LOUISVILLE CARDINALS (3-2, 1-1) vs. VIRGINIA CAVALIERS (3-2, 1-2)
Game Time: 3 p.m.
Location: Cardinal Stadium: Louisville, Ky.
Television: ACC Network
Announcers: Chris Cotter (play-by-play), Mark Herzlich (analyst) and Jalyn Johnson (sideline)
Favorite: Louisville by 2.5
All-Time Series: Louisville leads, 5-4
Last Meeting: Virginia won 31-17 on Nov. 14, 2020 in Charlottesville
Louisville Depth Chart:
Virginia Depth Chart:
Excitement Level: 8.1
The Wake loss has left a bitter taste in my mouth that still hasn’t completely gone away, but getting to attend a home game for the first time since 2019 is certainly going to help.
Game Attire: Red U of L quarter zip, white Cardinal bird hat
A brief return to the days of the attire section featuring something I’m going to be wearing in public.
Pregame Meal: No idea, maybe a sandwich ... maybe some stadium pizza
We’ve got a hectic Saturday on the horizon and I’m not sure how much tailgate time that’s going to allow for. Whatever meal happens, it’s going to be quick.
Bold Prediction: Louisville never trails in this game
We got close last week, but still no accurate bold predictions thus far in 2021. Let’s rectify that today.
Justin Marshall TD Alert Level: Magenta Mix-Up (strong)
Alert Level called its shot in the Central Florida game and has slowly been working its way back up since then. Feeling good about today.
Predicted Star of the Game: Malik Cunningham
Let’s put up some numbers today, my guy.
Air raid and Virginia don’t usually go together but Virginia comes into the Louisville game ranked 3rd in the country in passing attempts per game. Bronco Mendenhall is known as a defensive coach with a focus on controlling the ball but Virginia is now throwing the ball all over the place. The change in philosophy has UVA in the top 15 in yards per play this season but they’re just inside the top 40 in scoring and they’re also a missed field goal away from being 0-3 in the ACC.
The man leading the charge for this air raid offense is Brennan Armstrong. The southpaw was the talk of college football after three weeks when he led the country in yards and touchdowns. He’s cooled off a bit over the last two weeks with Wake Forest and Miami keeping him in check for the majority of their games. Armstrong is familiar with Louisville after hurdling his now teammate Anthony Johnson in 2018 in his first meaningful game action.
Where Armstrong really excels is extending plays with his legs and making plays when things break down. He can run the ball well but Virginia hasn’t really asked him to do much with his legs this year. He has been very accurate throwing the ball down the field and he has spread the ball around very well this season. What Louisville must do is pressure him. UVA has given up 12 of their 13 sacks on the year in their last three games. Armstrong held the ball too long on some of those sacks and on others, he didn’t get the ball out before the blitz got to him. Armstrong has played very well this year but he can be flustered into making poor plays.
The UVA running game has been solid when utilized but their backs aren’t utilized all too often. They use a stable of backs so one guy doens’t really stand out but Mike Hollins is the most talented of the bunch. Hollins is used as a receiving option out of the backfield as well. UVA used their running game much more than usual last week so Lousiville has to prepare for the same this week after Virginia had their best game in weeks with a balanced attack.
The Receivers for the Hoos have been really good this season. Dontayvion Wicks has been a revelation in his first year as a starter. He has a great blend of speed and size and he catches just about everything. Billy Kemp is the high volume slot target that UVA typically has each year. His role has expanded a bit as he is now used all over the field including down the field. Add in Ra’Shuan Terry and Jelani Woods at Tight End and you truly have to defend the entire field against Virginia.
Keytaon Thompson is listed as a “Football Player” on Virginia’s depth chart and as cheesy as it is, it’s pretty accurate for his role. Thompson transferred to Virginia a year after beating Louisivlle in a bowl game and Virginia has maximized his talent. He will line up at Quarterback, Running Back, Wide Receiver, and he will motion into any of those roles from another one. Thompson isn’t a blzer as a runner but he runs very hard and makes people miss.
The Virginia Offensive Line was heralded as one of the best in the ACC coming into this season but they haven’t been all too impressive over the last few weeks. The have allowed a lot of sacks and they haven’t been able to get much push on short yardage run plays. The Hoos have also been very poor in the red zone in part because they can’t consistently run the football. Louisville could have an opportunity to put pressure on Armstrong this week and maybe force a turnover or two.
Virginia’s defense has steadily fallen off over the last few years but the start to the 2021 season has been worse than anyone could have imagined. Virginia’s staff had to feel good about all of the veteran talent they had returning this season but the defense just hasn’t performed well enough so far. Bronco Mendenhall has done a good job of slowing down Louisville’s offense over the last two seasons and he has to have high hopes that the veteran group can turn things around with a familiar opponent.
The Defensive Line is where things start for this defense as they look to cause disruption and eat up blockers so that their Linebackers can run free. They really haven’t gotten the production out of their front like they had in years past. Mandy Alonso is still a force at his Defensive End spot and Louisville has to have an answer for him. He can really impact the running game if he gets push into the backfield.
The group that seems to have taken the biggest step back has been the Linebackers. Jordan Mack and Zane Zandier are gone and I don’t know that they had the talent to replace such big players in their scheme. Nick Jackson has been very good since he first got extended time against UofL a couple of years ago. Hunter Stewart mans the other Inside Linebacker spot and his production has been less than ideal. Lousiville could have some success running the football if they can keep these guys at bay.
On the outside, Noah Taylor returns at his hybrid role as a pass rusher and zone coverage Linebacker. Taylor had a huge play last year with a pick-six right before halftime that changed the game. Taylor is a very long player at 6-5 and he uses his length to set the edge. Taylor and Alonso are the consistent players UVA has up front. Lousiville has to have a plan for them both.
The secondary for the Hoos is where they have the most veteran presence but the production has not been what they would expect. UNC and Wake Forest had a lot of success throwing the ball and Miami got things moving once they opened up their passing game plan. Virginia has done a good job getting PBUs but they only have two interceptions on the season so far.
Anthony Johnson transferred to UVA after leaving Louisville and earned a starting spot in the defense. AJ has played well so far in the Hoos aggressive scheme where his size is an asset. While I will always be a fan of Johnson after his play here as well as his presence off the field, I will be surprised if UofL doesn’t try to go after him a bit.
Nick Grant, De’Vante Cross, and Joey Blount make up the interior secondary players and all three of them have been in this defense for what seems like a decade. Blount is the most active player as he will play in the box as well as deep in over top coverage. He is also really good in run support. Blount will come up and stick his nose in there against anyone. With Lousiville showing some improvement in the running game last week, we could see the secondary players playing closer to the line which could open up some play-action opportunities.
—Under Scott Satterfield, Louisville is 12-0 when winning the turnover battle, and just 1-13 when losing it.
—Louisville is 4-0 all-time against Virginia in games played in Louisville.
—Road teams have won just one game in the history of this series: Louisville’s narrow victory in Charlottesville back in 2016.
—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 is seeking back-to-back wins on the road for the first time since 2017 when it defeated Boise State (Sept. 22) and North Carolina (Oct. 14). The Cavaliers have not won consecutive ACC road games since 2011 (d. Miami 28-21; d. Maryland 31-13).
—Louisville kicker James Turner is 17-for-17 on field goal attempts from less than 50 yards out in his career. He missed a 50-yard attempt against Wake Forest last Saturday, snapping a streak of 13 consecutive makes.
—Virginia enters Saturday as the No. 2 passing offense in the country, averaging 398 yards per game through the air. The Cavaliers rank seventh in the nation in total offense at 526.2 yards per game.
—In eight seasons as a head coach, Scott Satterfield’s teams are 55-6 when scoring 30 or more points. Louisville is 14-3 in such games under Satterfield, with one of those losses coming last weekend at Wake Forest.
—UVA “football player” (a legitimate position on the Virginia depth chart) Keytaon Thompson’s first career QB start at Mississippi State as a true freshman in 2017 was in the Taxslayer Bowl against Louisville. He led the Bulldogs to a 31-27 victory over the Lamar Jackson-led Cardinals, rushing for three scores and tying a MSU bowl record.
—Virginia is 6-7 all-time against teams from the state of Kentucky.
—Louisville is 30-30 in league games since joining the ACC in 2014.
—Virginia has amassed 134 first downs so far this season, the fifth-most of any team in the country.
—Louisville will honor former head coach Howard Schnellenberger, who died on March 27, with a helmet sticker that will be worn for the entirety of the 2021 season.
—Louisville is 210-91-5 all-time during the month of October, with Scott Satterfield posting a 4-5 mark in his first three seasons during the calendar’s 10th month.
—Malik Cunningham is the first player in Louisville history to rush for at least five touchdowns in four separate seasons.
—UVA QB Brennan Armstrong’s average of 29 completions per game are the third most of any signal caller in the country.
—Louisville is 0-6 under Scott Satterfield when being held to 21 points or fewer.
—Louisville has scored on 17 of its 18 trips to the Red Zone so far this season.
—Louisville is 12-1 under Scott Satterfield when leading at halftime, and 14-1 when leading at the end of the 3rd quarter.
—Louisville is 0-13 under Satterfield when trailing at the end of the 3rd quarter.
—Louisville is currently riding a consecutive game scoring streak that spans 266 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 11th-longest nationally.
—Louisville is 193-14 all-time when scoring 35 or more points in a game. The Cards are also 6-120 all-time when allowing opponents to score 40 or more points.
—”We have to bounce back and we have a great opponent this weekend so we’re looking forward to playing Virginia this weekend. Coach Mendenhall, I have a lot of respect for him, how he runs his program, the kids play hard for his staff. They do things in all three aspects that are unique: offense, defense, and special teams.” —Scott Satterfield
—“It’s just a bright spot. Those two kids, AJ and Joe, they kind of come as a team, like a superhero tandem. They travel together, and they’re just always smiling or laughing or elbowing one another or there’s some side dialogue happening and giggling. They’re just fun to be around.” —Virginia head coach Bronco Mendenhall
—“We’ve been talking about this since we both got here. That’s just the game we’ve really just been waiting for. We talk about this a lot.” —Virginia DB Joe Comer
—“Some of them are like my brothers still. I’m still cool with them, but we’re enemies on the field.” —Virginia DB Joe Comer
—“Offensively, their quarterback is playing at a high level. He can throw the football well; he is a very accurate passer with a great catchable ball. They have some guys to throw it to as well; really good wide receivers, a big tight end that is about 6’7”, and a little slot receiver that can run all over the place.” —Scott Satterfield
—“(Brennan Armstong) does a really good job of finding open receivers. Puts the ball on the money. I mean, he does everything you want a quarterback to do.” —Bryan Brown
—”The challenges I see from Virginia are just the formations that they have. A lot of motioning, pre-snap movement, post-snap movement. It’s just more eye candy.” —CJ Avery
Card Chronicle Prediction: Louisville 45, Virginia 37