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Game Day: Louisville vs. Wake Forest

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One last ride before we try and forget about this season forever.

2007 FedEx Orange Bowl: Louisville v Wake Forest Photo by Lynne Sladky-Pool/Getty Images

LOUISVILLE CARDINALS (3-7, 2-7) vs. WAKE FOREST DEMON DEACONS (4-3, 3-3)

Game Time: Noon

Location: Cardinal Stadium: Louisville, Ky.

Television: ACC Network

Announcers: Chris Cotter (play-by-play), Mark Herzlich (analyst), and Eric Wood (analyst)

Favorite: Louisville by 1

All-Time Series: Louisville leads 5-2

Last Meeting: Louisville won 62-59 on Oct. 12, 2019 in Winston-Salem

Series History:

Statistics:

Louisville Uniforms:

Louisville Depth Chart:

Relevant Videos:

About Wake Forest

via Keith Wynne

OFFENSE

Dave Clawson is leading his program towards another winning season after being picked to finish at the bottom of the conference. It’s an annual tradition that is one of my favorites in the ACC each season. Clawson lost his top two players on offense over the offseason but he still has his team at 4-3 and should finish the regular season over .500 again with a chance at another win in a bowl game.

Clawson lost Jamie Newman to a transfer this summer but he had Sam Hartman as an experience backup to help lessen the blow. Hartman knows the offense well and has some running ability, so things didn’t have to adjust all that much. The quick passing game and RPOs are still there and Hartman is solid with his deep ball. Hartman has done an excellent job protecting the ball this year with no interceptions thrown.

Hartman has also been efficient as a passer. He’s completing 63% of his passes and his top receivers are maximizing their catches from a yards standpoint. As much as wake likes to get the ball out quickly, they are doing a great job of getting big plays from their passing game. Louisville has to tackle well after the catch as well as being sticky in coverage down the field.

Kenneth Walker opted out this week so UofL will only have to deal with half of Wake’s potent running game this week. Walker has 13 touchdowns on the season so he’s a major loss but Christian Beal-Smith leads the team in rushing and he has a great ability to hit the big play off of Wake’s weird RPO scheme. He rides the option really well and he knows how to search out his spots while doing so. CBS (I’m going with it) has really good speed in the open field and he has that ability that some shorter backs do to bounce off of tackles. If Louisville can slow down the run game, it would go a long way to slow down this offense.

The offense thought they would have Sage Surratt this season but he opted out to start the year and Wake needed to find a new go-to guy. Donovan Greene was the likely candidate after he stepped in late last year when Surratt was injured. While Greene is averaging 20 yards per catch, Jaquarii Roberson is the guy that really stepped up. Roberson leads the ACC in yards per game after putting up just 13 catches in the previous two seasons. Greene is the guy that I worry about more but with some of Hartman’s limitations as a passer, Roberson is the guy that is more likely to have a big game.

The Wake Offensive Line hasn’t been that impressive to me this season but they have done a good job opening up holes for the running game. The issue is that they haven’t protected Hartman all that well and they have been inconsistent. Wake’s offense is much better than it seems because they don’t do anything to hurt themselves. They’re not heavily penalized and they have one total turnover on the season. They don’t do anything outstandingly well outside of not doing anything wrong.

DEFENSE

I feel like I say this every year but Wake Forest has struggled on defense since Mike Elko left the staff. This season seemed like it could be different because they got Carlos Basham back and had a group of young guys who could possibly take a step forward. Instead, Wake’s defense has been about as unreliable as it has been in recent years save for one big improvement. This defense can force turnovers and they do a very good job of it.

Boogie Basham is the star of this defense and he will likely be a first or second round draft pick in a couple of months. The defense is built on creating havoc and Basham is really good as an edge rusher as well as a guy who can chase down plays. Basham has a freakish blend of size and speed at 6-5/285. He can run like an end but has the size to hold his ground. I’d imagine Louisville will try to avoid him with the run game while looking to give help in pass protection.

The rest of the Defensive Line is solid but not great. Miles Fox has had a strong season and I do wonder if he could show out against the run this weekend. He’s a bit undersized but he’s quick and gets off the ball with good burst. That’s usually not great with UofL’s blocking scheme.

The Linebackers are very experienced and make a good amount of plays for this defense. Ja’Cquez Williams and Ryan Smenda do a really good job of taking advantage of the havoc the front four causes. The issue is that they haven’t been able to make many plays behind the line of scrimmage. As a team, they’ve gotten a good amount of tackles for loss but they haven’t gotten to the Quarterback nearly enough. Louisville has to avoid allowing this group to create mayhem for the offense.

Wake has had some real turnover in the secondary with two true freshmen slated to start this weekend. Injuries hit them hard on top of having to replace veteran starters from last season. Ja’Sir Taylor has been flat out great in the games that I’ve watched. I’d argue that he is one of the best corners that Louisville will see this year. Caelin Carson is the guy that UofL should target as he is a true freshman that hasn’t made a lot of plays this year. UofL took advantage of the aggressive nature of this defense last season. We should see the same this season.

Safety is a weak spot on the defense in my opinion. Luke Masterson has played Safety and Linebacker at his time at Wake and he’s a solid player and good player against the run. I think that the added bulk that he’s put on has made him a step slower and he can be a liability with how aggressive they like to be. Nick Anderson is a walk-on true freshman at the other Safety spot and while he’s definitely good enough to be a scholarship player, he is not a consistent talent. Anderson had three interceptions against Virginia Tech but he’s also given up some big plays because he’s been caught out of position. UofL should attack these guys all day.

Excitement Level: 2.8

I’m rooting hard for the guys who will be playing their last game inside Cardinal Stadium to go out with a win, but aside from that, I’m pretty ready to just turn the page on this entire mess of a four-month period.

Game Attire: Long sleeve red Louisville Cardinals shirt

Grizzled veteran.

Pregame Meal: Bagel and coffee

One last nooner.

Bold Prediction: Louisville successfully runs a trick play

Let’s end this thing 2-9 on bold predictions.

Justin Marshall TD Alert Level: Wild Blue Yonder (average)

No TuTu is a boost for the alert level. Let’s get this thing done in the final hour, Justin.

Predicted Star of the Game: Dez Fitzpatrick

It was right last week. Here’s hoping it’s right again.

Notable:

—Louisville will honor its 18 seniors in a ceremony before the start of the game. The 18 players being honored are C.J. Avery, Robbie Bell, Cole Bentley, Maurice Burkley, Rodjay Burns, Marlon Character, Cam DeGeorge, Derek Dorsey, Dorian Etheridge, Dez Fitzpatrick, Jared Goldwire, Mitch Hall, Isaiah Hayes, Roscoe Johnson, Jawon Pass, Tabarius Peterson, Ean Pfeifer and Russ Yeast.

—Under Scott Satterfield, Louisville is 9-0 when winning the turnover battle, and just 1-11 when losing it. The Cards have won the turnover battle just once this season, in a 30-0 win over Syracuse.

—Louisville has turned the ball over 24 times this season, the most of any team in the country.

—Wake Forest has forced a turnover in the last 16 contests. The last time the Demon Deacons failed to force a turnover came against Elon on Sept. 21, 2019.

—Wake Forest leads the nation in turnover margin at +15. The Demon Deacons have given the ball away just one time this season, the fewest of any team in the country.

—Louisville’s -14 turnover margin is the second worst in the country.

—Because of Covid issues, Wake Forest will be playing a game on Saturday for the first time since a 59-53 loss at North Carolina on Nov. 14. The Demon Deacons, who will host Florida State next Saturday, haven’t played a home game since Oct. 24.

—Louisville QB Malik Cunningham has rushed for 1,550 yards and 16 touchdowns in his career — both second in school history by a quarterback. He’s rushed for 571 yards this season, the third-highest total by a quarterback in school history.

—Louisville ranks 18th nationally against the pass, yielding 185.7 yards per game, which also leads the ACC. Opponents have only thrown for only 300 yards once (325, Miami), and the Cardinals are allowing an average of 154.1 yards over the last five contests.

—In eight seasons as a head coach, Scott Satterfield’s teams are 51-5 when scoring 30 or more points. Louisville is 10-2 in such games under Satterfield, with the two losses coming earlier this season against Miami and Virginia Tech.

—In the last six games, the Demon Deacons have found the endzone 21 times. In 2019, Wake Forest finished the season with 18 total touchdowns as a team.

—Louisville’s 62-59 win at Wake Forest last season snapped a 10-game Cardinal losing streak against top 25 opponents. It also kept the Demon Deacs from winning eight consecutive games for the first time in program history.

—Louisville is 0-6 under Scott Satterfield when being held to 21 points or fewer.

—Louisville is currently riding a consecutive game scoring streak that spans 260 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.

Quotable:

“We’re not in game shape right now, but we’ll see how it goes.” —Wake Forest head coach Dave Clawson

—“I realize this year that we don’t have the kind of wins that we want to have. It’s a fine line, we talk to our players all the time, about wins and losses: you’ve got to make those plays. And we just for whatever reason this year, we’ve turned the ball over or we’ve not made enough plays to go win.” —Scott Satterfield

—“We’re kind of calling it the all-star break. We had a little time off and we’re just trying to get back, get the rust off.” —Wake Forest QB Sam Hartman

—“It’s real surreal. I’ve been thinking about it a lot, trying not to be too emotional, but it’s coming to an end. It’s exciting, and it’s also sad at the same time.” —Dez Fitzpatrick

—“We remember the challenge from last year. Hopefully we’ll play a lot better than that defensively.” —Scott Satterfield

Card Chronicle Prediction: Wake Forest 27, Louisville 24

Go Cards.