LOUISVILLE CARDINALS (5-3, 2-2) At WAKE FOREST DEMON DEACONS (4-3, 1-3)
Game Time: 12:20 p.m.
Location: BB&T Field: Winston-Salem, N.C.
Television: ACC Network/WHAS-11
Announcers: Evan Lepler (play-by-play), Takeo Spikes (color), Amanda Kuhl (sideline)
Favorite: Louisville by 3
All-Time Series: Louisville leads 4-0
Last Meeting: Louisville won 44-12 last season at Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium
About Wake Forest:
Wake Forest started the season hot with a four game winning streak, but a three game losing streak has them back to where they were last year, hoping to get into a decent bowl game. The win streak was a big surprise because their offense has finally shown the ability that fans expected when Dave Clawson was hired. Wake is better running the ball but the passing game has really been the story.
John Wolford is the first quarterback in Wake history to start four season openers. Clawson hitched his wagon to Wolford when he signed him and he’s played well for the offense overall. This year, Clawson stopped the musical chairs and gave the offense completely to Wolford. He’s completing a little over 61% of his passes and he’s also leading the team in rushing. This offense has been very efficient and Wolford protects the football very well. Wake is second in the country with only 4 turnovers on the season.
The Deacs do a really good job with their interior read option plays. Wolford is really decisive on his reads and can get plenty of yardage as a runner. He won’t break a long touchdown run but Wolford is plenty good enough to break off a 20-30 yard run on an option play or a scramble. I really like how they use the option to set up play action. They will run the same exact action with Wolford standing up from the action and throwing. It’s quick and it makes it very hard for the defense to diagnose. It also gives the offense some one-on-one matchups outside and they have the speed to win those most of the time.
The running back spot for Wake is flat out weird. Cade Carney is the starter with Matt Colburn listed as “or” on the depth chart. However, neither one of them is as good as the guy that’s listed third. Arkeem Byrd is a reshirt freshman with really good speed. He won’t really run over a guy like Carney but he will likely run by one. I don’t know if Clawson prefers the other backs over Byrd because of his blocking or something of that sort, but he should probably be getting a lot more carries.
The wide receiver position is where you can really see the improvement on offense. Greg Dortch hasn’t really gotten the notoriety that Dez Fitzpatrick has but he’s put up better numbers as a freshman. Dorth is the team’s leader in catches, yards, touchdowns, and yards from scrimmage. He is a small player but the Deacs will put him in the slot and outside. They really like to use him on slants off of the play action I described above. Linebacker get sucked into the line and Dortch just has to beat a safety or nickel on a slant. He’s going to win that every time.
The rest of the receivers are underutilized in my opinion. While Dortch has 64 targets on the year, the next highest total is 25 for Scotty Washington. In my opinion, they have to find a way to get Cortez Lewis and Tabari Hines more touches. Both of these guys have big play ability and they would stop teams from being able to scheme against Dortch. Washington is their big play receiver at 6-5 and 225 pounds but they haven’t been able to connect much on those 25 targets. The smaller and quicker guys in this group are making plays when their number is being called but they’re not spreading it around nearly enough.
You could make the argument that Cam Serigne is the best tight end in the ACC. But, for whatever reason, Wake doesn’t get the ball to him nearly enough. Serigne has the size and speed that you want and he has the ability to find soft spots in the defense. I’m not sure why he hasn’t been used more but Clawson would be silly to not find some targets for him this week. Louisville has been eaten up by tight ends all season.
The offensive line has done a very good job of protecting Wolford this year. His mobility and quick passes help but the line has kept the pocket very clean when the first option isn’t open, also. Louisville got some pressure on James Blackman last week but I’m not so sure that that success will transfer over to this game. The run blocking has been pretty rough but I do think some of that has to do with the vanilla designs. They run a inside read option play more than anything else and the defense has to know it’s coming.
Cards fans know exactly how important a defensive coordinator can be. Wake lost one of the better ones in the country when Mike Elko took the job at Notre Dame. Jay Sawvel was brought in and the defense has played about as well as you could hope. Sawvel has his defense leading the nation in tackles for loss and he’s survived the loss of Marquel Lee at middle linebacker. If he can put together a game plan that slows down Lamar Jackson like Elko did last year, he could actually help his team come away with a win.
The defense is led by defensive end Duke Ejiofor. The ACC has had some high level ends over the last couple of years and Duke has been overlooked some in my opinion. He finished last year with 17 tackles for loss and he’s already hit 13.5 this season. Duke is an edge rusher by position but he can rush the passer from inside when they move him in there. He can also get pressure up the middle from the outside with swim moves and spin moves. His motor is maybe the most impressive thing about him. He just doesn’t stop.
The other members of the front four are no slouches either. They’ve combined for 24 run stuffs and 16 tackles for loss, themselves. Wake likes to get into gaps to make those negative plays but that can lead to some running lanes for backs. Louisville dedicated themselves to the run last week and they ran it a lot between the tackles. Something to look out for this week is if they run read option as much as they did and if Lamar hands it off.
Losing Lee was big because of just how many big plays he made. Lee had 20 tackles for loss and 3 forced fumbles. They haven’t been able to replace Lee but they’ve been getting solid play from Grant Dawson inside. Dawson plays with a lot of energy and he gets to the ball a lot. The only issue is that he doesn’t always make the play. He’s missed some tackles and other players haven’t always been there to help clean up.
Jaboree Williams has also taken over a starting role this year and improved as expected after a strong year as a reserve. Williams is a speedy player that has enough size to make plays in the hole. Both of these guys can run well and they get downhill fast. That serves them well when quarterbacks are trying to scramble to get away from the pass rush.
The secondary is the strong point of the defense in some areas but it can be a weakness at times in others. The corners have been up and down all year with Amari Henderson and Essang Bassey leaving a lot to be desired sometimes. Both of these guys do such a great job at staying with receivers but they don’t find themselves in position to make the play much. Wake defends the pass very well so it might seem harsh to go after their corners but they didn’t look all that great against the two offenses that can actually pass the ball.
The safeties are the strength of the secondary with Cameron Glenn and Jessie Bates back deep. Glenn does a little bit of everything in both coverage and run support but he’s more likely to be the guy deep playing over top. Bates is the big time player for this defense. He leads the team in tackles and he led the team in picks last year. He’s a missile when he comes up in run support and delivers a lot of big hits. The biggest part of his game is his open field tackling. You might remember him wrapping up Lamar Jackson last year and stripping him before he hit the ground. He plays a big role in how this defense can be so aggressive up front.
Excitement Level: 6.2
Up slightly from last week after a win all of us desperately needed.
Game Attire: Long-sleeve red Louisville Cardinals shirt, U of L sweatpants
I have to do the pregame show on 790 but I’ll be back in plenty of time to switch into the casual home game watch attire that helped lead the team to victory a week ago.
Pregame Meal: Fish sandwich
My dad and I used to get fish for pretty much every college football Saturday from the Suburban Lodge downtown. Best fish in town. I’m feeling a throwback afternoon.
Bold Prediction: Neither team hits the 30-point mark
It would be the first time for a Louisville game this season.
Zykiesis Cannon Interception Alert Level: Middle Green Yellow (slightly more optimistic than the last two weeks)
Predicted Star of the Game: Jaylen Smith
Veteran receivers have a history of showing up big for Louisville in games against Wake Forest since the Cards made the move to the ACC, so I’m banking on recent history repeating itself.
— Lamar Jackson has an FBS-best 15 games over the last two seasons with at least one rushing and passing touchdown in a game.
—Louisville is 206-182-2 (.578) all-time in games played during October, but just 67-109-3 on the road.
—Under Bobby Petrino, Louisville is 36-4 when winning the turnover battle. The Cardinals are 11-1 when committing no turnovers.
—Wake Forest fans have been encouraged to wear black to Saturday’s game.
—Wake Forest quarterback John Wolford is the nephew of former Pittsburgh Steeler and current St. X football coach Will Wolford.
—A win would make Louisville bowl eligible for the eighth straight season and the 17th time in the last 20 seasons.
—Wake Forest is 87th in the nation in run defense and has allowed 182.7 yards per game on the ground.
—Louisville is 29-13 in road games under Bobby Petrino, including a 9-6 mark in road ACC games.
—Wake Forest is 0-2 in games against reigning Heisman Trophy winners.
—Bobby Petrino is 14-1 against schools from the state of North Carolina, with the only loss coming to NC State earlier this year.
—Louisville leads the ACC in scoring at 37.2 points per game and also averages a league-best 552.6 total yards per game.
—Louisville leads the nation in first downs with 216.
—Louisville is currently riding a consecutive game scoring streak that spans 220 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 180-12 all-time when scoring 35 or more points in a game. The Cards are also 5-105 all-time when allowing opponents to score 40 or more points.
—“For us, and I really think this, we don’t really care about that (WakeyLeaks) anymore. It was a year ago. We know that that’s a new team, you can’t blame the players for what happened and for us, it’s about focusing on us. I’ll go ahead and tell you what you expect me to tell you, that that stuff doesn’t matter.” —Wake Forest QB John Wolford
—“I know the question’s going to come up but we’ve put this thing to bed and we’ve moved on from it. We’re not going to go low with it.” —Wake Forest head coach Dave Clawson
—“I really don’t pay attention to what people say, because one minute they want to bring you up, next minute they want to bring you down. I don’t really get frustrated, and I don’t really vent to people. I try to keep things to myself. I don’t even talk to my mom sometimes about situations.” —Lamar Jackson
—"They're really active on the defensive front. They're guys we've played against for a number of years, so they've defended people well. People haven't scored a lot of points on them. I think it's going to be up to us to mix it up and be able to run it and throw it." —Bobby Petrino
—“I never said that. I have no idea where that came from. I don’t know how to even respond to something you didn’t say. He is an elite player. He’s one of the best quarterbacks we’ve faced in our time here. I don’t know who said that but it’s not something I would ever say, nor does it even accurately or in the same ZIP code reflect what type of player I think he is. I would never disparage a young man like that anyway. He’s an elite, phenomenal player. I don’t know who said that, but it was not this coach.” —Wake Forest head coach Dave Clawson on the infamous Lamar Jackson quote
—“You’re realistic with it. He’s a Heisman Trophy winner, and he’s a great quarterback. Our defense, obviously the goal is for them to play lights out, but you know that he’s going to make some plays, he’s going to make some people miss in space, and he’s going to make some great throws. So going into the game you know that you’re going to have to be able to match that.” —Wake Forest QB John Wolford