LOUISVILLE CARDINALS (1-1, 0-1) AT PITTSBURGH PANTHERS (2-0, 1-0)
Game Time: Noon
Location: Heinz Field: Pittsburgh, Pa.
Television: ACC Network/fuboTV
Announcers: Wes Durham (play-by-play), Roddy Jones (analyst) and Kelsey Riggs (sideline)
Favorite: Pittsburgh by 3
All-Time Series: Pittsburgh leads, 9-8
Last Meeting: Pittsburgh won 45-34 on Nov. 21, 2015 in Pittsburgh
Louisville Depth Chart:
Pittsburgh Depth Chart:
Pitt hired Pat Narduzzi to bring a strong defense and a “blue-collar” mindset to the program. What he actually brought was an offense that has been high powered at times. Pitt hasn’t produced a lot of NFL guys on offense but they have had some of the weirdest scoring totals in games over the last five years. Mark Whipple was brought in last season to take over the offense and they’ve had mixed results so far.
Kenny Pickett is the third mobile Quarterback that Louisville will see this year but Pickett is more of a scrambler than a guy that will run on designed plays. He has a big arm and can make all the throws but he has been somewhat inconsistent since he became the starter in 2018. Pitt has a NFL system in the way that the Quarterback can complete 20 passes for 185 yards. Louisville is going to see a lot of throws within five yards of the line of scrimmage. Pickett has been hitting those throws this year and they have to make sure they’re there to make the tackle.
The glaring issue with Pitt’s offense has been the struggles running the football. It doesn’t help that Mark Whipple has the old school mentality of “establishing the run”. A.J. Davis and Vincent Davis have been the main ball carriers and neither is averaging 4 yards per carry. That’s with a cupcake game against Austin Peay in week one. A.J. Davis is the returning leading rusher from last season and was a four-star recruit a few years back. He hasn’t really lived up to expectations and Pitt was fairly putrid in the run game last year.
Vincent Davis is the guy I’m a little more worried about as a Running Back. He hasn’t been great either but he’s smaller and shiftier and he is the type of player that can get lost behind the line and end up breaking a play outside. Louisville has been more aggressive with their run defense, so if a back gets to the second level with space, it could turn into a big play.
Pitt has some speed and talent at the Wide Receiver spot and it looks like they will look to stretch the field more with that speed. They return Shocky Jacques-Louis and Taysir Mack from last year but they’ve added a potential dynamic player in Jordan Addison. Addison is the guy in the slot who will get a ton of touches. He has 14 catches on the year but is only averaging 6.57 yards per catch. That’s not abnormal for this offense but I was impressed with Addison’s speed down the field when I watched him.
Pitt can’t run the ball, so they have a hard time stretching the field. However, Louisville’s pass rush hasn’t gotten home much so Pitt may be able to take their shots to Addison and Jacques-Louis. Pitt also added D.J. Turner as a transfer and he has some good speed.
There isn’t much about the Pitt Offensive Line that really stands out but they protect Pickett pretty well. To me, it seems like Pitt has more coverage sacks than they have guys just getting beat. Pickett can hold onto the ball too long at times, also. Louisville has been getting after the Quarterback at times and sitting in a shell on long yardage third downs. I’d imagine that we’ll see some conservative calls this week with Pickett not being a huge threat as a runner like they’ve seen the first two weeks.
Defense and Pitt football seem like a perfect match but that hasn’t always been the case under Patt Narduzzi. But, he made a change in 2018 and the Pitt defense has been one of the best in the ACC over the last two years. Randy Bates brought a more aggressive approach to the defense and he’s been fortunate to have a handful of talented players that fit the scheme perfectly.
Up front, Pitt had the best defensive line in the ACC before Jalen Twyman opted out to prepare for the draft. After two games, I think it’s still fair to say that their front four is the best in the conference. They may not have the talent of Clemson but they are super productive and they make it hard to do anything. Patrick Jones and Rashad Weaver are two of the best ends in the league and Deslin Alexandre is a guy that they can bring in that would likely start for most teams in the conference. Jones is the veteran hard worker who has developed into a NFL talent. Weaver is the super talented guy who hadn’t played a game since 2018 before last week and ended up with 3 tackles for loss, and 2 sacks in his first game back.
With Twyman out, the interior of the line doesn’t have the play making ability it had last season. But they have been stout against the run so far this year. Pitt has done a really good job of plugging the middle as well as eating up blocks and their second level defenders have feasted. It’s hard to get anything going in the run game when you have one or more unblocked guys containing everything and shooting gaps to stop plays before they get started.
I haven’t seen much from the Pitt Linebackers so far but they can all run well. Cam Bright is the veteran of the group and he’s been a beneficiary of the play up front. He plays the Star position which is similar to UofL’s Card spot. He’s done a good job setting the edge but I do wonder how he will handle beating blocks against Louisville. The rest of the group is pretty productive but I am surprised that they don’t register more tackles with the line they have in front of them. I think Louisville could have some success running the ball if this group has to make plays.
Pitt is solid at Cornerback but these guys can be beat in man coverage. Austin Peay and Syracuse had big plays where they were able to just run past the defense and Pitt will leave these guys on an island a lot. Maquis Williams is the only new starter in the secondary and he is very green. Williams is also only 5-8 so he is at a disadvantage on an island. I would imagine UofL will try to go after him a bit. Jason Pinnock is a veteran but he gave up a long touchdown against Syracuse last week. These guys aren’t big time athletes but they are sound in their technique. Louisville has to find a way to exploit the former while not getting shut down by the latter.
The Panthers have the best Safety combo in the country, in my opinion. Demar Hamlin and Paris Ford are outstanding football players. Hamlin is at his best in run support but he can cover ground as a Safety. Ford excels at just about everything and he already has two interceptions on the year. Both of these guys can and will come up and cut down outside runs consistently and they both bring some serious force when they hit you. Pitt is so aggressive up front because they have these two in the back to clean things up and they can cover slots and Tight Ends well.
I believe that Ford and Hamlin will be the key to this game. Pitt’s scheme asks a lot of them and they answer the call routinely. Can Louisville find ways to get their receivers in advantage situations? Can they run the ball well enough that Pitt brings these guys into the box for good? They have to find a way to neutralize these two guys or they’ll make plays all day.
Excitement Level: 8.0
Obviously this would be higher had last weekend gone better, but it’s still a top 25 matchup and a huge game for positioning in the ACC standings, dammit.
Game Attire: Red Heisman bird t-shirt
Pregame Meal: Bagel sandwich, coffee
The Mike Bagel Sandwich isn’t for everyone, but it’s incredible.
Bold Prediction: Louisville scores a defensive or special teams touchdown.
Not even remotely close in either of the first two weeks of the season, but you can’t get a hit without taking the bat off your shoulders.
Justin Marshall TD Alert Level: Lavender II (low)
These safeties are legit.
Predicted Star of the Game: Rodjay Burns
This feels like a game where if Louisville wins, its much-maligned defense is going to have stepped up significantly. Here’s a prediction that it’s Rodjay leading that resurgence.
—Louisville was 5-0 in games immediately following losses last season. In total, a Scott Satterfield coached team hasn’t lost consecutive games since 2017.
—Pittsburgh is seeking its first 3-0 start since 2014.
—Pitt boasts top 10 national rankings in rushing defense (first, 26.0 avg.), total defense (third, 154.0 avg.), pass defense (fourth, 128.0 avg.) and scoring defense (sixth, 5.0 ppg.).
—Pitt is not allowing fans to attend home games this season, meaning this will be the first time this season Louisville has played a game with no spectators.
—Louisville is averaging 6.4 yards per play after the first two games of the season. The Cardinals are ranked 17th in that category, having 39 plays of 10 or more yards (3rd nationally) and 12 of over 20 yards.
—Louisville is 79-27 all-time when playing as a team ranked in the current AP Top 25 poll.
—The Cardinals are 8-13 all-time in games where both teams are ranked, and 3-9 in regular season games where both teams are ranked.
—Louisville is 17-58-1 against ranked opponents overall.
—Since joining the ACC in 2014, Louisville 7-6 against Coastal Division opponents. The Panthers typically play in the Coastal, but the ACC is not separating teams by divisions in 2020.
—Scott Satterfield is 3-10 as a head coach against ranked opponents, including 1-3 while at Louisville.
—Louisville is 11-13 in ACC road games since joining the conference in 2014.
—Under Satterfield, Louisville is 8-0 when winning the turnover battle, and just 1-6 when losing it. The Cards won the turnover against Western Kentucky in the season-opener, but lost it (3-0) last week against Miami.
—Louisville is 5-6 all-time in games at Pittsburgh.
—Louisville QB Malik Cunningham is tied for the national lead with six touchdown passes after tossing three in consecutive games to open the season.
—In eight seasons as a head coach, Scott Satterfield’s teams are 49-4 when scoring 30 or more points. One of those losses came last week against Miami.
—Dez Fitzpatrick and Tutu Atwell are tied for fourth nationally with eight receptions of over 10 yards through the first two games of the season. Fitzpatrick is averaging 16.7 yards a catch in 2020.
—Louisville is currently riding a consecutive game scoring streak that spans 252 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 nationally.
—Louisville is 190-13 all-time when scoring 35 or more points in a game. The Cards are also 6-117 all-time when allowing opponents to score 40 or more points.
—“Their defense keeps it pretty simple. They don’t do a lot of exotic things, but they have four down linemen who I think are as good as anyone we will play, and their corners can lock you down on the outside. They’re going to put a lot of pressure on your offense. You have to earn everything; there will not be any freebies.” —Scott Satterfield
—“You notice their speed. When I’m watching them, they’re fast, their O-line is aggressive. They’re very aggressive.” —Pitt head coach Pat Narduzzi
—“They just continuously put pressure on offenses the whole game. You can turn on any film, that’s just a (head coach Pat) Narduzzi type defense. They do an outstanding job, and he’s been doing it for many, many years.” —Scott Satterfield
—“I spent a good amount of time in our meetings today (Tuesday) just making sure the guys understand. I said, ‘When I tell you these things, do you think it’s just coaching talk or do you really believe what I’m saying? Because what I’m about to tell you about this defense is they’re really, really good.’ I talked to them about the history of that program. That team prides themselves on playing sound, physical defense and obviously they’ve done that. They’re a defensive front that’s very talented, they’re physical, they’ve got great size and year in and year out they’re a great defense. I told our guys this is a big-time test for them. Huge.” —Dwayne Ledford
—“Tutu is a great player, explosive, probably a 10-flat 400 meter guy, may be one of the fastest receivers we’ve ever faced. He’s dangerous. Hawkins is explosive, put it that way. When he gets the ball, looks like he’s shot out of a cannon. He’s flying. Obviously Malik is a great player. Got a great arm, can run, makes good decisions for the most part. He’s athletic, a guy that can do a lot of different things.” —Pitt head coach Pat Narduzzi
—“We have to capitalize on all the opportunities they give us. Miami got their fair share of big plays, so when we get those opportunities we just have to make plays and capitalize - put points on the board.” —Pitt wide receiver Jared Wayne
—“When I think of Pittsburgh, it’s nicknamed the Steel City, prides itself on a lunch pail mentality, blue collar, hard-working. I grew up a Pittsburgh Steelers fan and enjoyed watching their defense. When I was a kid you heard about the defense being tough, got after you. You look at Pitt and it’s the same thing. They just go to work, they train. You can just tell that’s what they want as their identity as a team.” —Dwayne Ledford
—“When you’re playing football or coaching football you really don’t look up in the stands really. We hope they’ll just go out and play football and focus on their job, which is for them to make plays, and do their assignments.” —Scott Satterfield
Card Chronicle Prediction: Louisville 28, Pittsburgh 24