LOUISVILLE CARDINALS (0-0) vs. CHARLOTTE 49ERS (0-0)
Game Time: 7:04 p.m.
Location: Papa John's Cardinal Stadium: Louisville, Ky.
Television: Fox Sports South/ACC Network Extra/Full list of regional channels
Announcers: Matt Devlin (play-by-play), James Bates (analyst) and Jenn Hildreth (sidelines)
Favorite: Louisville by 38
All-Time Series: First meeting
Louisville Depth Chart:
Charlotte decided to start a football program back in 2011 and played at the FCS level up until last year when the joined Conference USA. The 49ers won their first two games of the season and then proceeded to get beat pretty handily in most of their games for the rest of the season. They were able to keep it within one score in two games but the defense gave up 36 points per game last year including 73 to MTSU. Charlotte has a few very nice players on their offense and defense but overall they are lacking the quality depth that is needed to compete at the FBS level.
The 49ers offense got a nice addition this spring when former Miami quarterback Kevin Olson transferred in from JUCO. Olson has been named the starter and I'm sure the 49er fans and coaches are hopeful that he can fix the biggest issue for the offense which was ineffective quarterback play. Olson started five games last year and threw 13 touchdowns but it's hard to say how well he played overall. I will go out on a limb and say that he is a big upgrade over the three quarterbacks Charlotte played last year.
Kalif Phillips is the best player on the 49er offense and a lot of folks expect him to have a big year. Phillips is a stocky back that has a good amount of burst for a guy his size. While he won't outrun everyone, he can make a cut and make a guy miss or shed a tackler if needed. Louisville has struggled to contain good running backs over the last couple of years so Phillips is definitely a guy to keep an eye on.
I think that Austin Duke will make a play or two in this game. Duke is the best receiver in the short history of the program and he lines up all over the field. Duke is undersized but he does run deep routes pretty often. Trent Bostick is another veteran receiver for the offense as well as former UGA receiver Uriah Lemay. T.L. Ford is a guy that stood out to me in the games I watched but as of now it looks like he's listed as a backup. This group of receivers has some talent but I wouldn't say that they are a group that fans need to worry about. They don't have the speed to get behind the defense, but they are sure handed guys that won't be nervous in a big game.
Charlotte's offensive line went from being very good at the FCS level to being really bad as a FBS team. The 49ers gave up about as many sacks as UofL's line did last year and Charlotte was killed by plays being made in the backfield. Jamal Covington is a solid left tackle but outside of him there isn't much positive to say about this line. Three seniors in the lineup should help with mental mistakes and penalties, but these guys haven't faced a talented defense like Louisville's and I don't see them stacking up well.
The front seven for the 49ers doesn't feature a lot of talent. The defensive line has decent size with Larry Ogunjobi being an effective player who pursues the ball very well. This is the area where Charlotte loses games. The offense isn't all that bad and the secondary is pretty decent, but they get gashed by running backs and they don't get a good pass rush. Daquan Lewis is a really solid linebacker but the guys playing next to him leave a lot to be desired. It will be interesting to see how Lewis plays against the read option. If he can contain Jackson, it could stall a drive or two.
The secondary for Charlotte is pretty solid. Terrance Winchester is a guy that can make a nice play at opportunistic times. Tank Norman was the starter last year but it looks like he is no longer with the team. Winchester is a former walk-on who is really fun to watch. He made a couple of really nice diving interceptions last year that were true "wow" moments. Charlotte plays a good amount of man coverage so it will be interesting to see how these guys stack up against Louisville's deep receiver group.
KEY PLAYERS: QB Kevin Olson, RB Kalif Phillips, WR Austin Duke, DT Larry Ogunjobi, OLB Daquan Lewis, CB Terrance Winchester
Excitement Level: 9.1
Don't care who it's against.
Game Attire: Khaki shorts, white and red Louisville polo, dark grey U of L hat.
If you see a dude inside the glass studio at Lynn Stadium right off Floyd Street talking on the radio and wearing this exact same game outfit, make sure you give him the middle finger.
Pregame Meal: One, maybe two beers
We've got the radio show up until 6 (listen and then keep listening to the pregame show with Mark Ennis afterward ... or you're dead to me), so tailgating time is going to be extremely limited. If you see me walking along Floyd Street or through the Green Lot by myself, throw some food at me. Don't feel bad about it. I'm going to be hungry.
Bold Prediction: Lamar Jackson plays fewer than three quarters, and still throws for more yards than he threw for in any game last season
I don't even know if this is all that bold, but I'm really looking to breakout of this two year slump.
Cole Hikutini Touchdown Alert Level: Wild Blue Yonder (highest it's ever been)
The alert level was overly confident for the Kentucky game and now I think it's overcompensating.
Predicted Star of the Game: Lamar Jackson
There are stats there for the taking that will resonate with people desperate to eat up anything and everything on a fairly lackluster opening night. Go get those stats, young man.
Motivational Opposition Tweets:
No real chirping from any players (outside of the team's official snapchat account ... sort of).
Outside of that, we had some rogue fans being rogue fans.
the football team is about to shock the world on Thursday and beat Louisville. Remember this tweet— Ian McAdoo (@IMcAdoo) August 25, 2016
Louisville City FC has accomplished as much in the NBA as the Hornets have.
--Louisville is is 53-38-6 all-time in season openers, and 34-17-3 all-time in season openers played at home.
--U of L is 12-4 in season openers since 2000.
--This will be the 10th time in the last 11 seasons that Louisville has opened a season at home. The lone exception is last season's 31-24 loss to Auburn in Atlanta.
--This is Louisville's first Thursday night season-opener since the Cards defeated Murray State 21-9 to begin the 2011 season. That game was also played on Sept. 1.
--Bobby Petrino is 31-4 all-time as Louisville's head coach in games played at Papa John's Cardinal Stadium.
--Petrino is 10-1 all-time in season openers, and his teams have scored 30 points or more in five of their last six openers.
--Since 1984, Louisville is 10-0 in home openers kicking off at 7 p.m. or later.
--This is the first non-Saturday regular season U of L game not televised on an ESPN channel since 2001. The previous 58 non-Saturday games have been on either ESPN, ESPN2 or ESPNU.
--Louisville is 29-2 over the last four seasons when attempting at least 35 rushes in a game. The only two losses came in 2014 at Clemson, and in the 2015 season-opener against Auburn.
--Louisville is 32-3 under Petrino when winning the turnover battle.
--Charlotte returns 17 starters from a 2015 team that finished 2-10, losing 10 straight games including all eight of its contests in Conference USA.
--Under the direction of Bobby Petrino, Louisville is 17-3 against Conference USA opponents.
--This is only Charlotte's fourth season of competition, and second season of competition at the FBS level as a member of Conference USA. This is the first season that the 49ers have been eligible to play in a bowl game.
--Louisville has won 14 consecutive games when kicking off to begin the game, and has lost eight of its last 12 when receiving the opening kickoff.
--Charlotte head coach Brad Lambert was an assistant coach on the Wake Forest team that Louisville defeated in the 2007 Orange Bowl.
--This will be just Charlotte's second game ever against a "Power 5" conference opponent. The 49ers were beaten 58-10 last season at Kentucky.
--Sophomore wide receiver Traveon Samuel has changed from No. 9 to No. 1 this season, while fellow sophomore wideout Jaylen Smith has gone from No. 87 to No. 9.
--Charlotte quarterback Kevin Olsen was once a member of the Miami Hurricanes. He was dismissed from the program just weeks before the Hurricanes opened their 2014 season with a 31-13 loss at Louisville.
--Charlotte defensive lineman Ogunjobi, the 49ers all-time leader in tackles, tackles for loss and sacks, has started all 34 games in the program's three-year history.
--Louisville is currently riding a consecutive game scoring streak that spans 199 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 169-9 all-time when scoring 35 or more points in a game. The Cards are also 5-101 all-time when allowing opponents to score 40 or more points.
--"We still have a lot of questions. However, we know our players, and they know the schemes we are running. It's now time to cut it loose; go use your technique within the schemes and execute at a high level." --Bobby Petrino
--"It's going to be a tough challenge for us, but I like where our guys are. We've had a really good camp, and our guys have worked extremely hard since January. I know they're going to be excited to go up and play in that environment." --Charlotte head coach Brad Lambert
--"We've just got to focus on ourselves, what we're doing as a team and do the things we've been coached to do." --DeAngelo Brown
--"Being here from Day 1, there's so much stuff that we've seen. We've played against these teams, so to see it this year is definitely a blessing. We just want to go out there with a chip on our shoulders and play the best that we can." --Charlotte cornerback Terrence Williams
--"Lamar has had a good camp. He is harder on himself this year and expects more out of himself as far as his drops, his sets and his accuracy. It's been really fun to see. They will try to pressure him and confuse him a little bit. I'm looking forward to see how he reacts and how much he has learned this offseason. I'm excited to get back out there." --Bobby Petrino
--"Coach is a great guy. He's excited just like the rest of us to get out there and get this game going and get this season started. It's gonna be fun to get to play a game. I wouldn't say he's more relaxed, I'd say he's just ready to go." --DeAngelo Brown
--"When you go play an SEC team, that's huge. But this one is on a Thursday night to open the year, against a ranked team that has a lot of players back. Bobby Petrino has got Louisville back to where they want to be." --Charlotte head coach Brad Lambert
Card Chronicle Prediction: Louisville 59, Charlotte 7