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Tuesday afternoon Cardinal news and notes

Greg Pence brings the 2021 Summer Tour to Miramar Beach.

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—Shannon Russell has three things to know about new men’s hoops addition Mason Faulkner.

—You can listen to the podcast of the first episode of The Mike Rutherford Show here on Soundcloud. You can also listen on itunes or Apple podcasts just by searching 1450 Big X Sports Radio.

—Consistency has been the preseason focus of U of L wide receiver Braden Smith.

—Bryan Brown spent some time with Packer and Durham Tuesday morning.

—Yasir Abdullah, a CC favorite, has been “on a mission” during fall camp.

—The 2021 U of L volleyball season gets underway tomorrow with the annual Red-White scrimmage.

—Mason Faulkner says that, ultimately, a desire to win is what led him to Louisville for his final season of college hoops.

“I wouldn’t put a ceiling on this team,” he said. “Obviously I want to win and that’s my highest priority. We are going to do whatever it takes to win. This is a great atmosphere and a great place and having the fans rally around us and give their support to the basketball program is unmatched in Kentucky. Just being around that culture and winning mentality, which they already have but on the national level and that’s what this program was built on.”

“I’m bringing that intensity and believing in myself always,” said Faulkner. “How I can make my teammates better and how I can play. Basically just that fire. I believe I have a lot to prove. Last year I was hurt and I feel like I have a lot left in the tank as far as showing the nation what I can do individually. Being at Louisville, having a lot of good guys around you and this atmosphere is unmatched. Everything’s coming into place and I want to show it on the court and let the world see.”

—Florida State checks in at No. 18 in Three-Man-Weave’s top 40 preseason countdown.

—The Reds and Cubs will play in next year’s “Field of Dreams Game.”

—If you’ve ever wanted to host a Louisville sports-themed podcast, State of Louisville could have your answer.

—UK is in a trademark dispute with the state of Kentucky over use of the word “Kentucky” on government merchandise. Not making that up.

—I don’t see how this is feasible long-term business plan, but Overtime Elite just signed a four-star high school recruit for $600,000. Gary Parrish sees this trend as a real threat to college hoops.

—As fall camp rolls on, Louisville continues to place a premium emphasis on eliminating the turnovers that plagued their 2020 season.

—Why would the Big Ten form an alliance with the ACC and Pac-12? It’s all about TV’s ‘Four Million Club.’

What’s the Four Million Club? It’s the group of football games that draw more than four million viewers.

These are the games networks are willing to pay premium prices for, and they’re also the type of games the SEC’s addition of Oklahoma and Texas will add to that league’s inventory. In conversations with television executives and consultants, conference officials and athletic directors, it has become clear that the hunt for premium television product will drive this round of realignment (or, in the case of the alliance, rearranging). So I asked a trusted source who has been involved with many television contracts what audience qualified as meter-moving in this ever-splintering environment, and that source drew the cutline at four million.

Examining which games cracked the Four Million Club explains a lot about the Oklahoma/Texas move, and it also offers a potential explanation why those three leagues would want to work together. It also helps explain why the schools Oklahoma and Texas left behind are seemingly being left in the cold.

I didn’t include viewing data from the 2020 season because everything about 2020 was weird and I didn’t want to skew the data, so I charted every rated regular-season game involving at least one FBS team from 2015-19. I didn’t include conference championships or bowls, which fetch different prices. Those five seasons featured 1,593 rated telecasts* and dozens more on the ACC Network, Big Ten Network, Pac-12 Network and SEC Network, which weren’t measured for audience size.

Of those, 198 telecasts made it into the Four Million Club. The audience size ranges from massive (16,841,000 for the 2016 Michigan-Ohio State game) to just above the cutline (4,010,000 for the 2015 Louisville-Auburn game). And the conference distribution of the games is quite telling.

—The Louisville women’s soccer team’s matches against Duke and Syracuse will be carried live on the ACC Network.

—State of Louisville takes a closer look at the U of L women’s basketball non-conference schedule.

—As long as it’s us with the 75.

—Jon Rothstein has Louisville at No. 7 in the power rankings of his offseason ACC men’s basketball breakdown.

—How Lane Kiffin got Ole Miss to be the first college football program with a 100 percent vaccination rate remains a subject of intrigue.

—Former Cardinal offensive lineman Lukayus McNeil was one of six players waived by the Seattle Seahawks on Monday.


—The Lexington Herald-Leader’s Mark Story writes that the stakes in the 2021 battle for the Governor’s Cup are going to be unusually high.

—Fansided ranks Malik Cunningham as the No. 20 in all of college football for 2021.

—TuTu Atwell has been impressive (Athletic link) during his first NFL preseason so far.

Tutu Atwell, Raymond Calais

The Rams have been working through a few players as possible kickoff and punt returners (including Atwell, Calais, Landen Akers and Jeremiah Haydel), but on Saturday, both Atwell and Calais showed real promise in both phases. Atwell displayed his speed on a 20-yard punt return that was called back by half because of a holding call (Atwell joked postgame that he thought it was a clean play), and Calais’ vision through the coverage, and resulting navigation downfield, really stood out on both his kick return opportunity (29 yards) and his punt return opportunity (46 yards).

Atwell, the Rams’ second-round pick this spring, is a sure roster spot (he also had two catches on four targets for 21 yards, with 20 of those yards on one play). Calais, a former seventh-rounder who was picked up by the Rams in-season last year, was a little more of a question. But both his clear confidence as a returner and the fact that the Rams are thin at running back, make his case for him.

—Congrats to Drew Ellis on his first big league bomb.

—Israeli swim Olympian Denis Loktev has committed to U of L.

—Pypeline’s Dan Siegel has some ACC football hot takes. I enjoy his first one.

Louisville will finish the season with a top five ACC defense

As far as I look at it, the Cardinals will completely switch gears to a defensive-minded team in 2021. The departures of running back Javian Hawkins and receivers Tutu Atwell and Dez Fitzpatrick will be accounted for on the other side of the ball.

From 2019 to 2020, the Cardinals improved their defensive drive efficiency from 103th to 65th in the FBS. I expect the improvement to be even more drastic into 2021.

On the line, Yasir Abdullah’s 2020 pass rush grade was in the 90th percentile in the power five and YaYa Diaby is destined to break out.

Linebackers Monty Montgomery and C.J. Avery have plenty of quality experience in Scott Satterfield’s hybrid 4-2-5 system.

And the secondary appears to be the personnel’s most exciting unit. In addition to Kei’Trel Clark, who has been well documented as my CB1 in the conference, Georgia Southern transfer Kendrick Duncan shows plenty of promise at safety.

While others may see this take as a stretch, I think it is certainly possible.

—Despite a challenging season, Corey Ray is close to another big league call-up from the Brewers.

—U of L hoops commit Tae Davis will attend Louisville Live next month.

—Louisville Report previews the Cardinal outside linebackers.

—And finally, day two of the Mike Rutherford Show is rolling this afternoon from 3-6 on 1450/96.1 The Big X. You can listen to a stream of the show here.