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Louisville-NC State preview: Cards shoot for bowl eligibility in Raleigh

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

LOUISVILLE CARDINALS (5-4, 3-3) at NC STATE WOLFPACK (4-5, 1-4)

Game Time: 7:30 p.m.

Location: Carter-Finley Stadium: Raleigh, N.C.

Television: ACC Network

Announcers: Dave O’Brien, Tim Hasselbeck and Katie George

Favorite: Louisville by 4

All-Time Series: Louisville leads, 6-3

Last Meeting: NC State won 52-10 on Nov. 17, 2018 in Louisville

Series History:

Statistics:

Louisville Depth Chart:

Louisville Uniforms:

Relevant Videos:

About NC State:

via Keith Wynne

OFFENSE

NC State media started to push the idea of State being “QBU” after five former quarterbacks became starters or backups in the NFL. That may prove to be a mistake as the Wolfpack has struggled to find a serviceable quarterback this year. Dave Doeren knew that he would have a reload season on his hands but I doubt he expected things to be this bad for his team. Injuries have killed the Wolfpack while also struggling to replace all that they lost from last season. They’re looking for their second power five win of the year when they face off against Louisville.

Injuries have been bad for State but Dave Doeren has three healthy quarterbacks that he won’t stop juggling. I don’t think it’s smart at all to spend your spring and fall figuring out who your quarterback is and then bench that guy for a guy that they beat out. Doeren has done just that by shuffling his quarterbacks all year long. Devin Leary has played the last two full games but he’s been flat out bad for the most part. Maybe they decide to go back to Matthew McKay as he has at least been more accurate and can run a bit. It may not matter who they start as any of them would be the second worst quarterback Louisville has faced this year.

State has a good group of running back to work with this year. Zonovan Knight was a four star recruit in this past class while Jordan Houston was the 6th ranked all purpose back in the 2019 class. If there’s a spot where you can lean on freshmen, it’s running back. Knight is the bigger of the two backs and he’s coming off of a 139-yard day against Clemson. This offense hasn’t run the ball well this year against Power 5 teams but they have to be happy about how they ran the ball late in the game even if it was against Clemson’s backups. I’d expect a heavy dose of both of these backs and the Wolfpack should have Ricky Person back from injury.

State lost a ton of guys on this offense but no spot was hit harder than wide receiver. Kelvin Harmon and Jakobi Meyers both left for the NFL and C.J. Riley is out for the year with an injury. That leaves Emeka Emezie as the lone contributor to return this year. They attempt to get Emezie the ball a lot in this offense. He had 76 targets going into the Clemson game which was 20 more than the next guy. Emezie is similar to Kelvin Harmon as a big body player that can do a bit of everything but he’s not the deep threat Harmon was. He’s more of a possession guy who has a knack for getting first downs.

The other receivers have shared the load as the second option. Thayer Thomas and Tabari Hines are the slot guys. Thomas is a threat to throw the ball on trick plays while Hines is a very quick player who can make a play after the catch. Devin Carter is the deep threat on the team and he has improved his game as the season has gone on. He’s 6-4 so he’s also an option in the red zone. At tight end, Cary Angeline is a threat to make big plays and to get the tough first downs. He’s massive at 6-7/250 and he probably deserves to get more passes thrown his way.

State also lost a lot up front on the offensive line and they’ve had injury issues to the most veteran player they had coming back. As of now, they are relying on a mix of veteran backups and freshmen to get by and it’s not going all too well. They haven’t allowed a ton of sacks or tackles for loss but they’re not opening up a lot of lanes for the running backs to help the offense. With State not being able to run the ball well, their quarterbacks are being put in a tough position. State could go air raid with Ryan Finley. They don’t have the ability to do that with this group of quarterbacks.

DEFENSE

The NC State defense has always been a bit underwhelming to me but they always did enough to get wins. This year they haven’t done nearly enough to get those wins with no help from their offense. State has also been hit by some rough injury luck with some key players. They also entered this season needing to replace a fair amount of guys from last year’s team. All of those things have led to a very rough year with very little to hang their hat on.

The defensive front is the strong point of this defense. State has done well to recruit and develop guys on the defensive line and it’s helping to keep this defense together right now. Larrell Murchison and Alim McNeill make up a very good defensive tackle duo. Murchison is a good pass rusher who lead the ACC in sacks at one point this year. McNeill is one of the biggest recruiting victories Dave Doeren has had and he’s finally starting to get a full load of snaps. He’s athletic enough to cause some issues on the outside zone runs as he can run things down from his nose tackle spot. These two guys will play a huge role in this game as Louisville will want to run the ball and establish the offense very early.

NC State isn’t getting much of anything from the defensive end spots but James Smith-Williams is a solid player at the field defensive end spot. Xavier Lyas is also a solid young player but he decided to transfer after their game last week. Not much about this line worries you from a pass rushing standpoint but they do have players. They just haven’t produced. Louisville has allowed some guys to have above average games against them up front this year. That can’t happen if they want to win this game. Dave Doeren is a good coach. Even though things aren’t going well this year, his team is playing hard. Giving them a spark would be a big mistake for Louisville.

The linebacker group for State has been banged up this year. Isaiah Moore is the veteran of the group but he hasn’t been very productive this year and he missed the Clemson game. Payton Wilson hasn’t been a starter this year but he is third in tackles. He left the Clemson game with a collarbone injury after getting his first start. Louis Acceus also missed the Clemson game but it looks like he has the potential to be back for Louisville. As of now, it’s very possible that Louisville could be facing a linebacker group that is made up of freshmen that will be making their second starts of the season. That would bode well for the running game.

NC State hasn’t forced a turnover since September and that’s due in part to the injuries they’ve had in the secondary. Nick McCloud returned to the lineup for the Clemson game but he didn’t record a statistic. State also lost their other starting corner a few weeks ago. Half of State’s sacks came against FSU and Syracuse who have two of the worst offensive lines in the country. Outside of those games, the pass rush hasn’t been too impressive and that’s a bad combination to have with a young secondary. I’ve been a fairly consistent advocate for Louisville to get the outside receivers more involved and this week will be no different. The Wolfpack is vulnerable at corner and Louisville should take advantage.

State has been healthy at one spot and that’s safety. Tanner Ingle leads the team in tackles and he’s shown a good ability to cover receivers. He’s on the small side but that doesn’t hurt him as a tackler. He’s one of the more impressive players I’ve watched this year. Jarius Moorhead is back for another year and he’s still a solid player who should help this defense against the run. Louisville does need to find a way to get him into coverage situations. That’s not where he wins.

Excitement Level: 7.7

Decent step down from last week, but still excited about taking in a night road game with bowl eligibility there for the taking.

Game Attire: Red long-sleeve Louisville Cardinals shirt, grey U of L sweatpants

I’m wearing what I said I was going to wear last week. Baby duties ruined that opportunity a week ago with an extreme spit up incident. It’s time to make amends.

Pregame Meal: Leftover Bearnos

We have leftover Bearnos. Might be a last-minute switch, but I’m guessing this is what I’m going to be eating.

Bold Prediction: Monty Montgomery intercepts a pass

I put too much pressure on Monty last week ... it only made him stronger to handle this week’s pressure.

Ty Tyler Sack Alert Level: Fuzzy Wuzzy (strong)

Our guy had a tackle last week, but also got hit with a completely bogus personal foul penalty. He’s out for redemption this week. Don’t be surprised if he gets it.

Predicted Star of the Game: TuTu Atwell

The breakout sophomore season continues with a monster performance in Raleigh.

Notable:

—A win Saturday would make Louisville bowl eligible for the 18th time in the last 22 years. A year ago, the Cardinals saw their streak of eight consecutive seasons with a bowl appearance snapped.

—Louisville is 4-0 this season when winning the turnover battle, and just 1-4 when losing it.

—Louisville is also 4-0 this season when scoring first, and 1-4 when allowing their opponents to score first.

—Largely due to injuries, NC State has started 45 different players this season, the most of any Power Five conference team.

—NC State has played more freshmen this season than any team in the FBS besides Clemson.

—Two members of the Louisville coaching staff have NC State ties. OC Dwayne Ledford was the offensive line coach for the Pack from 2016-18, while former NC State quarterback Pete Thomas is a quality control coach for the Cardinals.

—Louisville RB Javian Hawkins is 22 yards short of becoming the first Louisville running back to rush for 1,000 yards in a season since Bilal Powell did it in Charlie Strong’s debut season of 2010.

—NC State has been outscored by a combined 56-0 in the first quarters of its last three games.

—Louisville is 2-0 on the ACC Network this season.

—Louisville is 28-12 all-time against teams from the state of North Carolina.

—Louisville leads the ACC with 21 offensive plays that have covered at least 40 yards and a dozen 50-yarders. NC State is tied with Duke with the fewest 40-yard plays (five) and has only had two that have gone for 50 or more yards.

—NC State has totaled 29 sacks in its first nine games, which ranks 12th in the country and fourth in the ACC.

—Louisville’s Javian Hawkins ranks 14th in the nation in rushing yards per game at 108.7. He’s the second-leading freshman rusher in the FBS.

—Louisville is 4-0 this season when leading at halftime.

—Louisville is 3-0 this season as a favorite.

—In seven seasons as a head coach, Scott Satterfield owns a 38-9 record in conference play.

—Satterfield is 19-6 during the month of November as a head coach. His teams had won six straight games in the month before last week’s loss to Miami.

—Louisville is currently riding a consecutive game scoring streak that spans 246 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 6-115 all-time when allowing opponents to score 40 or more points.

Quotable:

—“We have a great opportunity this week to come back and play. That’s the great thing about football is the fact that win or lose, you get to come back and play again. The next game is the most important game, so we’re excited about the opportunity to go down to Raleigh and play NC State.” —Scott Satterfield

—“It’s an extremely well-coached team. I know all those players and they are going to play hard. Coach Doeren always does a great job getting them ready to play, and all those coaches. It’s the next one. Being there, being with those guys, there’s a lot of relationships with the coaches on the staff and the players, but it’s going to be something. It’s a well-coached football team, they’ll play hard and they are going to fight. They are going to be where they’re supposed to be.” —Dwayne Ledford

—“I know right now, it’s tough. As a fan base we’re suffering through some difficult things, but I also know we’ve built a heck of a program here. Being young and facing the injuries has created a reality of adversity that we’re in, and I really believe adversity shows your true self.” —NC State head coach Dave Doeren

—“This is about us. If we fit things right and communicate, we’ll be fine.” —Dorian Etheridge

—“Coming off a loss is adversity no matter how it came, whether its 57-10 or 44-5 or 21-20. A loss is a loss. I think the guys came back focused and hopefully we will get over this hump and get on the road.” —Bryan Brown

—“We had to get after them a good bit because it’s our base stuff we were screwing up. The one play with Marlon (Character) you can’t explain it. The rest were busts and we have to do a better job coaching and things of that nature, but overall the guys responded well because we had to get after them.” —Bryan Brown

—”I think that’s my job is to insulate, because everyone else overreacts. We’re not happy. Let’s not say that. But they understand when we started the season, we made a pact in that room that we’re gonna go one week at a time. We’ll have to reassess our goals as we go obviously, but there’s a lot for this team to play for -- most importantly their pride. I think that’s the biggest thing. Having a conference game at home coming off a tough couple weeks and they want to fight hard to get that locker room the way they want it after a win.” —NC State head coach Dave Doeren

—“They’re a very well-coached team, kids always play hard. This year they’ve had a ton of injuries throughout their whole team, and they’ve had to play a lot of young players. They’ve played several quarterbacks and settled in on (Devin) Leary now, and that’s given them a chance offensively. (Zonovan) Knight’s a really good running back. They’re always a great crowd there in Raleigh and is one of the louder venues in the ACC. We’re looking forward to this opportunity to get better.” —Scott Satterfield

Card Chronicle Prediction: Louisville 31, NC State 17

Look, I asked everyone all week to give me some legitimate reasons to make me feel more nervous about this game than I’ve been, and no one could step up. I’m just as unhappy about this as all of you.

If Louisville loses tonight, I swear on everything I’ll pick against us the next two weeks.

Go Cards.