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What To Watch For: Western Kentucky Hilltoppers

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#W2W4 returns for a familiar opponent in an unfamiliar time.

NCAA Football: Louisville at Wake Forest Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

WILL LOUISVILLE BE IMPACTED BY COVID RESTRICTIONS?

I feel like this will likely be something I could end up writing every week but it’s quite literally something to watch for. Texas State played a game last week with no Tight Ends because they were all out due to the restrictions. They weren’t all sick or positive, but contact tracing meant they couldn’t play. We’ll see that happen throughout football this year and we all have to hope that Louisville can avoid the situation.

What will be interesting is whether or not Louisville will announce when a player, or entire position groups, are out. UofL doesn’t always announce injuries and they just recently started announcing Covid testing results. There’s a good chance that if Louisville is short any players on Saturday, we won’t know until the game starts and those players aren’t on the field.

LOUISVILLE HAS TO RUN THE BALL BETTER THIS YEAR

UofL ran for 200 yards in the game last year but it took 50 carries. This was also Micale Cunningham’s first start of the season so I don’t think the offense was anywhere near what it turned out to be. But it gave us a good example of why they need to run the ball well for the offense to work. Louisville only had a few big runs and found themselves running into a wall pretty often in the game last year.

While a lot of the issues running the ball were due to the offense not being all worked out, Western also crowded the box and dared UofL to throw the ball. UofL will have to mix things up better than they did last year and that will open more running lanes for Javian Hawkins and Hassan Hall. I would also love to see them avoid so many run plays for Micale Cunningham. Micale should run the ball as needed and the game last year showed that. Every option play takes a carry away from the two dynamic Running Backs that they have at their disposal. Getting the traditional run game going is a key in this game.

WILL WESTERN KENTUCKY HAVE A BETTER DEFENSIVE GAMEPLAN?

With Louisville’s own coaches not really knowing what they had on offense, you can imagine how hard it had to be to prep on the WKU side. The Tops decided to crowd the box and stop the run while playing everything in front of them on the outside. That left them open to the deep ball from the slot as well as misdirection plays. Clayton White is in his fourth year with Western and he has a veteran group back that played a ton of snaps last year. He’s going to be more prepared this time around.

White has two very good Defensive Ends to work with and Louisville has two new starters to break in. He also gets Eli Brown back as a guy who could help him defend the outside zone runs without bringing up a Safety to help. He should also have better depth. Bringing back all of your starters means that the guys backing them up and the guys running scout team last year should also be returning. Injuries, exhaustion, and maybe Covid will be easier to handle with a group of backups who know the scheme and have played in it.