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Thursday evening Cardinal news and notes

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My guy Easton is confident but already a bucket of nerves for Saturday’s game against UVA.

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—Spread check: Virginia by 3.5.

—Streaking the Lawn’s “The Column” feature previews this weekend’s game against the Cards.

—Ryan McMahon sees (Athletic link) his final season at Louisville as the perfect crescendo to a roller coaster college career.

From his unorthodox discovery and recruitment to his team being embroiled in an FBI investigation, almost nothing in McMahon’s college experience has gone as expected. The redshirt senior has played for three head coaches and endured broken ribs, multiple scandals and a school-imposed postseason ban. He has watched teammates move on to NBA stardom even as the program remained enveloped in dark clouds.

McMahon says he considered leaving more than once, but ultimately decided to stay for reasons he can only explain as instinctive.

Loyal is just who he is.

I never transferred middle schools, never transferred high schools, never transferred in college,” he says. “I’ve always kind of stuck it out. I don’t run when things go bad. I kind of put my head down and fight through it and figure out how to make it work. That’s how my parents raised me — not to make excuses and blame it on other people and run from the conflict. Put your head down, keep working and face the storm head on.”

Going into McMahon’s final season, his second under coach Chris Mack, the storm has subsided. He finally has the stability he has craved for the past four years. He understands what his coach wants from him and is in tune with his own routine. Louisville, ranked fifth in the AP poll released on Monday, is loaded with talent and has the potential to be a Final Four team, with McMahon playing the pivotal sixth-man role.

McMahon sees it all as the ultimate end to an extremely memorable career in a Cardinals uniform. “As long as we win a lot of games like we should and compete the way we should,” he says, “it’s like a perfect crescendo of the right way to leave.”

—After sticking it at out at Louisville with the hope of helping the program turn things around, Dez Fitzpatrick is on pace to have a career season.

—Drew Brees says he plans to return to the field for the Saints this Sunday,

—The “Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium” era of Louisville football is officially over.

The “Andy’s TV Cardinal Stadium” era is right around the corner.

—Sports Illustrated lays out the numbers you need to know for Louisville vs. Virginia.

—Louisville volleyball is back home to host Virginia and No. 3 Pittsburgh.

—Another classic Louisville-DePaul battle.

—The annual Battle of the Barrel baseball game between Louisville and Vanderbilt is scheduled for May 5. After what went down between the two programs in Omaha last June, it’s safe to say the rivalry is going back to its contentious roots.

—The CJ lays out how Louisville can upset Virginia on Saturday.

—Bill Self says being investigated for rampant cheating has motivated him to win more than ever before.

“Certainly, I haven’t liked it,” Self said about the investigation. “But it’s also, in a strange way, motivating me, probably, in a way that maybe I have never been to combat this by taking care of our business on the basketball court, working with our players in a way that maybe exceeds any way I’ve ever done it.”

...

“As far as my legacy or whatever, that doesn’t even register with me,” Self said. “I probably know me better than anybody else knows me. I know the people that I worked with over the years know me and everything. I know that we have to get through this, and we’ll get through this and be very happy when it’s behind us. My legacy is the least of my concerns right now. I just want to do the best job I can coaching at a place that I absolutely love.”

Self later made it clear that he sees the NCAA investigation as a battle and emphasized that he believes that Kansas will emerge as the victor.

”Absolutely, Kansas will always prevail,” Self said. “Always. And I’d like to think I will as well. But I think the school is obviously much more important than an individual is.”

Sounds vaguely familiar.

—Jake Snider’s Saints team took game five and the Pizza Bowl title on Wednesday.

—Congrats to Luke Hancock, who is joining the ACC Network as a studio analyst during basketball season.

—Top 15 prospect Olivia Cochran remains firm in her commitment to Louisville.

—Louisville City FC’s quest for a third straight USL title begins Saturday night at Slugger Field with a playoff match against Tampa Bay.

—Clemson basketball has gotten two commitments from two top 100 players in the last 24 hours. Brad Brownell always seems to get half his body over the ledge of being fired before he starts making big plays.

—Louisville has two of the top 30 college basketball teams of the Ken Pom era (2002-present).

—Bardstown and U of L recruit J.J. Traynor have been added to this December’s King of the Bluegrass field.

—Strange story out of Niagara, where Patrick Beilein (John’s son and former WVU player) has stepped down before ever coaching a game for the Purple Eagles. Louisville coaching legend Greg Paulus, who has been involved in enough wild coaching situations over the last three years to last a lifetime, will be Niagara’s interim head coach for 2019-20. He worked his ass off and was always pleasant during his short time here, so I’ll be pulling for them.

—This is a fact-fueled website, folks.

—The U of L men’s soccer team looks to bounce back from a home loss to Temple by going on the road Friday and upsetting No. 21 North Carolina.

—Barry Sanders’ career stats would have been even more unreal if it wasn’t for 1-yard TD vultures. Jon Bois and Alex Rubenstein explain in the latest installment of Dorktown.

—The Banner Society watch grid for the upcoming weekend in college football is here.

—Athlon likes Virginia’s defense to hold Louisville in check on Saturday.

Final Analysis

Something will have to give on Saturday between the Virginia defense and the Louisville offense. While the Cavaliers have been stout stopping the run this year, the Cardinals are averaging 216.9 yards on the ground, which is 24th in the FBS.

Virginia will likely try to force the quarterback pair to beat them through the air. The Cavaliers have 28 sacks this season, which is the fourth most in the nation. Meanwhile, the Cardinals are allowing 2.86 sacks per game, which is among the most in the FBS.

If Louisville cannot run the ball, it is hard to see the Cardinals offense generating a ton of points. Several three and outs by the offense will make life difficult for the Louisville defense.

Prediction: Virginia 27, Louisville 17

—Donovan Mitchell’s third NBA season got off to a stellar start Wednesday night.

—America’s Got Talent will be stopping in Louisville. I will be performing a fly-swatting exhibition for the judges.

No one in the world is better than me at fly-swatting.

—Is the official Music City Bowl website trying to send us a message?

—SMU will be wearing “Dallas” uniforms this weekend to support the city as it continues to recover from the recent tornado that wrecked it.

—Clemson Sports Talk looks at how the Tiger defense slowed down Louisville.

—The three sports writers for The Richmond Times-Dispatch all like Virginia over Louisville.

Mike Barber, Richmond Times-Dispatch (21-11): Louisville’s run game will test Virginia and its explosive passing game figures to challenge the new-look, Bryce Hall-less secondary. The ‘Hoos feel that Javian Hawkins is the best running back they will have faced this season, no small compliment considering the win over Florida State and Cam Akers. Virginia’s offensive line improved and it is running Bryce Perkins more. That should be just enough to trot home from Louisville with a win.

PICK: Virginia 31, Louisville 28

Bennett Conlin, Charlottesville Daily Progress (20-12): Reading too much into each individual ACC game can be troublesome. Virginia Tech looked abysmal against Duke earlier this season, but the Hokies appear to have turned it around. Duke just got blown out by Virginia after looking fantastic a few weeks back. Louisville beat Wake Forest 62-59 before getting demolished by Clemson. Heck, Georgia Tech just beat Miami. Using a big picture perspective, the Cardinals are a solid team despite last week’s loss. I’m not putting too much stock into Virginia’s win over Duke, as the Blue Devils executed horribly. Virginia is still the better team, but this won’t be a blowout.

PICK: Virginia 35, Louisville 28

Michael Niziolek, Roanoke Times (19-3): Louisville has played better than expected under first-year coach Scott Satterfield, but the Cardinals still aren’t a very good defensive team. They are giving up 455 yards per game and 33 points per game this season (No. 111 in FBS). Virginia continues to struggle with turnovers and its red zone offense, but Louisville isn’t a strong enough team to take advantage.

PICK: Virginia 42, Louisville 24

—Louisville women’s soccer is in Charlottesville tonight to take on No. 1 Virginia. The Cavaliers are one of just two unbeaten teams remaining in the country.

—And finally, congrats to Javian Hawkins on being named a midseason Freshman All-American by the FWAA.