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Thursday afternoon Cardinal news and notes

Get your dame day outfits finalized before Saturday.

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—Spread check: Louisville by 4.5.

—Both Louisville and Duke are looking for big time bounceback efforts on Saturday afternoon.

—The latest episode of the CC Podcast is here.

—Louisville Report’s Matt McGavic is calling for a 28-24 Cardinal victory over Duke.

—The Athletic’s Justin Williams has a nice feature on Jeff Brohm at the unofficial midway point of his first season at the helm of the Cards.

The top storyline entering the game is whether a standout player for each offense will be healthy enough to go. Brohm said Monday that Jordan had rehabbed but hadn’t practiced since the Pitt game and remains questionable for Saturday. It’s a similar status for Duke quarterback Riley Leonard, who left the game against Florida State after aggravating an ankle injury that has hampered him for the past month. Leonard didn’t have stellar numbers against FSU, but the Blue Devils were up 20-17 when he exited late in the third quarter. They lost 38-20.

“Without question, they’re a different ball team with him,” Brohm says. “He’s got a ton of experience, can throw the ball, is really good running the ball. He doesn’t turn it over. His ability to execute that offense gives them a high level of expertise that position really needs.”

That’s also what is commanding Brohm’s attention. He doesn’t like to evaluate the season until it’s over, so any questions about the North Carolina loss or league standings or Louisville’s pleasantly surprising fast start are met with the same degree of enthusiasm as a post-loss bye week.

“You can fall into a lull when you start 6-0. You forget how you got there — it wasn’t easy; it was a struggle,” Brohm says. “If we don’t have that same hunger (against Duke) we started the season with, we’re gonna get knocked on our ass.”

Instead, Brohm is looking to burnish his big-game pedigree in a bout that should have major implications on the ACC as teams enter the final turn.

Back in the spring, Brohm was already embracing the expectations of his new job in his old home, recognizing — and understanding better than anyone — that Louisville fans want championships and want them now. The Cardinals are in a better position to do that than most expected this season, and a win Saturday would put them one significant step closer.

It might even be enough to make Brohm crack a smile.

—Matt McGavic goes behind enemy lines with a Duke writer.

—This year’s CBS ranking of the top 101 players in college basketball does not feature a Cardinal.

—The U of L men’s soccer team will wrap up the regular season tomorrow night with a home test against No. 3 Wake Forest. The Cards have been up and down this season, but are 2-1-1 against ranked opponents.

—Kenny Payne says it’s important not to forget the lessons learned from last season’s 4-28 campaign.

“We’re not going to forget that,” Payne said. “I’m not going to just say, ‘Let’s move on from it.’ I want us to prove to people that we are taking a major step in the right direction with this program. We’re going to have some success this season.”

That’s as forceful a statement as Payne has made about his hopes for the coming season. He’s not going to do something foolish like predict a number of wins or a baseline ACC finish. So “some success” is likely as much as you’re going to get.

What constitutes “some success” is a matter of some debate, even among Louisville fans. What will enough success look like? There are segments of the fans base for whom the program could win four times as many games, yet still not be good enough. And that’s not a fringe group. It’s a group that rightfully expects a program that has been a national player to deliver at that level, even after a disastrous season.

“We have great fans,” Payne said. “They want to win. Look at what happens when we win. You look at our volleyball program, our football program. When they win games, I mean, the Notre Dame (football) game is an example. I want these kids to be able to walk onto that court at the Yum! Center and that arena be full, and they go out and fight not just for themselves but for the history of the program, but for those fans as well.”

—Only four SEC schools have never rushed the field to celebrate a victory: Alabama, Georgia, Florida and Mississippi State.

—Kentucky Wesleyan, Louisville’s Monday exhibition opponent, gave Saint Louis a bit of a challenge Wednesday night before falling by 10.

—I love this couple.

—How much would illegally stealing signs as Michigan is accused of doing help a team? Four head coaches say a lot.

—Here’s an interesting read from The Athletic on ten lessons from a highly effective signal stealer.

—The New England Patriots have now re-signed Malik Cunningham. Snip-snap, snip-snap.

—Kenny Payne has been a bit tempered with his predictions about the upcoming season. but JJ Traynor was not on Wednesday.

When the league releases its preseason poll Thursday, it’s likely to reflect that apathy toward the Ville with a placement in the bottom half of the league.

“We’re going to shock them,” Traynor said. “I like nobody expecting us or looking us off because of last year, but, to be honest, I don’t really understand it because we have a new team.”

And a new team in this league can soar fast and high. Last season, the top three teams in the standings were Miami, Virginia and a three-way tie with Clemson, Pitt and Duke.

The top three teams in the 2021-22 standings were Duke, North Carolina and Notre Dame. And going back to the disjointed, COVID-riddled season of 2020-21, UVA, Florida State and Virginia Tech finished in the top three.

That’s nine teams in three seasons, more than half the league, which have had a taste of contending for the top.

“That’s like the main thing on my mind is how people are doubting us, not talking about us, putting us low,” James said. “It’ll mean everything to me to come out and surprise a whole bunch of people and win some games.”

—Sierra Canyon girls basketball star MacKenly Randolph says she’s down to three schools for college: Notre Dame, Louisville and Michigan State. She is the daughter of former NBA standout Zach Randolph.

—Jeff Nunn looks at Louisville’s path to the ACC championship game.

—The St. X boys soccer team is headed back to the state championship game after a shootout victory Wednesday night.

—Having “Michigan fan” in his old professional bio is a problem here for Michael Rosenberg, who was also awfully hard on Bobby Petrino during Wakey Leaks.

—Gambling site The Lines has a preseason college hoops top 25 that doesn’t feature any local squads.

—The latest From the Pink Seats podcast is here.

—The 12th-ranked Louisville field hockey team will conclude the regular season against No. 13 Boston College.

—Tone Bennett said Wednesday that he’s rooting for Matt Painter and Purdue to have a Virginia-like redemption.

—Dennis doesn’t miss.

—ESPN’s college hoops staff looks at the biggest questions for the upcoming season.

—Donovan Mitchell buried a game-winning three against the Nets in Cleveland’s season-opening win Wednesday night.

—The Duke Chronicle hits the film room to take a look at Louisville’s “explosive” offense.

—Kyle Wood of Sports Illustrated says Duke covering the 4.5 in Louisville is one of the best bets of the weekend.

Duke has to stay sharp on defense and move the ball on the ground against Louisville to keep things close, with or without Leonard. Running on the Cardinals is easier said than done. They’re one of 16 FBS teams that allow less than 100 rushing yards per game and even in their loss to the Panthers they surrendered just 2.7 yards per carry. Jordan Waters, Jacquez Moore and Leonard (when healthy) lead a Blue Devils rushing attack that’s good for almost 200 yards per game.

Louisville has two standout playmakers to account for in Jawhar Jordan and Jamari Thrash. Both players are second in the ACC in rushing yards and receiving yards, respectively, though Jordan’s status is also in question for Saturday. Jack Plummer quarterbacks an explosive offense, but not without committing turnovers. His eight interceptions are tied for the sixth-most nationally.

On defense, Duke has the clear edge, as it allows just 13.9 points per game, the sixth-fewest in the country. The Blue Devils aren’t great against the run, which bodes well for Jordan, but are stingy against the pass. The Cardinals allow just over 20 points per game, a top-20 mark nationally, and points might be hard to come by if Leonard is ruled out or limited. But a low-scoring game favors Duke, the better running team with a stronger defense that isn’t as susceptible to turnovers.

Louisville is just 2–3–1 against the spread as a favorite but is undefeated at home with a win over Notre Dame. The Blue Devils are 1–2 against the spread as an underdog but they did score a season-opening upset win against Clemson. It remains to be seen if Duke can win outside North Carolina against teams not named UConn, so take the points rather than picking the upset outright.

Best Bet: Duke +4.5 (-120)

—The fourth-ranked U of L volleyball team will host Florida State and Miami this weekend.

—The Louisville women’s soccer team will wrap their 2023 campaign tonight at home against No. 25 Duke.

—The Duke Chronicle says the Blue Devils have to beware of Jamari Thrash’s hands and Jawhar Jordan’s legs on Saturday. Apparently their other body parts are of no importance.

—And finally, the Mike Rutherford Show is back from 3-6 this afternoon on 1450 AM and 96.1 FM. You can stream it here.