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Game Day: Louisville vs. Notre Dame

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At long last, it’s time for the Cardinal and the Fighting Irish to take the field inside Cardinal Stadium.

NCAA FOOTBALL: NOV 22 Louisville at Notre Dame Photo by Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire/Corbis/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

LOUISVILLE CARDINALS vs. NO. 9 NOTRE DAME FIGHTING IRISH

Game Time: 8:06 p.m.

Location: Cardinal Stadium

Television: ESPN

Announcers: Chris Fowler, Kirk Herbstreit and Maria Taylor

Favorite: Notre Dame by 18

All-Time Series: Louisville leads, 1-0

Only Meeting: Louisville won 31-28 on Nov. 22, 2014 in South Bend

Statistics:

Louisville Depth Chart:

Relevant Videos:

Louisville Uniforms:

About Notre Dame:

via Keith Wynne

OFFENSE

Louisville kicks off their 2019 season with a Notre Dame team that went undefeated in the regular season last year and made the playoff. The Fighting Irish offense comes into the season with some key players returning as well as some big losses that will need to be replaced. Head coach Brian Kelly and offensive coordinator Chip Long have done a great job over the last few years to create a balanced attack that can beat you in multiple ways. Long was mentioned as a candidate for some head coaching jobs this offseason but I think that he will take the next year or two to build his profile.

The Irish get their star quarterback back this year in Ian Book. Book finished the regular season last year with a completion percentage over 70%. Clemson drug that down to 68% because that’s what Clemson does but Book had a very good season overall. He didn’t start the full season but after taking over as the starter Book dominated the middle of the schedule throwing 14 touchdowns in 6 games. I’m most impressed by the way he can get the ball off quickly and accurately. I do wonder how strong his arm, though. It didn’t seem like Long pushed the ball down the field as much as you’d expect last year with the size they had at receiver.

Louisville will have to find a way to contain Book’s arm while also handling his ability to run. Book isn’t a dynamic runner but he’s very slippery and elusive in the pocket. My first thoughts when I watched a few ND games from last year is that he seems to fit the mold of what Scott Satterfield wants in a quarterback. He’s spoken about wanting a guy that “can get out of trouble” and Book is the perfect example of that. It might actually be fair to compare Book to Stefan Lefors as he’s not the fastest guy on the field but he always seems to find a way to get into space to gain yardage as a runner.

The running back position will be interesting to watch as the Irish running game wasn’t all that great last year until Dexter Williams finished serving a preseason suspension. Jafar Armstrong and Tony Jones Jr. split carries as the backups last year but Armstrong seems to be the guy set to be the starter this year. They might be able to combine to make a thunder and lightning type of situation as Armstrong is a converted wide receiver who can make people miss in the open field and has great speed while Jones is a bigger body who can shed tacklers. Armstrong is a guy that can cause some concern for Louisville because the defense really struggled with tackling last year and he can cut on a dime and get into the second and third level easily. Kyren Williams is also a back that has been mentioned as a possibility to get carries as a freshman.

Notre Dame lost a big time player in Miles Boykin to the NFL but they do return Chase Claypool as an outside receiver and he’s been very impressive from what I’ve seen. Claypool is a massive receiver at 6-4/229 and ND commentators claim that he’s one of the fastest players on the team. I could see him causing some issues for Louisville if Chip Long decides to push the ball down the field more this year. Even if Book doesn’t have a great arm, he does have a big receiver who can go up and get the ball. The Irish use Claypool in different ways but he will be relied on to be THE guy this year without Boykin on the other side to take some attention away.

The injury bug has really hurt the pass catching group for ND as Michael Young and Cole Kmet have both been sidelined with broken collarbones. Young was a projected starter outside to replace Boykin and now it sounds like they will move Chris Finke outside from the slot position. Finke is a pretty prototypical slot guy who does well to find open windows and understands down and distance well so I think moving him outside is a pretty substantial development. Kevin Austin is rumored to be suspended to start the season but if he’s out there he would likely be the guy to move in for Young to keep things stable as well as to stave off a big drop off.

With Kmet out, the overall depth at tight end but they do get to turn to Brock Wright to take over the starting spot. Wright was the second ranked tight end in the country in the 2017 class which was one spot ahead of Kmet. So, the Irish have done pretty well at bringing in talent at the tight end spot. Wright didn’t make many plays last year as the third stringer but he did play in twelve games last year and has been around for a few years. The tight end position combined for over 50 catches last year so not having Kmet available could force them to adjust their game plan due to not having a lot of experienced options in the passing game.

Notre Dame has become a very good school when it comes to offensive line play as they put a handful of guys in the NFL over the last few years and a few of them have become star players. Personally, I think that they have done a really good job of being ahead of the curve when it comes to the size of their line. The trend with linemen seems to be more about being leaner and longer as opposed to carrying a bunch of weight. There was a great stat out of the Senior Bowl last year that showed that only two of the linemen that were invited came to college at 300+ pounds. The rest, including Garrett Bradburry, were much closer to 275. The Irish have a quicker and faster group of guys than some other teams and all of their guys have great length.

Tommy Kraemer is the last five star that ND signed and he is one of the four returning starters for ND. The one spot that will be changing is the center spot and we all know how important that position is. Colin Grunhard was the second string center last year but Jarrett Patterson has been listed as the potential starter by some publications this summer. Patterson is a true sophomore that played left tackle last year so it’s definitely a position to keep an eye on in the first game. The line saw a substantial drop off last year with a new position coach but they should be in a better position this year with some experience returning.

DEFENSE

The evolution of Brian Kelly as a head coach has been pretty fascinating to watch from the outside. When Louisville played at Notre Dame in 2014 his defense had been ravaged by injuries and had no scheme advantages. But, when he decided to make a change at defensive coordinator he brought in Mike Elko and started to coach like he was in charge of the entire team and not just the offense.

After Elko made the move to Texas A&M, his protege Clark Lea took over and his defense was able to produce some incremental improvements last year. The biggest improvement was the ability to get to the quarterback and I think they could be even better in that area this year. Julian Akwora and Khalid Kareem combine to make up one of the best pair of edge players in the country. Akwora led the team in tackles for loss and sacks with Kareem in the top three in both. The Irish also have great depth here with Daelin Hayes leading two other seniors as their top backups at the ends.

The Louisville offensive line will have to find a way to handle both players in pass protection as they are the exact types of pass rushers that can get into Jawon Pass’ head early and make him uncomfortable. However, Akwora is a “pursuit” player that does his best work when he’s chasing down plays. With the offense that I saw App State run last year, I think they should see some success with a lot of play action passes to keep the pass rush from getting up field quickly.

The middle of the defensive line will be brand new after the Irish graduated two senior starters. Jerry Tillery was the guy sandwiched between the two ends in tackles for loss and sacks last year and I don’t think there is a guy on the roster that can step in and replace that production. That could be an issue for the Irish because the Louisville offensive line is more unsettled up the middle and could be susceptible to disruptive play from a good defensive tackle. If Louisville is able to establish the inside running game, it really opens up the rest of the offense.

Kurt Hinish will man the nose guard position for the Irish with Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa (I thought I was done having to spell that name) at the defensive tackle spot. Both players are veteran but neither has made an impact on the stat sheet. It’ll be a trend this season of me pointing out how important opposing tackles are with Louisville’s desire to run the ball like they will. I don’t know that they could have asked for a better situation to start the year to be able to go against a couple of unproven guys who won’t likely be nearly as disruptive as Tillery was. Jacob Lacey is a guy that could get into the game at nose guard as a true freshman. He was one of the many high level players in the state of Kentucky last year.

The second level of the Irish defense will have to replace some key guys. Te’von Coney is playing for the Raiders right now and Drue Tranquil went in the fourth round to the Chargers. That’s three NFL players up the middle that the Irish have to replace and just like the defensive tackle spots, they don’t appear to have guys that will be able to step in and replace the level of production they had last year. Drew White appears to be the first man up to take over for Coney and he’s only appeared in four games so far in his career.

Asmar Bilal is moving inside to play the weakside spot after playing the Rover position in 2018. Bilal takes over for Tranquil and he’s a solid option to replace the production and versatility he provided. Tranquil was a converted safety that had a great ability to cover tight ends and slot guys while also being a really good player in the box. Initially, it seemed like Bilal would be playing the the middle linebacker spot but I do think he fits much better in a role where he will play in coverage and in space more. Overall, there are some fair questions to be asked about how ND will replace all of their production up the middle.

Julian Love has moved on to the NFL but the Irish have to be happy with what they have at the cornerback spots. Tony Pride Jr. is one of the fastest players on the team and has plenty of experience after being the guy to be picked on when teams tried to avoid Love. Pride will take over at that boundary corner position vacated by Love and should be a solid replacement even though he’s not an All-American caliper player like Love. Opposite Pride will be either Shuan Crawford, Donte Vaughn, or Houston Griffiths. I’d put my money on Griffiths being on the field in some capacity even if he’s not the starter as he is the most talented player out of the group. But, the staff might chose to go with experience and the other two options are veteran guys who have seen the field a lot.

The safety duo of Alohi Gillman and Jalen Elliott is probably the best Louisville will see this year. Gillman has landed on a few preseason All-American teams and Elliott might actually be the better overall player. Gillman ended last season with 94 tackles after sitting out 2017 when he transferred from Navy. Gillman is the the exact type of story you hear each year with Notre Dame where a walk-on or some other “Rudy”-type situation happens and the player makes a bunch of plays. After putting up 76 tackles at Navy as a zero-star recruit, Gillman took the leap to ND and was a stud last season. The one area of his game that I saw a possible weakness was in coverage against speed. Louisville might look to create a favorable matchup at some point in the game.

Elliott is a really good player for Notre Dame that allows the to play a good amount of cover one because he can cover a lot of ground in the back end. Elliott also does a good job of getting down into the box and helping in run support. Elliott will be a key player if Louisville can get their running game going because we will likely see ND play even more cover one with Elliott playing deep. Louisville has very good options on the outside and could make it hard for him to play that over the top role. But, as a combo, these two safeties will play a huge role in the run defense and Louisville backs will have to find a way to make these guys miss in space.

Game Day Guide:

Excitement Level: 8.0

Admittedly, being a bit distracted by when the birth of my first child is going to take place is a factor here. This would also probably be a full point higher if Louisville had more hype heading into this season and this felt more like a toss-up game, which is reason number eight billion to be pissed off about the 2019 Cardinal football season.

Regardless, it’s day one of a new era, it’s a Blackout, and it’s f—ing Notre Dame coming into our place with a top 10 national ranking for a primetime game on Labor Day night. That’s a sequence of facts that would have blown all of our minds 20 years ago.

Game Attire: Black U of L polo, red and black Louisville Cardinals hat, khaki shorts OR hospital gown

I’m writing this a full day early and have no idea what this baby is going to do.

Pregame Meal: Tailgate food OR hospital food

Again ...

Bold Prediction: Louisville leads or trails by less than seven at halftime

Like everything else associated with Louisville football last season, the “Bold Prediction” section experienced an all-time low. Let’s start hot in 2019.

Ty Tyler Sack Alert Level: Vivid Violet (low)

As a newly-minted member of the “Art Carmody No. 18 Club,” the fantastically-named Ty Tyler is the focal point of our alert level section this year. The alert level is beginning cautiously.

Predicted Star of the Game: TuTu Atwell

I’d love nothing more than to see all the offseason buzz about Atwell come to fruition right from the jump. Expect to see the sophomore utilized in a wide variety of ways Monday night.

Notable:

—Monday night will be the first game for new Louisville head coach Scott Satterfield. Cardinal head coaches are 9-11-2 all-time in their U of L debuts.

—Louisville is 55-39-6 all-time in season openers, including 35-17-3 at home.

—Notre Dame is 106-17-5 (.848) all-time in season openers, with victories in 26 of its last 32 lid-lifters.

—Notre Dame is 7-2 in season openers under Brian Kelly.

—Louisville has won five consecutive home openers, last losing in a home opener to Kentucky in 2010. That game was Charlie Strong’s first as U of L’s head coach.

—Monday night’s game has been designated as a “Blackout Game” by U of L. The team will be wearing all black uniforms and fans are encouraged to wear black as well.

—Notre Dame is playing on Labor Day Monday for the first time in program history.

—Louisville is 2-0 all-time in Monday night games, including a season-opening Monday night victory over Miami in 2014.

—This marks the first time in program history that Louisville will open the season with a home game against a ranked opponent.

—Louisville has played a ranked team in its season-opening game four times in program history, including last season against No. 1 Alabama in Orlando. The Cardinals are 0-4 in those season-opening games.

—Notre Dame junior QB Ian Book’s 68.2 completion percentage in 2018 places him as the third-most accurate passer returning in 2019 (Jack Abraham, Southern Mississippi, 73.1; Tua Tagovailoa, Alabama, 69.0). Book’s 154.0 passer rating in 2018 was the fifth-best single season in Irish history.

—Since 1958, Notre Dame is 36-4 (.900) in the season opener when scoring first. They are 13-6 when the opponent registers the first score.

—Louisville is 16-53-1 all-time against AP top 25 opponents, and are 8-13 against ranked opponents at home. The Cardinals went 0-4 against top 25 opponents last season.

—Louisville has lost nine consecutive games against ranked opponents.

—Notre Dame is 13-4 (.765) all-time in season opening prime time games.

—Via Kelly Dickey, if starting Louisville RB Javian Hawkins, a redshirt freshman, carries the ball on U of L’s first offensive play of the year, he will be the first freshman to do so since play-by-play records are available (1979).

—Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly is 2-2 all-time in games against Louisville. He went 2-1 against the Cardinals during his time as the head coach of Cincinnati, and then lost to U of L with Notre Dame in 2014.

—Louisville’s defense allowed each of its last five opponents last season to score 50 or more points. The Cardinals became the first Power Five conference team ever to give up 50 or more points in five consecutive games.

—Notre Dame offensive coordinator Chip Long served as a graduate assistant, coaching the wide receivers and quarterbacks, at Louisville during the 2006 and 2007 seasons.

—Louisville is 20-9-1 in season-opening night home games.

—Louisville is in the midst of its first nine-game losing streak since losing 10 straight games between the 1997 and 1998 seasons.

—Scott Satterfield is 51-24 all-time as a head coach, but 0-8 against Power Five conference opponents.

—Notre Dame is the only team in the FBS with three different 200-yard rushers over the past two seasons (Brandon Wimbush, Josh Adams - 2017; Dexter Williams - 2018).

—Notre Dame’s 918 all-time wins are the second-most in college football history. The Irish’s .731 all-time winning percentage is the best in college football history.

—Since 2010, Louisville is 27-11 in the month of September and has won 10 of its last 14 contests in the month.

—Louisville is currently riding a consecutive game scoring streak that spans 237 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 5-113 all-time when allowing opponents to score 40 or more points.

Quotable:

—“The magnitude really set in at the first press conference. It’s a pretty big deal. A lot of people out there. It’s not like Boone, N.C., where we had two reporters. It was a lot of reporters. You’re in the ACC. It’s big time. As soon as I got here, reality hit, it’s go time. We’ve just tried to do the best job we can do with the hand that we’re dealt, the guys that we have.” —Scott Satterfield

—”We don’t want to just totally dominate. We want to totally dominate and much more. We want to play fast the whole game. We want to execute on offense the whole entire game.” —Notre Dame QB Ian Book

—“I’ve been looking at Notre Dame since the spring since I knew we were playing them. The quarterback is a good player and we have to respect him. He’s making all the smart decisions.” —Louisville LB Nick Okeke

—”We’re going to play them like a regular team, try to pick them apart as best we can and have a great game plan ready for them.” —Notre Dame DE Khalid Kareem

—”It’s a big game, but they are all big. I mean for me, every single one of them are big and the way we try to see it and treat it the same way as we did at App. (App. State). You know, we beat Michigan, you play Tennessee overtime, Penn State, you try to go out and do what you do. Play your game plan. Whatever that is, you don’t try to go out and do something you can’t do. I think sometimes in games like this, sometimes players think they have to do a little bit more. You don’t have to do a little bit more, you have to do what you do. You know, whatever your coach is saying, whatever your job is, just do that. Don’t do anything more than that and I think as a coach that can sometimes worry you about your players. They may try to step out and do a little too much. Just do what you are supposed to do and that will be good enough. That’s how I am approaching this game, and every game quite frankly.” —Scott Satterfield

—‘’I think the mindset of this group kind of comes together after a first game. I’m not sure what that is right now. ... That kind of unfolds when the group plays.’’ —Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly

—“We’re excited for the challenge. We’ve been going against the same offense for the last 20-something days it gets kind of boring. However, now that we are coaching for something each and every day, each game is a challenge. We’re excited to get this first game underway this weekend. We’re just excited.” —Louisville DC Bryan Brown

—“Opening games are always fun. Fans are excited and ready. Everybody’s undefeated going into the season, but when you have a marquee opponent that has the reputation and tradition of a Notre Dame, it does matter. It does make a difference.” —Kenny Klein

—‘’I know it’s a big deal. We’re anxious to get out and see where we’re at and see kind of where we need to go from here.’’ —Scott Satterfield

—“I think it is really big to come out and make a statement just so you can kind of build upon that. You don’t want to come out sluggish or soft, not making tackles, because some of that stuff bleeds into the rest of the season. If you come out strong and make a statement, you can definitely build upon that and send a message to everyone that were here, we’re ready to play.” —Notre Dame DE Khalid Kareem

—“We know we can do and we know what we’re capable of. No specific numbers, but we know that we want to go out there and we want to totally dominate the whole entire game. We want to play fast. We know this whole offense. We just believe in what the coaches have prepared us for and the scheme that we’ve been working on.” —Notre Dame QB Ian Book

Card Chronicle Prediction: Notre Dame 31, Louisville 16