LOUISVILLE CARDINALS (2-3, 0-2) vs. GEORGIA TECH YELLOW JACKETS (2-3, 0-2)
Game Time: 7 p.m.
Location: Cardinal Stadium: Louisville, Ky.
Announcers: Clay Matvick (play-by-play), Dan Orlovsky (analyst) and Paul Carcaterra (sideline)
Favorite: Georgia Tech by 4.5
All-Time Series: First Meeting
Louisville Depth Chart:
Schedule of Events:
About Georgia Tech:
Georgia Tech and their option attack will visit Cardinal Stadium this Friday after putting up their best offense performance of the season last week. Paul Johnson has been rumored to be on the hot seat but after last week, he has to feel pretty good about his offense and where it is headed for the rest of the year.
The quarterback position is the most important spot in any triple option attack and Tech has a really good one in Taquan Marshall. Marshall was such a talent when he got to GT that they put him at wide receiver to get him on the field. He’s been at quarterback for the last two years now and he’s done a really great job running the option and he has improved as a passer. Marshall really impresses me with his elusiveness in the open field. He can make guys miss while maintaining top speed. It makes it really hard to stop him from making big plays.
The running back spot for Tech is very deep even though they lost starting B-Back, Kirvonte Benson for the season. Jordan Mason has been a revelation at that spot as a freshman and Jerry Howard has done well splitting time there. The B-Back is the fullback in the offense and they use that player almost exclusively as the first man through the line. Howard and Mason have also shown the ability to be option guys on the outside. That’s a different wrinkle with the offense from what I’ve seen in the past.
The A-Backs for GT are the guys that could be trouble for UofL’s defense. Qua Searcy and Clynton Lynch are both very speedy players that can get around the edge and make a big play. Searcy is one of the faster players that UofL will see this year and they will have to find a way to make sure he doesn’t get the ball wide on the edge. Nathan Cottrell is the backup for Searcy and also runs the ball well in space. He doesn’t have the speed that Searcy does but he is plenty capable of breaking off a big run.
Lynch plays opposite Searcy and that spot seems to be used in the passing game more than the other spot. Lynch became the first 1,000 yard rusher/receiver in school history last week and he’s the teams leading receiver. Louisville has to be on the lookout for Marshall targeting Lynch down the seams.
The Yellowjackets lost Ricky Jeune from last year but they seem to have found a couple of solid options at receiver. Brad Stewart has been a reliable option for a while but he has been used down the field a little more this year. Marshall’s big play target has been Jalen Camp. Both of these receivers have enough speed to get behind UofL’s defense and the run heavy offense makes it easy for them to catch the defense off guard.
Tech’s offensive line is always an interesting group to me. Some years they have massive guys at guard who don’t seem to do well in space and sometimes they have a smaller line like they do this year. This Tech line is averaging about 280 pounds per man and they do a good job getting outside to make blocks on guys trying to chase down outside runs. I think those plays will be a big part of what GT tries to do and these guys could be the key to the game.
Georgia Tech made a really good hire this off season at defensive coordinator when they hired Nate Woody away from Appalachian State. Woody had fielded strong defenses in the four years he was there and his defenses had a few strong performances against power five schools. The results so far have been less than great and I’m not sure if anyone knows why.
The defensive front for Tech really jumped out to me in the games I’ve watched. Arnee Saint-Amour has made some nice plays from his defensive end spot and Kyle Cerge-Henderson do a good job of getting penetration and and disrupting plays. Cerge-Henderson is the type of player that the interior linemen for UofL have struggled with. He’s a stocky player that uses power to push the pocked back into the quarterback.
The strength of the Tech defense is the linebackers and they will be tested this week after Louisville seemed to find some success with their short passing game last week. Brant Mitchell and David Curry are very solid players in the middle. I was impressed with how they play in small areas and get up the field to fill gaps. Curry also made a very nice play last week to turn and run with a crossing receiver to make an interception. With the amount of short hitches and crossing routes that UofL uses, these two have to be able to make a play or two. I also think we’ll see some of Bruce Jordan-Swilling who is one of the biggest recruits that GT has ever landed.
Vincent Alexander and Jalen Johnson are the guys that play outside in their hybrid 3-4/3-3-5 look. Alexander is solid off the edge bu they need more from him as a play maker. I don’t think there’s another spot on the team where the lack of talent shows more than on the edge. They don’t have a guy that can get around the outside and rush the passer. They also don’t a whole lot as second level run defenders.
The secondary for GT is the epitome of inconsistent. They have a handful of interceptions on the year but they’ve also given up a handful of touchdowns. In some games they’ve done well to limit big plays but then Trevor Lawrence and Clemson’s receivers went off against them. Pitt was also able to complete 70% of their passes against them.
This is another area where overall talent looks to be lacking but they do have a knack for making plays when they’re most needed. They rotate some different guys in and out but no one really stands out as a better player than the others. I think that Louisville should be able to find success in the passing game this week because the pass rush is struggling and no one in the back end seems to be able to stay with receivers down the field.
Excitement Level: 5.0
If this weren’t a Friday night game with solid weather then we’d be back under 5.
Game Attire: Black 2013 national championship polo, khaki shorts, grey Cardinal bird hat
The black Cardinal bird head polo was a disaster for the Clemson game last year, so I’m paying my respects to Peyton Siva and company.
Pregame Meal: Whatever they’ve got at the Petrino Family Foundation Tailgate, beer
Radio show/pregame show is rolling inside the Trager Center from 3-6 so I won’t have time for anything else. Tune in to hear John be way more confident about the game than I am.
Bold Prediction: Blanton Creque boots a field goal of 45 yards or longer
We played it a little safe last week (first half touchdown) just to get on the board. Now let’s turn this thing into a streak.
Rodjay Burns Kick/Punt Touchdown Return Alert Level: Maximum Yellow Red (slightly below average)
Full disclosure: I’m trusting the alert level less and less every week.
Predicted Star of the Game: Jaylen Smith
Louisville’s most talented player finally got it going a little bit last week. Now it’s time to completely leave behind whatever was going on during the first four weeks and finish out with the monster senior season so many were predicting.
—U of L has deemed Friday night’s game a “Blackout.” The team will be wearing all black uniforms, and fans attending the game are encouraged to wear black as well.
—This will be the eighth time that Louisville has hosted a “Blackout Game.” The Cards are 4-3 in such contests, including a 47-21 loss to Clemson last season.
—Georgia Tech is the only ACC team Louisville has never faced on the gridiron.
—Georgia Tech hasn’t won a non-home game since defeating Kentucky in the 2016 TaxSlayer Bowl. The Yellow Jackets haven’t won a true road game since defeating Georgia in the final week of the 2016 regular season.
—As a member of the ACC, Louisville is 6-3 in games against Coastal Division opponents. Included in that total is a 27-3 loss to Virginia earlier this season. The Cards are 3-1 in their games against rotating Coastal Division opponents.
—Georgia Tech head coach Paul Johnson is 14-1 against Atlantic Division opponents other than Clemson (the Yellow Jackets’ annual cross-divisional opponent).
—Louisville is off to an 0-2 ACC start for the first time since joining the ACC in 2014. It’s the first time the Cardinals have lost their first two conference games since 2009.
—That 2009 season is also the last time U of L lost its first three conference games. Louisville finished that season 1-6 in the Big East and head coach Steve Kragthorpe was fired.
—Louisville has played football against teams from 37 different states and beaten teams from all of those except Georgia.
—The last time that Georgia Tech had a conference matchup against a team that it had never faced before was in 1988 when it squared off with Maryland for the first time (Maryland won the ACC contest, 13-8, on Oct. 8, 1988).
—Louisville is 12-5 in ACC home games since joining the conference in 2014.
—Under Bobby Petrino, Louisville is 10-0 all-time in Friday night games. The Cards’ last Friday night game was a 24-14 win over Duke on Oct. 14, 2016.
—This game marks only the 11th time in school history and the second time in the last 50 years that Georgia Tech has played a regular-season game on a Friday. The Yellow Jackets are 6-4 all-time in Friday regular season games, and 9-6 in games played on Friday overall.
—Georgia Tech’s defense has already matched its total from all of last season with 11 takeaways this season. The Yellow Jackets’ seven interceptions are one more than they had all of last year. The Jackets are tied for 11th nationally in interceptions and are tied for 13th in total takeaways.
—Louisville has 23 players from the state of Georgia, the second most on the team only to the home state of Kentucky.
—Bobby Petrino can become the 12th active coach with 120 career wins if Louisville defeats Georgia Tech. He’s 119-51 lifetime, including 77-30 in two stints with the Cardinals.
—Georgia Tech ranks No. 2 nationally in rushing offense this season (339.2 ypg). The Yellow Jackets have ranked among the top 10 nationally in rushing in each of head coach Paul Johnson’s first 10 seasons at Georgia Tech (2008-17).
—Louisville is one of just 17 FBS teams that haven’t recorded a play of longer than 50 yards this season. The longest play of the season so far is a 47-yard pass from Jawon Pass to Seth Dawkins in the season opener against Alabama.
—Georgia Tech and Louisville are the only teams in the ACC that have played multiple conference games without winning at least one. The Cards and Yellow Jackets are two of the four teams in the league without an ACC victory (Wake Forest and Duke are 0-1).
—Louisville ranks 120th nationally (out of 129 FBS teams) in total offense (311.6 ypg), 121st in scoring offense (18.4 ppg), 123rd in interceptions thrown (8) and 124th in turnover margin (-1.4 pg).
—Under Bobby Petrino, Louisville is 42-8 overall in home games.
—As a sophomore, Jawon Pass was the starting quarterback when Carver High School’s 53-game winning streak in region play was snapped with a 34-14 home loss to Harris County on Oct. 24, 2014. The starting quarterback for Harris County was senior TaQuon Marshall, now Georgia Tech’s starting QB.
—Louisville is 20-3 under Bobby Petrino when scoring on its first drive, and just 16-18 when failing to do so.
—This will be Georgia Tech’s first game in the state of Kentucky since facing UK in 1959.
—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 230 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 5-107 all-time when allowing opponents to score 40 or more points.
—“Everybody knows what this game means. I just told the guys, everybody’s always talking about a big prime-time game. You got one. Friday night — the only game that’ll probably be on. Seven o’clock, they’re wearing all black (Louisville is promoting the game as a black-out), so their stadium will be jumping. That’s what you play college football for. It’ll be rocking, so everybody’ll be ready to play.” —Georgia Tech quarterback TaQuon Marshall
—“It actually has been very hard to see what those numbers are. It’s been difficult for us on video. We’re always going back and forth trying to figure out what the numbers are.” —Bobby Petrino
—”He ought to get some glasses.” —Georgia Tech head coach Paul Johnson
—“It’s hard to win (ACC) games in general and it’s hard to go win games on the road. As coaches, we try to — I try to do it, but sometimes it’s hard — you just have to turn off all the noise. It’s all it is - a distraction. You’ve just got to be able to get ready and go play.” —Georgia Tech head coach Paul Johnson
—“Somebody’s got to have the quarterback, someone’s got to have the pitch and then you need a guy running the alley inside-out. And then that guy needs to be able to recognize play-action pass because they threw the ball six or seven times the other day. It’s always about the discipline and recognition.” —Bobby Petrino
—”It comes down to playing the game. All that stuff [about spread option vs. new teams] is blown way out of proportion, I think. Now, if you play a team that’s not used to coming off the ball and they’re used to catching and some of that? Yeah, it can be an advantage sometimes maybe.” —Georgia Tech head coach Paul Johnson
—”Personally, to me, I think Friday night is high school football night. I think the one thing is it’s at least on the road. I think we’d get some blowback if you played a Friday night game in the state of Georgia here with the high schools. The way that TV controls everything nowadays, it’s in the contract. This is the first time we’ve had to play on a Friday night. We come back, and then you talk about schedules, and then in two weeks you go play on Thursday night. It’s different. It takes you out of your routine but you have to plan for it.” —Georgia Tech head coach Paul Johnson
—“When you go to sleep and wake up the next day, it’s a new day. The sun is going to shine tomorrow, I promise. You take that and wear it. Then you come out and do the same thing this week with preparation and hope for a better outcome.” —Jaylen Smith
—”We won’t have to worry about fans not bringing energy on Friday, because they’ve got pretty good fans there and I’m sure they’ll have a raucous crowd. They usually do.” —Georgia Tech head coach Paul Johnson
Card Chronicle Prediction: Georgia Tech 31, Louisville 21
Once again, here’s hoping I’m very wrong.