunity.

I_medium With fellow QB Kendall Hinton now out for the year, Wolford will start and likely take every snap against Louisville for a third straight season.

I_medium Neither Donovan Mitchell nor Deng Adel are on the 50-player preseason watch list for the Naismith Award.

I_medium Sports Illustrated's college hoops staff makes its bold predictions for the season ahead. Chris Johnson pegs U of L as his darkhorse team, while Luke Winn likes Donovan Mitchell as the sport's breakout player.

Winn: Donovan Mitchell, Louisville. The Cardinals' sophomore combo guard fits my Breakout Sophomore Formula—coming off the bench for much of last season, he used possessions at a high volume with respectable efficiency—and his play at adidas Nations this summer, as well as for Louisville this preseason, passes the eye test. With Damion Lee and Trey Lewis gone, there are plenty of shots available in the Louisville offense, and Mitchell and fellow sophomore Deng Adel are ready to inherit them.

I_medium The College Football Playoff race is more exclusive than it's ever been before, which probably means that it's going to wind up being extremely exciting.

I_medium This stat should be factored into the CFP rankings formula imho.

I_medium There's only one game in the ACC this weekend that the ESPN staff doesn't agree on with their picks.

I_medium Gorgs.

I_medium A Florida International tight end's senior season is over after his girlfriend dumped boiling water on his head because he wasn't paying enough attention to her. That is terrifying and awful.

I_medium The U of L volleyball team topped Notre Dame 3-1 Wednesday night.

I_medium If Luke Winn likes it, you should like it.

I_medium Video of Malik Williams signing with Louisville yesterday is here.

I_medium The Crunch Zone podcast is always a great listen.

I_medium Love you, LJ.

I_medium At least one Louisville cheerleader has been suspended for comments she made on social media on Election Night.

I_medium If you hadn't heard, Rick Pitino is big on Evansville.

Pitino said he and his staff chose out-of-conference games against teams that had talent returning, veteran leadership and a good RPI.

Enter Evansville.

The Purple Aces travel to Louisville for a Friday clash (7 p.m. ET) at the KFC Yum! Center.

"What we did was, we wanted people who had at least three starters back when we were scheduling, we wanted teams with experience and we wanted teams we thought would be a Top 100 RPI team," Pitino said. "And when you watch Evansville on tape, you realize they are so well-coached."

Why all the focus on schedule the "right" kind of teams?

"We made it a goal of ours to have the No. 1 schedule in the nation," Pitino said. "We also wanted to have our best recruiting class, and we obviously want to reach our potential come March. And playing a tough schedule does that for us."

As good as the Louisville coaches think Evansville will be, the Aces were picked just ninth in the Missouri Valley Conference preseason poll.

"I think our guys understand," Aces coach Marty Simmons said. "They hear the talk and people know that we lost a great group of young men through graduation. We've got a really good group, and they want to do really well. I think they'll use it as motivation."

I_medium Among Power 5 conference teams, Louisville's defense ranks behind only Alabama in yards per rush allowed.

I_medium They're still talking about the 10-year anniversary of Rutgers beating Louisville up in New Jersey.

I_medium Congrats, kids.

I_medium ESPN's massive college hoops staff is mostly riding with Duke as the 2017 national champion. Dick Vitale does give a nod to Rick Pitino as his pick for Coach of the Year.

I_medium College Spun likes Louisville over Wake on Saturday, 40-13.

I_medium And finally, our thoughts and prayers are with the family and friends of Cardinal fan Denny Ernst, who passed away suddenly this week.

You'll definitely be missed, Denny.