LOUISVILLE CARDINALS (2-8, 0-7) vs. NC STATE WOLFPACK (6-3, 3-3)
Game Time: 12:20 p.m.
Location: Cardinal Stadium: Louisville, Ky.
Television: Regional Sports Networks/WAVE-3 in Louisville
Announcers: Tom Werme (play-by-play), Dave Archer (analyst), and Lericia Harris (sideline)
Favorite: NC State by 16.5
All-Time Series: Louisville leads, 6-2
Last Meeting: NC State won 39-25 on Oct. 5, 2017 in Raleigh
Louisville Depth Chart:
Game Day Events:
Getting the Hard Knox threads ready for action! Gold trim and flakes throughout the uniform pic.twitter.com/cbLSR7ZJZ5— Louisville Equipment (@UofLEquipment) November 16, 2018
About NC State:
NC State has been known for their offense over the last two years but they will be coming to Cardinal Stadium trying to pick up the pieces after a terrible loss to Wake Forest. State has had issues running the ball all year but they abandoned the run game against Wake and paid for it. Dave Doeren will have to work out a better gameplan this week as Louisville will be looking to get a spark after the coaching change.
The quarterback position in the ACC was expected to be down this year but Ryan Finley was the lone bright spot. Finley is a prototype pocket passer with great accuracy and average arm strength. He has been projected as a guy that will go in the first few rounds of the draft in the spring and his consistency is a likely reason why. Finley is going to hit somewhere between 65-75% of his passes in any given game. State likes to throw short passes and they are more about efficiency than explosiveness. Finley fits that very well even though they do hit some big plays down the field at times.
State only ran the ball 27 times last week even though they were going up against a woeful Wake Forest run defense. For context, Syracuse ran the ball 60 times the week before when they played Wake and came out with an easy win. For whatever reason, State decided to do the opposite and throw the ball around even though they led for most of the game. Even though they’ve had issues running the ball this year, it made no sense at all and it’s probably a big part of how they lost the game
I would be surprised if the Wolfpack didn’t focus on running the ball this weekend and they’ll use Reggie Gallaspy and Ricky Person to do it. Gallaspy is averaging under four yards per carry but he has had games where his bruising style has worked really well. Person was the fourth ranked running back in the country last year and he’s been good when healthy. Person is the guy that I’m most concerned with because he can break the big runs. He’s got good speed but more than that, he’s got the right amount of patience to let things develop behind a good line.
The receivers for State came into this season as one of the best groups in the country and they haven’t disappointed at all. While they don’t have the big play makers that some of the top schools in the country have, they have a super consistent group that is very reliable. Kelvin Harmon is the top receiver on the team and he’s the most likely guy to break a big play. Harmon is a monster of a receiver but he shows good speed on the outside.
Jakobi Meyers is the safety blanket for Finley this year. he and Harmon are both in the top ten in the country in catches per game. Meyers is tall and lanky but he does really well in the slot. His timing seems to be the key reason he’s always open and that might be a byproduct of him being a former quarterback. He’s also the most likely guy to run a trick play.
I would put NC State’s offensive line at the top of the list in the ACC. They brought back some very talented guys but they were also able to backfill their losses with good players. State likes to run the ball to the left side behind Terronne Prescod and Tyler Jones and they do it pretty well. The strength of this group is pass protection, though. They give Finley a ton of time to throw the ball and they handle blitzes really well. Louisville might be the team that helps them find their ability to run block better and it’s not likely that they will have much of an issue protecting Finley.
From an outsider’s view, the glaring issue with the NC State football team is their very bland defense. Dave Huxtable has been the defensive coordinator at State for a good while now and his defenses have been the epitome of “average”. This season was expected to be a down year because they lost so many guys up front but they started the season pretty well. The ACC slog has exposed them a bit as they’ve lost three of their last four and the defense hasn’t been great in any of those games.
The defensive line for State lost all four starters from a very good group last year but they have been serviceable without those guys. Eurndraus Bryant is the veteran in the middle at the nose tackle position. He isn’t a big time playmaker but he does do a pretty good job of eating up blocks. Darian Roseboro has been a let down at his defensive end spot but they have to be happy James Smith-Williams who has five sacks on the year. I also like Alim McNeill at defensive tackle. He was one of the top players in State’s class last year and he’s been really good in spurts.
The linebackers lost some veteran talent as well but I think they netted a positive because Germaine Pratt gets to play a lot more now. Pratt is the guy from last year’s game that walked down Seth Dawkins late in the game and then took an interception back for a touchdown to seal things. He was a backup at that point but now he is the key player on this defense. Pratt is the guy that is likely to come on late blitzes which Louisville has struggled with. He’s also the most likely guy to pick off a pass over the middle of the field which Louisville has struggled with. He’s also the best athlete on the field.
The Wolfpack pass defense is one of the worst in the country. They’re allowing teams to complete 63% of their passes and they’re allowing 8.1 yards per attempt. Those numbers are similar to UofL, for context. No one in the secondary really stands out for strong play but I’ve always like the way that Nick McCleod plays. Tanner Ingle is another freshman that has played significant minutes, also.
I’m not sure how Mike Summers will go about things as a play caller, but I’m pretty sure Bobby Petrino would have come out throwing the ball a lot against this defense. I would say that Summers should look to attack the deep middle of the field. State has talent there but they have some ginormous safeties and they aren’t all that great in coverage. Louisville has been using Tutu Atwell on seam routes all year for some reason but I’d love to see them work Dez Fitzpatrick in those areas because he has the height to make those catches in traffic. Either way, I think that the offense could see some real success in the passing game this week.
Excitement Level: 3.3
This is higher than it would have been had the events of the past week not transpired, but I’d be lying if I said I’m back in realm of where I usually am for the last conference game of the season. I like what Lorenzo Ward has been saying and I really don’t want to go 0-8 in the conference, but my main focus right now is limited to embarrassing the hell out of Kentucky and ruining all the good vibes they’d put together over the past three months, and then bringing in Jeff Brohm and getting this program back on track.
Game Attire: Jeans, black U of L jacket, grey Cardinal bird hat
Thankfully, it’s not going to be as bad as it was a couple days ago, but it’s still going to be chilly.
Pregame Meal: Zero idea
No pregame at the Petrino Family Foundation tailgate ... for obvious reasons, which also means no free food. We’ll be doing Cardinal GameDay from the press box, so I guess ... media snacks? I have no idea. I’m out of my element.
Bold Prediction: Louisville has three passing touchdowns
This is the worst secondary we’re going to face this season, so why not?
Rodjay Burns Kick/Punt Touchdown Return Alert Level: Middle Green (bad)
Just not feeling it.
Predicted Star of the Game: Jaylen Smith
Two games left. Let’s end this career on a high note.
—After the firing of Bobby Petrino on Sunday, Louisville will be playing its first game under the direction of interim head coach Lorenzo Ward. It will be the first time Ward has coached a game as a head coach.
—Louisville is in the midst of its first seven-game losing streak since 1964.
—A loss to NC State would complete Louisville’s first winless conference season since going 0-6 in Conference USA in 1997.
—Louisville is 4-0 all-time in home games against NC State.
—NC State is bowl eligible for a fifth consecutive year, the second longest streak in program history. Louisville will miss out on playing in a bowl game for the first time since 2009.
—NC State has won 9 of its last 14 ACC games, the second-best conference record among the 14 ACC teams since the beginning of the 2017 season, trailing only Clemson.
—Louisville has been outscored 154-47 in the second half of its last six games.
—Louisville has given up more than 38 points in its last five games, including over 50 in the last three games. Louisville is allowing 42.1 points per game this year and allowing 468.3 yards per game. This is the first time in program history that the Cardinals have allowed five different opponents to score 50 or more points in the same season.
—NC State QB Ryan Finley has thrown for 2,864 yards and 17 touchdowns. The senior is completing 67.7 percent of his throws and has only thrown seven interceptions.
—Louisville is undefeated in conference home games under the direction of Lorenzo Ward.
—Louisville has only covered the spread one time this season, the lowest total of any of the 130 teams in the FBS.
—Louisville is currently riding a consecutive game scoring streak that spans 235 games dating back to a 31-0 loss to Florida State during the 2000 season. The streak ranks as the third longest in the ACC behind only Virginia Tech and Georgia Tech.
—Louisville is 183-13 all-time when scoring 35 or more points in a game. The Cards are also 5-111 all-time when allowing opponents to score 40 or more points.
—“When I spoke with the staff here yesterday, I told them this is not going to be about me, it’s not going to be about them, it’s going to be about what we’re going to do for these young men for the next two weeks.” —Lorenzo Ward
—“I know they’re going to be very spirited. I know (interim coach Lorenzo Ward)’s going to do everything he can to make football fun for those guys and to be honest we’re doing the same thing here.” —NC State head coach Dave Doeren
—“Anytime you’ve lost seven games in a row, you’ve got to find a way to motivate the young men because the season hadn’t gone the way they thought it would. So, you have to be creative as a coach and create some situations that can generate excitement.” —Lorenzo Ward
—“Every week you have to show up. Every single game it’s anybody’s game. You’ve got to make the plays, you’ve got to coach your butt off.” —NC State head coach Dave Doeren
Card Chronicle Prediction: NC State 47, Louisville 23