NO. 6 LOUISVILLE CARDINALS (8-1, 6-1) vs. WAKE FOREST DEMON DEACONS (6-3, 3-2)
Game Time: 7 p.m.
Location: Papa John's Cardinal Stadium: Louisville, Ky.
Announcers: Jason Benetti (play-by-play), Kelly Stouffer (analyst) and Paul Carcaterra (reporter)
Favorite: Louisville by 35
All-Time Series: Louisville leads 3-0
Last Meeting: Louisville won 20-19 in Winston-Salem last season
Louisville Depth Chart:
About Wake Forest:
Wake Forest took a slight risk when they hired Dave Clawson away from Bowling Green a few years back. Clawson was taking over a Wake program that was lacking talent, prestige, and fan support. The school served him well by being patient with him and allowing his plan to play out over some rough seasons. Clawson finally got his team to a bowl game this year and he has a solid chance at 8 wins. Wake doesn't have a great offense, but they're very opportunistic and they have some big play capabilities.
Louisville hasn't had to face many running quarterbacks this year but Wake will change that. John Wolford is the best running quarterback that Louisville will see this year. He's averaging 7.3 yards per carry when you take out sacks , which is about 3 more yards than Deshaun Watson and Greg Ward. Wolford is a slick in the pocket and he can also break a long run if he gets a seam. Wolford is not a great passer, but he's serviceable and he spreads the ball around well. One area that Louisville could see some success is with pressure in Wolford's face. He's only 6-1 and he tends to rush things a bit when he gets uncomfortable. That could lead to some sacks and turnovers.
Former Louisville commit Matt Colburn was able to find a home at Wake after having his scholarship pulled late in the process two years ago. Colburn leads the Deacs in carries and he's the leading rusher on the team with Wolford's sack yardage pulling his number down. Colburn shares carries with true freshman Cade Carney and they both are averaging right around 4.2 yards per carry. Neither back is going to break out a big run or make a guy miss, but they do well with what is asked of them. Wake is going to pound those guys in between the tackles and let them burrow for a few yards here and there. They're don't do a lot of east and west running because they lack the speed and they know it. Louisville didn't handle Virginia's interior runs too well two weeks ago so Wake could have some success there.
Wake has 5 guys that will be targeted by Wolford. In my opinion, the depth at receiver is why Wake has been able to put up some poins and win some games this year. Tabari Hines leads the team in targets and catches while Cortez Lewis is the teams most likely deep threat. Cam Serigne is the tight end for the Deacs and it seems like they've finally remembered how good he is after not getting him the ball much in some games. Serigne isn't as fast or athletic as Cole Hikutini but he can make some impact plays like a Jordan Leggitt. Wake only has 5 passing touchdowns on the season, but they have enough trusted guys that they can move the ball with their passing game. Louisville might not be able to just load the box like they did against BC and teams have been able to make a handful of plays when Louisville is spread out.
The Wake offensive line is hard to judge because of the fact that Wolford holds on to the ball too long at times and he likes to run around and keep plays alive. Throw in the fact that their running backs aren't fast enough to blow through open holes and it's somewhat unfair to blame the line for the offense being ineffective or for giving up over 20 sacks. Wake has done a great job of negating negative plays outside of the sacks and the line definitely deserves credit for that.
KEY PLAYERS: QB John Wolford, WR Cortez Lewis, WR Tabari Hines
Louisville's offense has been relatively unstoppable this year but they have been susceptible to being slowed down to the point that Lamar Jackson becomes the savior as opposed to the star. Wake Forest has slowed down enough offenses this year that I don't see why they couldn't do the same to Louisville. Wake has NFL talent at all three levels of their defense and they're experienced in some important spots. If Wake can have the same success that they had against Syracuse and FSU, Louisville could be in for a close game.
The defensive line for Wake is led by Duke Ejiofor who is one of the best defensive linemen in the ACC. Ejiofor is second in the conference in tackles for loss and sacks and in my opinion, he plays the run and the pass as well as anyone other than DeMarcus Walker. The rest of the line won't likely make a lot of plays that show up on the stat sheet, but they do such a good job of eating up blocks and keeping their linebackers clean.
One could make the argument that Marquel Lee is the most impactful linebacker in the ACC. Lee makes a ridiculous amount of plays around and behind the line of scrimmage. He can blitz and get to the quarterback as well as chasing down running backs with great angle work. Louisville did a great job of using misdirection to keep Boston College's really good group of linebackers off balance, but I'm not so sure they will have that same success this week. Wake's linebackers are more disciplined and I'm not sure that Bobby Petrino will be able to target over-aggression like he was able to do last week. Thomas Brown is a good player at the Rover position for Wake and I think that these two are as solid of a combo as you could want in the ACC. They both run well and make a lot of plays.
The secondary for the Deacs is what sets them a part from schools like Virginia, Duke, and BC in my opinion. Those three schools had good groups at two levels of the defense while Wake is strong in all three. Brad Watson is one of the best cornerbacks in the conference and he is experienced enough that you can leave him on an island and feel comfortable. Ryan Janvionhas been at free safety for Wake since the Orange Bowl in 2006 so you know what you're getting out of him. He can really be a helper in run support which allows the front seven to be more aggressive. Jessie Bates has been a stud for the Deacs this year with 5 picks on the season including a game winning pick-6 last week. Essang Bassey is the player that Louisville will target as he is the lone true freshman on the defense. Bassey doesn't have great size, so UofL has an automatic advantage. I expect them to exploit that advantage if they need to make a play.
KEY PLAYERS: DE Duke Ejiofor, MLB Marquel Lee, CB Brad Watson, SS Jessie Bates
Excitement Level: 9.2
Last ACC game of the season, first Saturday night game in PJCS history, second-to-last home game of the season, still in the national title picture in mid-November, and the next-to-last chance to see the 2016 Heisman Trophy winner play on his home field. Lots of reasons to be excited.
Game Attire: Jeans, black Cardinal jacket, grey Louisville hat
It's going to be chilly. Time to bust out the heavy stuff for the first time this year.
Pregame Meal: Beer, chili
Bold Prediction: Jaire Alexander returns a punt for a TD
Hasn't had much of an opportunity in recent weeks, and it would restore some confidence after last week's muff.
Cole Hikutini Touchdown Alert Level: Thistle (not as good as you'd think, but still ok)
The alert level is feeling much more specific this week after about a month straight of being extremely general.
Predicted Star of the Game: Lamar Jackson
Still hasn't proven me wrong yet.
Motivational Opposition Tweets:
Top 5 Concerns:— A.Fost (@AFost_23) November 9, 2016
1. Beat Louisville
2. Beat UL
3. Go 1-0 this week
4. Beat the Cardinals
5. Controlling what we can control #DeacsUp
We coming for it all‼️ pic.twitter.com/owVPg3WSYJ— Cameron Glenn (@CamoGlenn) November 10, 2016
--Saturday's game will mark the first time that Louisville has hosted a Saturday night ACC game, and the first time the Cardinals have played a Power 5 conference opponent under the PJCS lights on a Saturday since the 2000 game against Kentucky.
--At 6-3, Wake Forest is bowl eligible for the first time in five years.
--The Cardinals lead the country by scoring 50.2 points per game. Their total offense of 593.4 yards per game is also tops nationally.
--Louisville is outscoring its opponents 129-17 in the first quarter of games this season.
--Louisville is the only team in the FBS to rank in the nation's top 10 in both total offense and total defense.
--Louisville ranks seventh in the nation in total defense, and fourth in rushing defense.
--Wake Forest is 22-131-1 all-time against ranked opponents, and 0-11 all-time against teams ranked No. 5 in the AP poll.
--Lamar Jackson is two rushing touchdowns away from breaking the ACC single-season record of 20, set by Georgia Tech's Tevin Washington in 2012.
--Wake Forest leads the ACC and ranks ninth in the nation in turnovers caused. The Demon Deacon defense also leads the ACC and ranks fifth in the nation in red zone defense.
--Louisville has allowed just three made field goals this season, the lowest of any team in the FBS.
--Lamar Jackson leads the FBS in touchdowns responsible for with 45 and points responsible for with 272.
--Louisville will honor America's armed forces by wearing specialty "Young Patriot" uniforms.
--Wake Forest is 1-56 all-time against AP top 10 opponents. The Deacs' lone victory was a 19-6 upset of No. 4 Tennessee in 1946. That's still the highest-ranked team Wake Forest has ever defeated.
--Louisville has allowed just three rushing touchdowns, tied with Alabama, Ohio State and Michigan for the fewest in the country.
--Under Bobby Petrino Louisville is 12-0 against teams from the state of North Carolina, winning by an average score of 38.3 to 12.9.
--Under Bobby Petrino, Louisville is 22-0 at home when ranked in the AP top 25. The Cards have won those games by an average score of 51-17.
--With one more rushing touchdown, Lamar Jackson will become the fourth player from a Power 5 school with 20 passing and 20 rushing touchdowns in a season. The previous three -- Tim Tebow, Cam Newton and Johnny Manziel -- all won the Heisman Trophy.
--Louisville is 36-3 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.
--Louisville is 34-4 under Bobby Petrino when winning the turnover battle. The Cardinals have lost the turnover battle in four of their nine games this season, but have gone 4-0 in those games.
--Louisville has won 15 consecutive games when kicking off to begin the game, but has received to start eight of its nine games this season. The lone exception came two weeks ago when the Cards lost the toss at Virginia.
--Louisville is 4-5 all-time in games played on Nov. 12. Their most recent game on this date was a 21-14 home loss to Pittsburgh in 2011.
--Under Bobby Petrino, Louisville is 19-4 in the month of November.
--Louisville is currently riding a consecutive game scoring streak that spans 208 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 175-10 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.
--"This is one of the very best teams that I've faced during my whole time at Wake Forest. This will be a great challenge. We want to play in November games that have meaning. We know we're going to have to play extremely well." --Wake Forest coach Dave Clausen
--"We play with a chip on our shoulder. We're not done and we're not where we want to be yet. We have a lot to prove." --Lukayus McNeil
--"I know that last week when the rankings came out our players were upset about it. Really what we talked about was that we really just need to go out and play well and execute and play the type of ball that we know how to play. I do think it motivated us." --Bobby Petrino
--"We just felt like we should've been (ranked) higher, but we don't have any say-so in that and just have to play each week and show we deserve to be there. Whenever there's a team ahead of us that thinks they're better than us, that's motivation." --Stacy Thomas
--"Their defensive front will be as active as anybody we have played this year. What I mean by that is they really rush the passer, they play great technique on the run, their linebackers are fast and sprint to the football, and very experienced secondary." --Bobby Petrino
--"This was a big goal for us going into the year, but we can't be satisfied." --Wake Forest quarterback John Wolford
--"There's a lot left in the season, a lot more to play for. You never want a loss to cause a second loss, and you don't want a win that you get so caught up in the moment you don't get past it. So we had to quickly refocus." --Wake Forest coach Dave Clausen
--"It's the same team we played last year. We just have to make sure we step up our game. It's different from when we played them last year because we were young and didn't know exactly what to do. This year, we're going to play harder because we're smarter." --Lukayus McNeil
--"They've got great people, and he is such a good offensive coach. He's one of the top play-callers in all of college football. He knows how to attack people. He knows how to use his personnel. He's got a unique knack of calling the perfect play at the perfect time. He's a brilliant offensive strategist." --Wake Forest coach Dave Clausen
--"We're ready for the challenge. We're so excited to play Louisville. No fear here." --Wake Forest defensive end Duke Ejiofor