LOUISVILLE CARDINALS (2-5, 0-4) vs. WAKE FOREST DEMON DEACONS (3-4, 0-3)
Game Time: 12 p.m.
Location: Cardinal Stadium: Louisville, Ky.
Television: Regional Sports Network — Fox Sports South in Louisville
Announcers: Evan Lepler (play-by-play), Brian Jordan (analyst) and Kelsey Wingert (sideline)
Favorite: Louisville by 2.5
All-Time Series: Louisville leads, 4-1
Last Meeting: Wake Forest won 42-32 on Oct. 28, 2017 in Winston-Salem
Louisville Depth Chart:
Game Day Events:
About Wake Forest:
Louisville’s best chance to get a win in the second half of the season will be this weekend against Wake Forest. To get that win, they will have to find a way to slow down Dave Clawson’s very pacey offense. Clawson has made it clear that he will use pace to close the talent gap and it helped him get to a bowl game last year. The results just haven’t been there this year, though.
The quarterback position was a huge question coming into the season with John Walford exhausting his eligibility. Walford had been the starter from the time he stepped on campus and Kendall Hinton was the only other quarterback that was left with any experience but he was suspended to start the year. Clawson again went with a true freshman to be the starter and I’d imagine he’s pretty pleased with how Sam Hartman has played this season.
Hartman has been far from perfect and he is only completing 54% of his passes but he has thrown 12 touchdowns and runs the ball pretty well. Wake likes to run a lot of RPOs and play action stuff and Hartman has done very well with that part of the offense. He can get the ball out quickly and the ball arrives in a hurry. Louisville will have to take advantage of his youth and hope to force some turnovers. That’s the one spot that has been a real issue for Hartman.
Wake is averaging over 200 yards per game on the ground and they get to that number with a mix of backs and their quarterback. Cade Carney leads the team in rushing this year and Matt Colburn splits carries with him. Both backs are similar but they’re not really asked to do much more than be patient in their unique system. The RPOs that they run are very drawn out, so the backs end up kind of standing behind the line until the quarterback decides to give it to them or not. This also plays out on their read option plays and other run plays. You will see the backs just wait for as long as they need to until they find a hole.
For the second straight week, Louisville is going up against a team that had an individual player go off last season. They were able to avoid AJ Dillon last week because of injury but Greg Dortch is fully healthy and he’s due for a breakout game. Dortch scored four touchdowns last year even though he injured him self so badly early in the game that he had to have emergency surgery after the game and missed the rest of the season. He literally put together a highlight film on Peter Sirmon’s defense.
Dortch is the best player on the offense but they have some different players to help him this year. Chuck Wade moved to safety and Tabari Hines transferred to Oregon for some reason. Scotty Washington (who also torched UofL last year) is playing a bigger role but Chase Surratt has been the biggest addition to the offense. Surratt had 11 catches in his first career game but he hasn’t done much since then. That doesn’t mean that he doesn’t show his level of talent each week. He’s a great compliment to the other guys on the roster because he can be a deep threat as well as a possession guy.
Two other guys to keep an eye on are Alex Bachman and Jack Fruedenstal. Wake lost two really good inside pass catchers from last year’s team and they haven’t been able to replace their impact. Both of these guys will need to be the “one to two” catch guys that they are and not end up being the random guy that blows up on Louisville’s defense.
The biggest surprise with this team has been the offensive line. This was supposed to be one of the best groups in the conference but they’ve been flat out bad at times. They lost Justin Herron to injury but I don’t think anyone expected that to be this big of an issue. Phil Haynes and Ryan Anderson are still very good in the middle and it will be a big issue if they can open things up for this running game. The play action game will be that much better if Louisville’s linebackers and safeties are worried about the interior runs.
Dave Clawson did something this year that I know a lot of UofL fans would like Bobby Petrino to do. He fired as assistant coach due to poor performance. Wake lost Mike Elko to Notre Dame two years ago and the defense has been trending the wrong way ever since. It’s reached a new low this year and Clawson decided that it was time to move on from his defensive coordinator. The one thing that didn’t really make sense is that he never named a replacement. His defensive staff is coaching the defense as a group and things haven’t improved at all.
The defensive front is where the problems start for this defense. The pass rushers that they’ve relied on in the past are all gone and the guys that have replaced them just haven’t been able to produce. Wake ran a system that was built on havoc under Elko but that aggression and unpredictability is completely gone now. Willie Yarbary and Zeek Rodney are the two guys up front that need to be the players to get some of that old mojo back. Both are veteran guys that can make plays behind the line. They just have to be more consistent. Louisville’s offensive line will need to have a good game inside to make sure these guys don’t kill early down plays.
Wake was down to one scholarship linebacker last week against FSU and it showed as the game went on. The Noles are the worst rushing team in the conference but they were able to find success on the ground in the second half. DJ Taylor might be back this week as he has/had mononucleosis. That can last a short time or be an issue for the rest of the season. Justin Strnad is a guy I expected a lot from this season but he hasn’t made very many impact plays this season. He’s a guy with great speed so I expected him to make a lot of plays behind the line and it just hasn’t happened. The same could be said for Demetrius Kemp from his “Rover” spot. These were the key guys they returning in the front seven and they just haven’t played well enough.
The secondary is another group that I expected do be really good this year, but they have been picked apart so far this season. Essang Bassey and Amari Henderson were two of the top returning cornerbacks in the conference but they haven’t played as well this season. I think most of that is due to the lack of a pass rush. Wake really got after the quarterback in the past and they made a lot of plays behind the scrimmage. That led to longer passing situations and these guys were able to capitalize. Without that help, they’ve been somewhat exposed. Though, not too many corners can look good without help from the guys in front of them.
The safeties haven’t played well either. Cameron Glenn is a very good one and he’s been good against the run. He isn’t overly great in coverage but he is pretty solid as a deep safety. He’s a guy that could make some plays with Jawon Pass routinely staring down receivers. Chuck Wade hasn’t really done much of anything after his move from wide receiver. He does have a pick six on the year, but he hasn’t made many other impact plays and his speed hasn’t really been as helpful as I expected in coverage. Louisville should have a very good day on offense and it should start with the passing game.
Excitement Level: 2.7
This will go back up for Clemson next week and then again for Kentucky at the end of the year, but for the moment, we’ve officially reached ‘09 Syracuse game level.
Game Attire: jeans, black Louisville jacket, grey Cardinal bird hat
It’s gonna be chilly, it might be a little rainy, plan accordingly.
Pregame Meal: Whatever they have at the Petrino Family Foundation tailgate
We’re there again doing the pregame show from 9-10:30. Listen here is you’re so inclined.
Bold Prediction: Louisville scores a touchdown on an offensive play of 60 yards or more
No team in the ACC allows more big plays than Wake, so if this is gonna happen, it’s gonna happen today.
Rodjay Burns Kick/Punt Touchdown Return Alert Level: Jungle Green (it’s happening)
This is the most confident the alert level has ever been. Don’t ask it why.
Predicted Star of the Game: Jaylen Smith
He was the player put in front of the media this week and he said all the right things, so if anyone is going to lead by example this afternoon, it needs to be him.
—Wake Forest and Louisville are the only two ACC teams still searching for their first conference win.
—Louisville is in the midst of its first four game losing streak since the 2008 season. That year, the Cardinals lost their final five games of the regular season.
—Louisville is 0-4 in the ACC for the first time since joining the conference in 2014, and 0-4 to start conference play for the first time since 2009. In 2009, Louisville won its fifth conference game.
—Saturday is Homecoming for U of L.
—Wake Forest is looking to avoid starting 0-4 in conference play for the first time since 2014.
—Louisville ranks 123rd in the nation in both sacks per game and sacks allowed per game.
—Louisville ranks 127th nationally in turnover margin at -9. The Cardinals have turned the ball over 15 times this season, throwing 10 interceptions and fumbling five times. Opponents have capitalized by scoring 73 points.
—Wake Forest wide receiver Greg Dortch ranks sixth in the country and first in the ACC in all-purpose yards per game with 154.4 while ranking second in the ACC in receptions per game (7.4) and receiving yards per game (88.0). In last year’s game against Louisville, Dortch set a school record with four touchdown receptions.
—As a team, Wake Forest has committed just 25 penalties this season, the fewest in the ACC and the second fewest in all of the FBS.
—Louisville is 12-6 in ACC home games since joining the conference in 2014.
—Louisville is 5-17-1 against the spread in its last 22 games.
—No team in the FBS has allowed more 50-yard plays than Wake Forest, which has given up 16 of them. Wake has allowed 42 plays of 20-plus yards, 25 plays of 30 or more yards and 16 of at least 40 yards — all worsts in the ACC.
—Bobby Petrino can become the 12th active coach with 120 career wins if Louisville defeats Boston College. He’s 119-53 lifetime, including 77-32 in two stints with the Cardinals.
—Louisville is 20-3 under Bobby Petrino when scoring on its first drive, and just 16-20 when failing to do so.
—Louisville is 54-1 all-time and 18-0 under Bobby Petrino when rushing for at least 300 yards.
—Louisville is currently riding a consecutive game scoring streak that spans 232 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 183-12 all-time when scoring 35 or more points in a game. The Cards are also 5-108 all-time when allowing opponents to score 40 or more points.
—“Everything that’s happened, happened and you can’t change it. But we can build on it.” —Jaylen Smith
—“You don’t want to call it a must-win, but realistically looking at our schedule, to get to six wins, we’ve gotta get three of the next five. It’s not necessarily must-win because it’s Louisville, but it’s must-win because we’ve gotta get three of the next five, at least.” —Wake Forest center Ryan Anderson
—“As always, I think they’re extremely talented. Their collection of skill has always been among the best in our conference; this year is no different.” —Wake Forest head coach Dave Clawson on Louisville
—“Matt (Colburn) gives it his all every play. But it is a little bit personal for him and it’s a big deal. You can’t pretend that that’s not a factor, and you can’t overlook the fact that he looks forward to playing these guys. He circles this game because of what it meant to him. You can’t blame him.” —Wake Forest running back Cade Carney
—“Last year, that was a really, really close game until John (Wolford) threw the touchdown to Chuck (Wade) at the end. … We came out hot, but they came back and that was a very close game. They haven’t had a great season either, but both programs are looking to bounce back this week.” —Wake Forest center Ryan Anderson
Card Chronicle Prediction: Louisville 30, Wake Forest 29
We win on a missed extra point, just like the ‘09 Syracuse game.