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Key Matchups: Boston College

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The Key Matchups has some questions for Louisville’s linebackers this week.

NCAA Football: Wake Forest at Boston College Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports


I haven’t really put much of a focus on pass rushers when it comes to how they might play against Lamar Jackson. The reason for that is that the offensive line looked very improved early on and Lamar had been very calm and patient in the pocket. That changed in the Clemson didn’t blitz a lot but they did fluster Jackson into pulling his eyes down and looking to scramble. NC State was able to do the same with Bradley Chubb getting around the edge consistently.

This weekend Harold Landry is the pass rusher that could make Lamar really uncomfortable. Jackson is at his best when he can escape to his right or spin out to his left. He doesn’t do as well when you force him to step up into the pocket. Landry pretty much specializes in getting even or behind the quarterback which forces the quarterback to step up. He can then keep bending and make the play or force him into his teammates. Landry led the nation in sacks last year and he’s had a slow start to this season. He might be very motivated to put on a show against the reigning Heisman winner.


Boston College is a run first team that doesn’t really run the ball very well. Boston College ranks 97th in yards per carry but for whatever reason they continue to run the ball over 40 times a game. Jon Hilliman and AJ Dillon are both enormous running backs that can deliver some real power when they put get their pads ahead of them. They rely on these backs to keep them on schedule and make third downs more manageable.

Louisville has been relatively good against the run this year but Clemson and NC State had a lot of success against them. UNC and Purdue didn’t have much interest in running the ball (why would you when you’re completing almost every pass). The Cards have been pretty good defending runs between the guards. Those power style runs allow the strength of the defense to shine. UofL has rotated tackles this year but they have all played well and held up blockers like they needed to. That has freed up Stacy Thomas and Dorian Etheridge to play downhill and stuff those run plays.

Louisville has been exposed on edge runs because their safeties and corners haven’t tackled well at all. This will be a game where normally the defense would be at an advantage. However, Louisville won’t have Stacy Thomas. Instead they’ll have 210 pound true freshman C.J. Avery. Avery was the highest rated player in this last class for Louisville but I don’t think they planned on having him play middle linebacker. That’s not really where he wins. It will be a big question mark going into this game whether or not the two true freshmen can hold up against this rushing attack.


Dorian Etheridge hasn’t been good in coverage this season. It’s just not an area where he excels. The coaches obviously saw something in him that they really loved and that’s why he was named a starter early into fall camp. He hasn’t been able to show exactly what it is that they saw, yet. Louisville has played a good amount of spread teams and Etheridge has been out of position a lot when guys have entered his zone and when he was in man coverage.

The 79-yard catch and run that Jaylen Samuels had last week? Etheridge was in zone to his side. When the ball was snapped he took a step forward. That might be coaching and if it is, it’s weird. But that step put him in a position where he couldn’t get to the ball. His angle to Samuels was bad and he was able to turn and run after the catch. Etheridge also failed to identify a receiver in his zone on the 3rd and 15 play that NC State converted. The tight end ran up the seam and Etheridge passed him off like he should. Then he shuffled to his right where there was no receiver and where Avery’s zone was. That opened a huge window for Finley to find Harmon. He caught the ball right where Etheridge would have been if he shuffled left into his own zone.

Tommy Sweeney is one of Anthony Brown’s favorite targets and he’s one of the better tight ends in the conference. Sweeney is a savvy route runner and he’s sure handed enough that you can scheme your gameplan around getting him the ball. He won’t let you down with drops or nerves. With Louisville starting young guys in the middle you would think that they will try to get him the ball more than usual this week.


You might be wondering how a head coach can match up with a free safety. Well Lukas Denis is a ball hawk. He leads the country in picks and all of them have been 15+ yards down the field. Some of them have been on overthrows and some on tipped passes. All of them were on aggressive throws or play calls that require a good throw and decision from the quarterback.

Louisville loves to push the ball down the field. Deep crosses and post routes are a big part of what Bobby Petrino likes to do. This season, slants and curl routes have been open a lot for receivers. Swing passes have been there all day long for running backs. But, Petrino has gone to what he knows best when Louisville has either gotten down or struggled to move the ball. I could see him doing so again this weekend which could make Denis a big player in this game.

Lamar Jackson throws the ball extremely hard. He has gotten much better with his touch but when he is rushed and uncomfortable the ball comes out very fast and he’s overthrown more than a few passes this year. He has also floated the ball into no man’s land a couple of times this year. Denis has picked off a pass in each of those situations this year. I wouldn’t be shocked if he can do it again.