LOUISVILLE CARDINALS (2-4, 1-4) vs. VIRGINIA TECH HOKIES (3-2, 3-2)
Game Time: 4 p.m.
Location: Cardinal Stadium: Louisville, Ky.
Television: ACC Network/fuboTV
Announcers: Wes Durham (play-by-play), Roddy Jones (analyst), and Eric Wood (sideline)
Favorite: Virginia Tech by 3.5
All-Time Series: Virginia Tech leads, 5-2
Last Meeting: Virginia Tech won 35-24 on Jan. 2, 2006 in the Gator Bowl
Louisville Depth Chart:
About Virginia Tech
Justin Fuente came to Virginia Tech with a strong background as an offensive coach. His time at Virginia Tech has been a mixed bag when it comes to the offensive side of the ball. His offenses struggled to run the football and he’s had suspect Quarterback play. That hasn’t really been the case this year as Fuente has settled on a Quarterback while also becoming one of the best rushing teams in the country.
Virginia Tech has had some absurd issues when it comes to managing the issues around the pandemic. I don’t think they’ve had a full team yet and they’ve had multiple games where coaches haven’t been able to be with the team. One player that missed multiple games was their Quarterback Hendon Hooker. Hooker became the starter late last year but there were still questions about who would be the guy to start this year. Hooker has been the guy since he returned and he has been pretty solid for the most part.
Hooker is a tall and athletic signal caller who has shown a great ability to run the ball and to make plays with his arm. He hasn’t been consistent as a passer as he’s only hitting on about 57% of his passes but he has been really good at managing the game. Hooker only threw two interceptions last year but he did throw three this past weekend against Wake Forest. Where Hooker is most dangerous is running the football. He makes sound decisions on option plays and he also does well to make guys miss in the open field. Tech is a run first team this season so UofL has to force Hooker to beat them with his arm.
The star of this offense is Khalil Herbert at Running Back. Herbert is a transfer from Kansas who ran for 187 yards against Boston College last year before deciding to sit out the rest of the year so he could transfer. I watched him play twice at Kansas but I didn’t anticipate him being as dynamic as he has been for Tech. Herbert is averaging 8.75 yards per carry and he leads the nation in all purpose yardage. VT knows what they have in him and they do a good job of getting him the ball. He’s at his best on the edge because he has good speed that he mixes with a strong lower body. He can run away from guys while also running through arm tackles and it’s working out pretty well so far this year.
Louisville has improved on defense over the last two weeks but they have allowed more rushing yards while shutting down the passing game. I’m not sure that works so well with the two guys mentioned above. Herbert is a threat to score any time he finds space and Hooker is a more than capable runner himself. UofL will have to have a plan to contain them like Wake was able to do last week. Keeping Herbert under control is a key.
Fuente has had some real issues with attrition since taking over at VT and Wide Receiver is a position where he’s been hit hardest. Tre Turner returned this year but the Hokies have lost a handful of receivers each year which has led to some depth issues. Turner hasn’t been able to break loose for a big game yet but James Mitchell has been a consistent option as a hybrid Tight End/Wide Receiver. Tayvion Robinson is the other option out of this group and I expect Louisville to take these guys away like they’ve done the last two weeks.
Tre Turner is a real concern for the Louisville defense because he has shown in the past that he can take the top off of a defense and he can make impressive catches. UofL has been playing very aggressive against outside receivers and it has worked out really well so far. I’m not sure that they’ve seen a player with Turner’s talent recently, though. I think it’s a good strategy to force Hooker to be accurate and consistent, but Turner could make them pay.
The Virginia Tech Offensive Line has been pretty impressive this season but they gave up a few sacks last weekend to Wake. They’ve done a great job of creating running lanes for the running game but I do wonder how they handle long yardage situations. Wake got them there and Hooker didn’t always make quick decisions. If UofL can cover like they have recently, they might have some success with their pass rush. They will still have to find a way to slow down this running game which starts up front for the Hokies.
Bud Foster retired from coaching after leading the Virginia Tech defense for 24 years. He left the job to Justin Hamilton who played under him early in his time at Tech. Hamilton has a couple of years of experience as a Defensive Coordinator at the Division II level but outside of his one year coaching he Safeties in 2019, he hadn’t had any experience at the FBS level. The defense has struggled so far this year with some fans being vocal with their frustrations.
The Hokies have had lots of issues with players missing games due to Covid rules so it’s pretty hard to track which players are their key guys. With that being said, the Defensive Line has been pretty solid even with guys all over the defense missing games. This group has forced a lot of negative plays so far this year and they get after the Quarterback pretty well. Amare Barno is the guy putting up the best numbers but they don’t have that second guy that has consistently made plays for them.
Linebacker is the best group for this defense, in my opinion. Rayshard Ashby had 120 tackles and 17 tackles for loss last season but he hasn’t been able to make as many plays this season. He’s still a very talented player and he could be a key for Tech against UofL’s zone running scheme. He can get through gaps and get into the backfield very well. Dax Hollifield plays the Outside Linebacker spot but both line up inside the tackles pretty regularly. Hollifield is an impressive player but he has been sharing time with Alan Tisdale this year. Both have racked up a lot of tackles but neither has been able to make those impact plays you need from your Linebackers.
The secondary is the area that’s been hit hardest by players missing games so it’s a bit hard to know who we will see on Saturday when the game starts. Jermaine Waller has only played in one game this year but he is the top Cornerback on the team. Divine Deablo not only has the best name for a Safety ever but he has played in the last two games after missing two earlier this year. Deablo is a jumbo Safety who can cover a lot of ground. He is going to be key if UofL gets the aggressive looks that FSU gave them last week.
Chumarri Conner is the leading tackler on the team from his Nickelback spot. The secondary hasn’t made many plays in coverage but Dorain Strong has four PBUs in place of Waller and Brion Murray has two interceptions at the other corner spot. Devin Taylor is likely to be the other Defensive Back we see in the game. Though they’ve had guys missing this year, the guys who have played at least have experience playing now. UofL should still be able to take advantage.
Excitement Level: 6.6
It’s Halloween, baby.
Game Attire: Red Lamar leap shirt, block L Louisville sweatshirt
Keep it simple, but also be aware that it’s chilly.
Pregame Meal: Nothing
A 4 p.m. kick means a late dinner and nothing consumed close enough to kickoff that it could be properly labeled a “pregame meal.” Maybe some Halloween candy.
Bold Prediction: Louisville wins by double digits
In a game Louisville won 48-16, my bold prediction of “Louisville scores first” was still somehow inaccurate ... and it was proven inaccurate extremely quickly. That brings us to 0-for-6 on the year.
I still feel good about this one, which in turn makes me feel awful about the game overall.
Justin Marshall TD Alert Level: Medium Deep Almond (High)
Our guy has been the poster boy for this game all week long. This is his night. It’s happening.
Predicted Star of the Game: Javian Hawkins
VT is bad against the run and Hawkins is one of the five best running backs in the country. He goes off yet again and is over the century mark before halftime.
—Virginia Tech is the only team Louisville hasn’t faced in ACC competition since the Cardinals joined the conference in 2014.
—Saturday’s game on Halloween has been designated as a “Blackout Game.” The team will be wearing all black uniforms, and fans in attendance are encouraged to wear black as well.
—Louisville is 4-6 all-time in Blackout games, and has lost three straight. A year ago, U of L held a Blackout for its season-opener against Notre Dame.
—In their last three Blackout games, Louisville has been outscored 148-69.
—Virginia Tech is 32-2 when holding foes to 21 points or fewer dating back to the start of the 2015 season (6-1 in 2019).
—Louisville is 0-5 under Scott Satterfield when being held to 21 points or fewer.
—Javian Hawkins ranks third in the nation in total rushing with 693 yards.
—Virginia Tech has won 26 straight games when limiting its opponents to 17 points or fewer.
—Louisville hasn’t played a game on Halloween since a 21-13 win over Arkansas State in 2009.
—Louisville’s 95.45 percent red zone conversion rate (21-for-22) is third-best in the nation among teams with more than 20 attempts.
—Louisville’s 28 pass breakups are the second-most in the country.
—Louisville is 2-1 against Virginia Tech in games played in Louisville. The two teams haven’t squared off against one another in the Derby City since 1992.
—Louisville CB Kei’Trel Clark is third in the nation with seven pass breakups.
—Partially due to Covid-19 issues, Virginia Tech’s roster has been a virtual revolving door through the season’s first five contests - 39 different players and eight different coaches have been unavailable for one or more games - Offense (18 players and 1 coach), Defense (19 players and six coaches) and Special Teams (2 players and one coach).
—Virginia Tech is 22-2 under Justin Fuente when leading at the half.
—In its two losses this season, Virginia Tech has been outscored 31-0 in the first quarter.
—Under Scott Satterfield, Louisville is 8-0 when winning the turnover battle, and just 1-8 when losing it. The Cards have tied in the turnover battle in each of the last two weeks.
—In eight seasons as a head coach, Scott Satterfield’s teams are 50-4 when scoring 30 or more points. Louisville is 9-1 in such games under Satterfield, with the lone loss coming earlier this season against Miami.
—Marcus Vick is a douche.
—CB Kei’Trel Clark is the only player on Louisville’s roster from the state of Virginia.
—Under Justin Fuente, Virginia Tech is 12-4 in games immediately following a regular season loss. The Hokies fell to Wake Forest last week.
—Virginia Tech RB Khalil Herbert is third in the nation in yards per carry at 8.75.
—In its three wins, Virginia Tech is +5 (8 takes/3 gives) in turnover margin and +33 in points off turnovers. In its two losses, Tech is -3 (0 takes/3 gives) and even in points off turnovers.
—Louisville has only forced four turnovers this season, the fewest of any team in the ACC.
—Louisville is 16-11 in ACC home games since joining the conference in 2014.
—Louisville enters Saturday with a 27-27 record in ACC play since joining the conference in 2014.
—Virginia Tech is tied for fifth among Power Five squads, registering 18.0 sacks in 2020. Only Pitt (31.0), Clemson (24.0), Duke (21.0) and NC State (19.0) are better. West Virginia also has 18.0 sacks.
—Virginia Tech ranks second in the nation in rushing yards per game (291.6 ypg.) among teams playing multiple games. Only Army (308.1) is better. The Hokies also lead the nation in yards per carry (6.54 ypc).
—Louisville is currently riding a consecutive game scoring streak that spans 256 games dating back to a 31-0 loss to Florida State during the 2000 season. The streak ranks as the second longest in the ACC behind only Virginia Tech, and the 12th-longest in the country.
—Louisville is 191-13 all-time when scoring 35 or more points in a game. The Cards are also 6-118 all-time when allowing opponents to score 40 or more points.
—”These guys, they run to the football, they play with great effort. A guy may look like he’s behind a play, but you’re going to see him chase and run trying to make a play. That’s that program. The challenges of that, just from the effort the physicality that they want to play with on their side of the ball. I told the guys today, that’s that’s the challenge. They have always been a physical brand of football and they continue to be that way. That is what we are wanting to be as well. This Saturday we get that matchup. I think it’s gonna be a great game.” —Dwayne Ledford
—“I’ve watched them on TV the last couple of years and that’s the first thing I think of, whether winning or losing the game, or home or away, I always wonder, ‘Man, it just seems like one guy after another that can really run. They run the stretch so well and can circle the field with the fly sweep stuff really, really quickly. It’s awfully impressive to watch, and we’ll certainly have our hands full with that. ”But their scheme, to me, they do a great job of having complimentary offense. They have stretch, inside zone, and perimeter runs, and all the naked and quarterback run game off that, and they’re in unbalanced – it’s just one thing after another. But you can tell that they’re doing a great job of keeping it as simple as they can for the linemen and moving all the pieces around on the outside. It’s pretty special.” —Virginia Tech head coach Justin Fuente
—“Obviously, we haven’t had the success we were all hoping for early on. But in-house we definitely think we’ve turned this thing around and we can run the table and finish 7-4.” —Ean Pfeifer
—“They’re going to run that ball ‘til the cows come home. I just think their offensive line has done an awesome job opening holes up.” —Bryan Brown
—”I think when anytime you’re going through some adversity and we have as a football team particularly not being able to finish out games and get the wins and so everybody starts looking at everything. Us as a staff, what can we tighten up on? What do we need to help ourselves? Because we’re really close to winning these games, and for whatever reason, we’re not finishing out. But it always comes back to the little things and so you start looking at things on the day to day basis.” —Scott Satterfield
—“We are all happy, but we just have to get back to work tomorrow and get ready for Virginia Tech. They’re a really good football team, so we have a lot at stake.” —Malik Cunningham
—“Anybody in their skill position [groups] can really catch the ball and turn a 10-yard gain into an 80-yard gain, so just preparing for that and trying to limit those as much as we can.” —Virginia Tech CB Brion Murray
—“We have to execute. That’s the biggest thing this week. We have to execute. We didn’t execute well the last game, and we only got one touchdown. So as long as we execute and everybody does their job. There are 11 guys on the field, and if all 11 guys do their job on the field every play, then we’ll know what to do and we should be able to get ourselves moving in the right direction.” —Virginia Tech WR Tre Turner
—“We’ve got a lot of tough games ahead. Any of those teams can beat you. But I like the way our guys are preparing. I like where their minds are at right now, and if we continue that for the next six weeks, hopefully a lot of good things happen.” —Scott Satterfield
Card Chronicle Prediction: Louisville 38, Virginia Tech 23
I don’t think last week was a fluke, and I would love to not be proven wrong about that stance.