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Louisville vs. Virginia game preview

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The Cards look to bounce back with an upset of Coastal Division-leading Virginia.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: SEP 02 Notre Dame at Louisville Photo by Frank Jansky/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

LOUISVILLE CARDINALS (4-3, 2-2) vs. VIRGINIA CAVALIERS (5-2, 3-1)

Game Time: 3:30 p.m.

Location: Cardinal Stadium: Louisville, Ky.

Television: ACC Network

Announcers: Chris Cotter, Mark Herzlich, Kelsey Riggs

Favorite: Virginia by 3.5

All-Time Series: Louisville leads, 4-3

Last Meeting: Virginia won 27-3 on Sept. 22, 2018 in Charlottesville

Series History:

Statistics:

Louisville Depth Chart:

Relevant Videos:

Louisville Uniforms:

Game Day Events:

About Virginia:

Via Keith Wynne

OFFENSE

Louisville football spent the first half of the season playing against the very top offensive teams on their schedule. Notre Dame, Boston College, Clemson, and Wake Forest are all either ranked in the top four or five in the conference or would be if Notre Dame counted as a true ACC team. Virginia does not have one of those types of offenses. In fact, they have the opposite. Virginia has one of the worst offenses in Power Five football, statistically. Louisville will have an opportunity to have some advantages on defense for the first time in about a month. They can’t allow Virginia to find it’s way on that side of the ball against them.

The quarterback position is the key for Virginia right now with Byrce Perkins accounting for most of what they do on the ground and in the air. Perkins leads the team in rushes per game even if you take out the sacks and Virginia doesn’t do nearly enough to get other people involved in the offense. It’s very similar to what we saw with Lamar Jackson where it was him making a play the vast majority of the time. Perkins came into the season with high expectation after outperforming most quarterbacks in the country down the stretch of the 2018 season. He hasn’t met those expectations but I think that’s mostly due to the guys they lost at the skill positions. Perkins is having to do a lot and teams are able to do a lot of simple things on defense to contain him because there’s not a lot of help around him.

Virginia really misses Jordan Ellis at the running back spot. They are barely getting four yards per carry from Wayne Taulapapa. This is the key spot where Perkins is being leaned on too much. Perkins was able to run the ball well last year off of their called running game as well as his scrambles. This year, no one is really respecting their running game so Perkins doesn’t have as much space. Taulapapa is a similar back to Ellis so I’m not sure why they aren’t running him more but I think he should probably be getting more than 11 carries a game.

Joe Reed has done a really good job stepping up this year as the “jack of all trades” type of player that this offense has had for a few years now. Reed will take jet sweeps, and other hand offs as well as doing some “wildcat” stuff from time to time. He has also become a three level receiver who can catch the quick screens as well as work down the field and be a deep threat. Reed is the most consistent threat to take a short play and turn it into an explosive play.

The other threat on this offense is Hasise Dubios. He only has two touchdowns on the season but he is a legit deep threat. He also has good enough speed to run away from guys on Louisville’s defense. Bryan Brown used some double teams against Clemson to try to take away Justyn Ross and Tee Higgins on third downs. I’d assume he will do the same this week. Disguising those coverages should work well again this week and you can bet that Perkins will be looking for one of these guys when he drops back.

Virginia’s offensive line is a little younger than what Louisville has seen so far this year. They have done a solid job of protecting Perkins even though they’ve given up 22 sacks on the year. Perkins holds the ball too long on a regular basis and that’s caused a lot of those sacks. From what I’ve seen, they don’t do a great job against interior rushes. Louisville should look to push the pocket up the middle. They definitely don’t run block very well. The running lanes are very tight and these guys don’t do very well when it comes to getting to edge and second level defenders. Louisville needs to stop the run and put this offense in long third downs. They handled those well against Clemson and should do the same this week.

DEFENSE

Virginia made a defensive hire when they landed Bronco Mendenhall and that decision has paid off well. While they had the talent on defense under Mike London, they never really stopped anyone. Now they’re able to do more with less and Mendenhall has done a great job of finding guys that fit what they do. The Cavs do a good job of making it tough to run on them and then they turn long third down plays into a show by bringing pressure from all over the place. Louisville will have to find a way to get the running game going so that they can avoid the unique pressures UVA brings.

There’s no bigger area where you see guys fit than up front for UVA. They run a traditional 3-4 which requires some disruptive linemen who can eat up blocks. These guys do just that and they’re now pretty deep at the position. Eli Hanbeck is the veteran of the group but true freshman Jowon Briggs might be the most talented guy in the group. These guys do such a great job of eating up blockers and letting their linebackers run free. The outside zone runs from Louisville will be a play to watch this week. These guys are big but not overly agile. But if they can be disruptive, the linebackers will have a clear path to the running backs.

The Virginia linebackers are the best group on this defense. The defense is designed that way but they also take full advantage with great speed as a group. Jordan Mack is the key guy in the middle. He leads the team in tackles for loss as well as sacks. To me, he’s a good mix of Max Richardson of BC and Justin Strnad of Wake Forest. He can do a lot of things well because he can run, but he’s better than both of those guys in terms of being a complete player. It doesn’t hurt that he gets so much help from the guys in front of him. Louisville will have to account for him against the run. He makes the types of plays that this blocking scheme is susceptible to.

Zane Zandier has stepped up his game this year and become a very good inside linebacker for this team. He makes a ton of tackles and also creates some negative plays. As a tandem, Zandier and Mack make it really hard to run the football inside or outside the tackles. They cover a lot of ground. Charles Snowden had a breakout game last year against Louisville and he’s become one of the key players on the defense this season. Snowden is 6-7/235 and he plays the strongside outside linebacker spot that lines up to the boundary side. I think that could be good for Louisville as he can use his length to set the edge. Louisville can look to run away from him to the wide side of the field and hope to use their speed in space.

Virginia will be without Bryce Hall who is arguably the best cornerback in the ACC. Hall broke his ankle a couple of weeks ago and UVA is now down to a former safety in Devonte Cross at one of their corner spots. The Hoos lost projected starter Darius Bratton before the season started so they’re technically down to two backups right now. Nick Grant has been solid for UVA but this is the weak spot for this defense. Cross and Grant have been aided by a great pass rush. Louisville needs to be able to protect their quarterbacks this week and test these outside corners.

Brenton Nelson and Joey Blount are back at their safety spots this year and they’re just as solid as ever. Blount leads the team in tackles and interceptions. Nelson hasn’t made an impact on the stat sheet but he allows this defense to do a lot of things because of his experience. I’ve seen him blitz from different areas as well as cover slot guys. This will be the first game since Notre Dame where I don’t don’t think that Louisville will have an advantage of some sort in the middle of the field. These guys can run well and make plays on the football.

Virginia’s defense is obviously better than BC or Wake, but I do think that Louisville can find success if they run the ball well. They live off of negative plays and getting teams into long yardage situations. That’s when they can get their pressures going and it’s hard to stop this pass rush when they have the advantage. Being able to utilize the play action protections that we’ve seen this season will be key. Louisville has the receivers to beat this secondary but they have to have time to get open.

Excitement Level: 7.6

Weather is a factor here. So is the fact that Virginia plays sort of an annoying style of football, and when I say annoying style of football, I mean their defense is great and their offense is basically “Bryce Perkins go make a play.”

Game Attire: Red U of L pull over, red U of L rain jacket, black L hat, jeans

The victory t-shirt is no more, so we’re trying to mimic the team uniforms this week.

Pregame Meal: Coffee, cheese bagel

As mentioned previously, I’m a late breakfast/no lunch guy. We’re doing the pregame show at 12:30 from the Trager Center, so the late breakfast is going to double as the pregame meal on this day.

Bold Prediction: Javian Hawkins rushes for more than 200 yards

Man’s in the zone.

Ty Tyler Sack Alert Level: Thistle (low)

For the first time in over a month, our guy failed to record a statistic last week. For this reason, enthusiasm is extremely tempered.

Predicted Star of the Game: Javian Hawkins

I’m going to keep picking him here until he proves me wrong.

Notable:

—Louisville is 3-0 all-time in home games against Virginia.

—Saturday is Homecoming for Louisville. The Cardinals are 22-5 in Homecoming games since 1992, but have lost on Homecoming each of the last two seasons.

—The first five games of this series were won by a touchdown or less, including the first three on field goals in the closing minutes.

—Virginia is looking to become bowl eligible in three consecutive seasons for the first time since a four-year stretch from 2002-05.

—Louisville RB Javian Hawkins has rushed for 100 yards or more in each of his last three home games. Hawkins’ 751 rushing yards are already the third-most in a season for a U of L freshman, trailing only Victor Anderson (1,047 in 2008) and Lamar Jackson (960 in 2015).

—Virginia LB Jordan Mack is No. 1 in the ACC with 7.0 sacks (No. 11 in the nation) and is No. 3 among the nation’s linebackers.

—As a team, Virginia is tied for fourth in the FBS in sacks per game (4.0).

—Offensively, Virginia averages just 350.1 yards per game, which ranks 104th in the country and 13th in the ACC.

—Louisville is 9-10 all-time against teams from the state of Virginia, but has won six straight home games against Virginia squads.

—The home team has won every game in this series except for 2016, when Lamar Jackson rallied the Cardinals to win 32-25 in Charlottesville.

—Virginia’s Joe Reed has 2,837 career kick return yards and is averaging 29.2 yards per kick return while in a UVA uniform. He is the only player in FBS history to have 2,700+ career kick return yards and a career average per kick return of 28+ yards.

—Virginia’s defense is No. 5 in the nation in total sacks with 28 (4.0 per game). The Cavalier linebacking corps alone has 19.5 sacks (2.8 per game) which, is more than the overall totals of 100 other FBS teams thus far.

—This will be the second straight week Louisville has faced one of the nation’s top 10 defenses. Clemson entered last week’s game No. 3 in the nation in total defense. Virginia is No. 8.

—Despite going winless last season, Louisville is 13-9 all-time in ACC home games.

—In seven seasons as a head coach, Scott Satterfield owns a 37-8 record in conference play.

—Satterfield’s teams have won 16 of their last 19 games in the month of October.

—Louisville is 3-0 this season when winning the turnover battle, and 1-3 when losing it.

—Louisville is currently riding a consecutive game scoring streak that spans 244 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, and the 14th-longest nationally.

—Louisville is 187-13 all-time when scoring 35 or more points in a game. The Cards are also 6-114 all-time when allowing opponents to score 40 or more points.

Quotable:

—“We have a great opponent in Virginia. They’re 5-2. A team that is coached very well. Coach (Bronco) Mendenhall, it’s his 5th season maybe and he has done a great job of building that program up. They’re very competitive. Their kids play extremely hard. Defensively, one of the best defenses in the country.” —Scott Satterfield

—”Louisville is dynamic. They’re dynamic at quarterback. They’re dynamic at running back. They’re dynamic at receiver. So much like Louisville seems to always be, since at least I’ve been in this league, they are exceptional athletes that there’s a big-play threat that’s just kind of always hanging over your head of this play could go the whole way. And the amount of points they’re scoring again reflects that they can and they have done that already.” —Virginia head coach Bronco Mendenhall

—“You’re in a different location. But one of our things is no matter where we go, we’re going to bring Virginia football there. With that in mind, it makes it easy to go anywhere. At the end of the day, it’s the same game no matter where you play it.” —Virginia cornerback De’Vante Cross

—“I feel as though with us winning last week, us going on the road this week will help us a lot. Everyone got their confidence back and everyone’s back on track. So I just feel as though traveling and playing on the road isn’t that much of a difference.” —Virginia WR Hasise Dubois

“They do a good job of containing everything on the edges and making you come inside. They’ve done well in the secondary. They stay on top of everything. There are not guys running free on film, where you can get easy yards down the field. You have to earn everything.” —Scott Satterfield

—“Every week, it doesn’t matter who you play. This is the ACC. They are going to be a great athlete, even though they may not be a star player on paper. You’ve got to be focused all week. You’ve got to be diligent in your film study, because anyone can beat you.” —Virginia cornerback De’Vante Cross

Card Chronicle Prediction: Virginia 27, Louisville 21

Go Cards.