LOUISVILLE CARDINALS (2-5, 1-5) At VIRGINIA CAVALIERS (2-4, 2-4)
Game Time: 3:3O p.m.
Location: Scott Stadium: Charlottesville, Va.
Television: ACC Network
Announcers: Chris Cotter (play-by-play), Mark Herzlich (analyst), Jerry Punch (analyst)
Favorite: Virginia by 4
All-Time Series: Louisville leads, 5-3
Last Meeting: Louisville won 28-21 on Oct. 26, 2019 in Louisville
Louisville Depth Chart:
We always here arguments about what makes a player the “Most Valuable Player”. I think a good way to look at it is by how much that player is missed when they are out of a game or no longer on the team. Bryce Perkins was arguably the most valuable player in the ACC last year when you look at how hard things have been for Virginia on offense this year.
Brennan Armstrong has taken over at Quarterback for UVA and he has been solid as a runner while struggling as a passer. Armstrong is a pretty big guy at 215 pounds and he runs like a fullback. The obvious comparison is Tim Tebow as he’s a lefty and he is a much better runner than passer at this point. I think that Armstrong is a threat to put up big rushing numbers against Louisville but only if this game is close. Virginia will run him 20+ times in a game if they’re able to move the sticks.
Armstrong hasn’t finished a game completing more than 55% of his passes this year. He is also only averaging 6.6 yards per attempt. While Armstrong is fast enough to run away from a defense, he isn’t too likely to make someone miss in tight spaces. Louisville should be looking to force Armstrong to be a runner throughout this game.
Virginia uses a committee at Running Back with Wayne Taulapapa as the starter and leading rusher so far this year. Shane Simpson is the backup but I think he’ll see more touches after a very nice touchdown catch last week out of the backfield. Virginia will also use two backup Quarterbacks as Running Backs.
Keytaon Thompson transferred to UVA from Mississippi State and somehow became a hybrid Running Back/Quarterback/Wide Receiver. He motions into the backfield a good amount and at that point he can either run the ball or become the Quarterback. Iraken Armstead plays a similar role in the offense and UVA does a pretty good job of utilizing these guys on misdirection/trick plays.
The Virginia offense likes to get the ball to Billy Kemp as he is averaging 7.5 catches per game so far this year. He is only averaging 8.93 yards per catch this year so he’s essentially an extension of the run game. Virginia’s offense doesn’t create a lot of big plays but Kemp allows them to stay on schedule and sustain drives. Terrell Jana is the guy that has the most talent out the receiver group. He has solid speed to get behind the defense and he has strong hands. He had a really nice performance late in the game last year against Louisville.
Tony Poljan was a big get for UVA in the transfer market. He is a massive target at 6-7/265 and Virginia utilizes his size well in the short passing game as well as in the red zone. Lavell Davis is also a big target in the red zone but he has been out for a few weeks. If he returns this week, I expect Virginia to try to force the issue to these two guys if they get the ball in the red zone.
The Virginia Offensive Line is a veteran group that is comprised of a bunch of really big guys. They don’t do anything exceptionally well in my opinion but they do pretty well at giving Armstrong time to throw the ball. He doesn’t always make quick decisions and he likes to extend plays, so the line gives up a few more sacks than they are probably at fault for. Louisville will need to stop the run this week and UVA does pretty well to get those 3-5 yard gains behind this line. Getting negative plays will be key this week.
The Virginia defense has been the key to the program’s success over the last few years. Bronco Mendenhall has recruited guys who fit his scheme very well and they’ve been suffocating offenses with those guys. 2020 has been a surprise for this program as they brought back nearly every starter from last year’s team but they haven’t had their normal success on that side of the ball.
The front three for Virginia is really reliable when it comes to stopping the run and helping the Linebackers. They get penetration fairly often but what they do best is occupy blockers and gum things up. Jawon Briggs is the best of the group in my opinion and he will be a big test for the interior of Louisville’s Offensive Line. Louisville will likely try to use the stretch runs even more this week as these guys aren’t really speedy players who chase things down.
The Linebackers are the best group on this defense and they’re the most important. Charles Snowden is one of the best defenders in the ACC and he’s finally getting the results everyone expected early in the year. Over the last two games, he has 7.5 tackles for loss and 5 sacks. On the other side of the field is Noah Taylor who at 6-5 is somehow only the second tallest player on the defense and isn’t even in the top five on the roster. Taylor and Snowden are outstanding bookends with Taylor being a solid player in coverage as well. In my opinion, these two players are the key for Louisville. They can’t let them have big games.
The Inside Linebackers for Virginia are really productive. Zane Zandier is back for year 15 or something and he’s still flying around racking up tackles. Zandier is really good at chasing down plays and the line keeps him clean all game. He’s not great in coverage and I think that UofL could have some success targeting him with misdirection plays. Nick Jackson played solid in a backup role in the game last year and his extended time playing last year has paid off. He looks much more comfortable and he has made a good amount of plays.
The secondary for UVA has been quite bad this year. They are giving up a lot of big plays and they’ve been beaten consistently in man coverage. The lack of a consistent pass rush hasn’t helped but UNC and Miami both hit big plays in the passing game even with Charles Snowden playing out of his mind. Nick Grant and De’Vante Cross are both solid corners but Cross is essentially a Safety who converted from offense and he’s being asked to run with high level receivers. It hasn’t worked too well and Louisville should look to exploit this.
Virginia has been down their two starting Safeties the last two weeks and both could miss the Louisville game as well. Joey Blount and Brenton Nelson are really good players who are also very veteran players. I think their absence has been a big factor in the defense struggling over the last two weeks. Virginia has given up a bunch of 20+ and 30+ yard pass plays this year and These guys not being at the back of the defense to make sure everyone is lined up correctly is probably part of that. Louisville likes to attack opposing Safeties, so the big plays could be there if these two are still out.
Excitement Level: 3.8
Between the Covid issues both with our team and throughout the sport, the Cards being 1-5 in the league and Virginia not exactly being an elite opponent, I’ll admit, I’m having a tough time getting properly juiced for this one.
Game Attire: Grey Louisville hoodie
Cold weather home attire is here.
Pregame Meal: Nothing
Another mid-afternoon kick means a late dinner and nothing consumed close enough to kickoff that it could be properly labeled a “pregame meal.”
Bold Prediction: Louisville makes multiple field goals
We’re now sitting at 0-for-7 on the year here. We’ve gotta get at least one before 2020 wraps.
Justin Marshall TD Alert Level: Orange (Good)
Sometimes the Alert Level likes to keep it simple.
Predicted Star of the Game: Malik Cunningham
This Cavalier secondary has been vulnerable all year long, especially when it comes to the big play through the air. This should be a Malik Cunningham game.
—This game was originally scheduled for Nov. 7, but was postponed because of Covid-19 issues among the Louisville team.
—Louisville is 4-0 all-time against Virginia in games played in Louisville, but just 1-3 against the Cavaliers in Charlottesville.
—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 has won 14 of its last 16 home games. A win on Saturday would be the Cavaliers’ 275th at Scott Stadium.
—The Cavaliers are last in the conference, allowing 312 passing yards per game, and have been susceptible to the long ball. They’ve allowed six TD passes of more than 20 yards.
—Under Scott Satterfield, Louisville is 8-0 when winning the turnover battle, and just 1-9 when losing it.
—In eight seasons as a head coach, Scott Satterfield’s teams are 50-5 when scoring 30 or more points. Louisville is 9-2 in such games under Satterfield, with the two losses coming earlier this season against Miami and Virginia Tech.
—Louisville has only forced four turnovers this season, the fewest of any team in the ACC.
—Virginia is 5-7 all-time against teams from the state of Kentucky.
—Louisville is 11-16 in ACC road games since joining the conference in 2014. The Cardinals have lost all three of their league road games so far this season.
—Louisville is 27-28 in ACC games since joining the conference in 2014.
—Louisville is 0-5 under Scott Satterfield when being held to 21 points or fewer.
—Louisville is currently riding a consecutive game scoring streak that spans 257 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 191-14 all-time when scoring 35 or more points in a game. The Cards are also 6-119 all-time when allowing opponents to score 40 or more points.
—“Obviously, we game planned all last week for Virginia and then of course we hit pause and now you’re right back on and again this week that having most of all the work pretty much done. You’re kind of just refining the game plan and kind of moving forward with everything, so we’re back on schedule.” —Scott Satterfield
—“It was nice to have a break actually, even though we were expecting our bye week to be this weekend. We received, or basically we executed, kind of a mini bye week. A subtle change in routine. A couple days off. A little bit of a break for our players. A chance for them to enjoy just watching college football and having a really nice weekend in Charlottesville with beautiful weather. Just a moment to pause, reflect on the first part of the season and to prepare for the second part.” —Virginia head coach Bronco Mendenhall
—“The on-the-field product, I mean, there’s no guarantee but yeah, you’d like to say if you have more time, you can be more ready.” —Virginia defensive coordinator Nick Howell
—“You don’t want to overanalyze an opponent. I’ve never been in favor of that. Even when you’ve had a long time or two weeks to prepare for a team, you don’t ever want to overanalyze.” —Scott Satterfield
—“If we can get some stuff going early I think it helps our psyche, it obviously helps momentum, I think our kids play a lot better that way and it really, really changes the course of the game. Instead of waking up and playing the last three quarters, we got to wake up from the start and play right initially on the first drive.” —Scott Satterfield
Card Chronicle Prediction: Louisville 27, Virginia 23