LOUISVILLE CARDINALS (3-3, 1-3) vs. PITTSBURGH PANTHERS (4-2, 1-1)
Game Time: 8 p.m.
Location: Cardinal Stadium: Louisville, Ky.
Television: ACC Network
Announcers: Dave O’Brien (play-by-play), Tim Hasselbeck (analyst), Kelsey Riggs (sideline)
Favorite: Louisville by 2.5
All-Time Series: Pittsburgh leads, 10-8
Last Meeting: Pittsburgh won 23-20 on 9/26/20 in Pittsburgh
Louisville Depth Chart:
Game Day Guide:
Excitement Level: 5.0
Whether we’re back on the positive side or the negative side of the midway point before a blackout game against (what should still be) a ranked opponent depends on the 3.5 hours this evening.
Game Attire: Red Louisville Cardinals hoodie
Let’s keep the good vibes rolling ... for at least more than one consecutive game.
Pregame Meal: Chicken wings
It’s been too long.
Bold Prediction: There is a blocked punt in the game
We haven’t really had any special teams chaos on either side this season. That changes against Pitt.
Rance Conner Interception Alert Level: Radical Red (slightly below average)
We need to get it rolling again here, Rance.
Predicted Star of the Game: Tyler Hudson
Just like two years ago, Pitt is going to do all they can to force Malik to beat them with his arm. It didn’t happen then, and if it’s going to happen on Saturday night, we’re going to need at least one receiver to get consistent separation. Hudson needs to be that guy.
Pat Narduzzi had one of the most successful seasons in recent Pitt history last year and immediately complained about his offense. This was an offense that produced the best receiver in the country as well as one of the best improvements of any quarterback in the country. But Narduzzi wanted to run the ball more because winning the ACC with his ridiculous offense was somehow a bad thing. So when his offensive coordinator quit, he went out and hired a guy who likes to run the ball and that’s exactly what Pitt is doing this year.
Quarterback was a key position that Pitt had to replace and they landed one of the top transfers in Kedon Slovis. Slovis was very good during his short time at USC but he was a bit unproven. However, any coach in the country would take a guy who started at the power five level and played well. Slovis has been woefully inconsistent for Pitt but his skills are still very good. Slovis is plenty good enough to make plays against Louisville but he hasn’t been able to show it so far this season.
The star of the show is Israel Abanikanda and this is the last time I’m typing that name out. This kid is an outstanding talent and genuinely fun to watch. He runs with a unique blend of speed, power, and balance and he has been on a tear this year. Georgia Tech got lucky because he was injured. West Virginia got lucky that he was the backup at the time. Everyone else? Pain. UofL has to bring the run defense they brought against Virginia and USF. If not, it will be a long day.
The Pitt wide receiver room took a hit when Jordan Addison transferred to USC but I thought they did a good job to go out and mine the transfer portal to blunt the loss of his production. Konata Mumpfield was one of the best available receivers this off-season after having a big year at Akron as a freshman. While he hasn’t been able to break out for Pitt, he has been the guy they have utilized as their possession receiver and he has the ability to make a big play out of a short pass.
Jared Wayne is the most explosive receiver for Pitt and he has the size and speed to create a matchup problem for Louisville. He is the big play receiver for this team and Louisville will have to be able to keep him contained. Wayne doesn’t have a 100-yard game this season, so it’s possible to keep him from going off but we have seen other receivers have big days. The other player to watch is Gavin Barthalowmew who has had a strong season at tight end. He can do a bit of everything but UofL has struggled to handle tight ends in the middle of the field.
The Panther’s offensive line got some bad news this week when Pat Narduzzi announced that Carter Warren would miss the rest of the season. Warren is an all-conference left tackle and with Louisville leading the ACC in sacks, it can’t be a good thing to have to play this game without him. Overall, the line has been solid but this team has given up a lot of negative plays and they’ve allowed a good amount of sacks. If there’s an area that seems promising, it’s definitely up front. But we saw that this team didn’t take advantage of a bad Boston College offensive line.
No matter what happens in college football, one thing remains a constant. Pitt will have a good defense and they will be very good up front. Pat Narduzzi knows exactly what type of identity he wants for his team. It starts with a strong running game and it ends with a defense that creates havoc up front and forces your receivers to beat them in the back end. This specific team feels like a Narduzzi team and that can be an issue on offense at times but this defense does what it needs to do.
Pitt’s defensive line is excellent at just about everything they’re asked to do. They can get after the quarterback but they also do a very good job of playing the run. They’re led by Calijah Kancey who is one of the best defensive linemen in the country. Kancey is a bit undersized but he uses great quickness and pure effort to cause mayhem in the backfield. He is also consistent as he puts up negative plays in nearly every game he plays. Louisville has to be able to run the ball this weekend and that only happens if they can keep Kancey out of the backfield.
The rest of the line is also very talented and effective. What jumps out when you watch them is that it’s a collective effort from the group. UofL loves running outside zone, but I think this group will make that hard on them. The question is can they have the success they had running the ball like they did last week?
Pitt leads the nation in great names and Sirvocea Dennis is among the best of them. He also really gets after it on the field. Dennis plays about as fast as any linebacker Louisville will see this season and Pitt’s defensive system allows him to play downhill against the run and the pass. Bangally Kamara teams with Dennis to make a lot of plays behind this excellent defensive line and they really make it hard to stay on schedule because even if they don’t make a play behind the line, they can get a stop for no gain or just a couple of yards.
The secondary for Pitt is always the area that gets the most interest from me because they run such a simplified coverage that it’s easy to get a feel for them. Pitt will play man coverage outside with their corners with cover four as their overall coverage. Essentially, the four defensive backs are responsible for a quarter of the field. It allows for the front seven to pressure and stop the run but it can obviously leave the back end vulnerable.
At corner, Pitt has experience in Marquise Williams and M.J. Devonshire. Both have experience playing the Cards as Williams is one of the many players for Pitt that played in the game in 2020. Devonshire is a Kentucky transfer who can flat-out fly. He had a pick-six in their opener to seal the win against West Virginia. He is also a very good punt returner. Both of these guys will have a field day if UofL’s receivers can’t create separation.
The safeties are playing at a very high level this year with Erick Hallett being one of the highest-graded players in the country, per PFF. He has three interceptions on the season and Louisville might have to stay away from him if Ahmari Huggins-Bruce is out this weekend. UofL doesn’t have the speed at receiver that they’ve had in the past so they will have to find a way to take advantage of Hallett and Brandon Hill who are both very good players.
—Pitt has won seven consecutive away games dating back to the 2020 season, its longest road winning streak since the Dan Marino-led teams of 1980-82 won 13 consecutive away contests. The Panthers boast the nation’s second-longest active road game winning streak, trailing only Georgia’s nine consecutive road wins.
—After Louisville won six consecutive games against Pittsburgh between 1990-2007, the Panthers have won six of the last seven meetings in this series.
—Pitt is 2-0 against Louisville since the Cardinals joined the ACC in 2014.
—This will be Louisville’s first night homecoming game since 2013 and only the 12th in program history.
—Louisville is 57-36 all-time on Homecoming and has won 25 of their last 30 Homecoming games. The Cardinals are 9-2 in homecoming games against ACC opponents.
—Pitt last visited Louisville in 2011, when both teams were members of the Big East. The Panthers won that contest, 21-14.
—Louisville has been tied or leading in the fourth quarter in seven of its last nine losses.
—Louisville is a 2.5-point favorite in this game according to DraftKings Sportsbook. The Cardinals are 3-3 against the spread so far this season.
—Since 2015, Pat Narduzzi has directed Pitt to 37 victories in ACC play, the third-highest win total during that span. The Panthers trail only Clemson (57) and Miami (38).
—The Panthers are 11-3 over their last 14 ACC contests dating back to the 2020 season.
—Scott Satterfield is 0-1 in games against Pittsburgh.
—Louisville is 212-94-5 all-time during the month of October, with Scott Satterfield posting a 6-8 mark in his first four seasons during the calendar’s 10th month.
—Over Scott Satterfield’s first four seasons at Louisville, 15 of his 42 games have been decided by one possession or less. The Cardinals are 5-10 in those games.
—Pitt RB Israel Abanikanda leads the entire country with an average of 186.17 all-purpose yards per contest. In his last outing, he rushed for a Pitt-record 320 yards and six TDs against Virginia Tech.
—Abanikanda joins LaDainian Tomlinson and Ricky Williams as the only players from current Power 5 programs to rush for 300 yards and score six rush touchdowns in a game over the last 25 seasons.
—Pitt defensive tackle Calijah Kancey was named to four midseason All-America teams this week. CBS Sports and ESPN named Kancey a first team All-American, while Pro Football Focus and The Athletic named Kancey a second team All-American. Kancey leads Pitt with 8.5 tackles for loss and six quarterback hurries. He ranks second on the team in sacks (three). He’s ranked No. 17 nationally with 1.4 tackles for losses per game.
—Louisville is 34-35 in ACC games since joining the conference in 2014, and 13-17 under Satterfield.
—Louisville is 0-16 under Scott Satterfield when trailing going into the fourth quarter.
—Under Scott Satterfield, Louisville is 16-3 when winning the turnover battle, and just 2-17 when losing it.
—The Cards have turned the football over seven times in their three losses this season and four times in their three victories.
—Louisville is 7-0 under Scott Satterfield when scoring 40-49 points, and 3-0 when scoring 50 or more.
—Louisville is 1-9 under Scott Satterfield when being held to 21 points or fewer, with their lone win coming earlier this season in a 20-14 triumph over UCF.
—Louisville is currently riding a consecutive game scoring streak that spans 280 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 196-14 all-time when scoring 35 or more points in a game. The Cards are also 6-121 all-time when allowing opponents to score 40 or more points.
—“It’s a one-game season, everything we have is all on Pitt. We can’t think about what we did in the past. Now we got to learn from the things we did, but we can’t dwell on it.” —Scott Satterfield
—”Obviously, Scott Satterfield does a great job. I believe he calls most of the offense. So he’s been doing it for a while. So we’ve gone back and watched a lot of the 2020 game here during COVID when nobody else really saw that game except on TV. And, you know, they’re really athletic.” —Pitt head coach Pat Narduzzi
—”(Cunningham’s) super-athletic. We have to run our gaps. He’s (Louisville’s) leading rusher right now, so it puts stress on everybody. There’s an extra blocker on the field, so there’s an extra gap that gets created. With a dynamic rusher like him, we have to be able to make sure we all stay in our gaps, we all stay in our fits and not focus on all the eye candy that happens behind the play.” —Pitt linebacker Shayne Simon
—“He’s a really good dual-threat quarterback. We definitely watched that film from two years ago. They play a little bit different, but not that much. We’ve studied that film so we can learn and apply lessons from it to be prepared for what we’re about to face.” —Pitt DL Deslin Alexandre
—“When you think about the games we lost, (it’s been) big plays, the big passing plays in the pass game or even the run game. I just hope that these guys can come out and can be a little bit more consistent as we move forward the second half of season, and I think we will. ... Hopefully, we continue that trend of not giving up those big plays, tackling well. I think if we do that, we’ll have a really good second half of the season.” —Bryan Brown
Card Chronicle Prediction: Pittsburgh 30, Louisville 27