LOUISVILLE CARDINALS (5-0, 3-0) vs. NOTRE DAME FIGHTING IRISH (5-1)
Game Time: 7:30 p.m.
Location: L&N Stadium: Louisville, Ky.
Announcers: Joe Tesitore (play-by-play), Jordan Roger (analyst) and Katie George (sideline reporter)
Favorite: Notre Dame by 6.5
All-Time Series: Notre Dame leads, 2-1
Last Meeting: Notre Dame won 12-7 on Oct. 17, 2020 in South Bend
Louisville Depth Chart:
Game Day Guide:
Louisville fans: this is what Notre Dame fans think about you pic.twitter.com/BboFjeYhQU— State of Louisville (@thestateoflou) October 5, 2023
I challenge someone to give me 3 reasons why Louisville can win. Other than this irrelevant narrative that they want to push. Even if I agree it matters, then Plummer’s past performances matter too. But they’ll tell you it’s different bc Cal & Purdue weren’t good teams. LOL. https://t.co/JoGca7hcLC— 5 Foot Nothin, 100 & Nothin (@5FootNothinPod) October 6, 2023
Excitement Level: 9.6
They don’t get much bigger.
Game Attire: Louisville Cardinals retro sweatshirt, jeans, white Cardinal bird hat
First game I’ve gone to since getting sick and it’ll be sweatah weathah.
Pregame Meal: Assorted tailgate foods
The old tailgate crew is back. Find us in the red lot.
Bold Prediction: Louisville scores a touchdown on its first offensive drive
Just looking for a win here.
T.J. Capers Playing Alert Level: Turquoise Blue (very, very low)
Predicted Star of the Game: Storm Duck
I am basing this on nothing other than bizarre intuition. The world told me Storm Duck. I listened.
About Notre Dame:
Notre Dame enters the game this week with something to prove on the offensive side of the ball. After a fast start against poor competition, their schedule has beefed up a bit and the offense has had some struggles finding an identity as well as finding a way to create big plays in the passing game. However, the Irish are scoring enough to beat just about anyone and Ohio State is the only team to outscore them so far.
Marcus Freeman pulled off the coup of the transfer window after the end of last season. Sam Hartman was the top veteran quarterback in the portal and Freeman was able to bring him in after a season of spotty quarterback play last year. Hartman has been great for ND with 14 touchdowns on the season with no interceptions. Hartman has excelled in passes at all levels and he has been decisive when it comes to running the ball. So far, it seems like he has adjusted well to a different scheme than what he ran at Wake Forest.
The Notre Dame running game is the most obvious concern for Louisville’s defense. Audric Estime has been a perfect balance of big plays and efficient running. Estime is averaging 7 yards per carry but he is also among the national leaders in carries with 95. He has done a great job of mixing in big plays with his 4-6 yard runs that have helped the offense stay on schedule and build drives. Estime’s running ability has also opened the middle of the field for their tight ends in the passing game as linebackers have been tasked with defending the run. As much as Hartman gets the notice, this offense depends on Estime playing well.
The other main back that has been a handful for defenses is true freshman Jeremiyah Love. Love was a top-100 player in the 2023 class and a top-5 running back. He has track speed and he has already shown that he can run away from people if he gets room to stretch his legs. He’s an upright runner who does best when he is in space, but he also has a solid frame to break a tackle or two if he is not hit head-on. Notre Dame will use up to five backs but Love is the biggest threat outside of Estime.
The Irish will get a couple of receivers back for this game and they couldn’t be needed more than they are right now. Notre Dame only had four healthy receivers last weekend and Sam Hartman struggled to find guys open all game. Tight ends became the focus of the passing game and Duke was able to just tee off all game long.
I think the group of receivers the Irish have is fairly deep but they are very young and very unproven. Jaden Greathouse has been the player to stand out to me after two scores in the season opener. He has great size and solid speed but I think his ability to make contested catches is what stands out the most to me. Chris Tyree is the fastest receiver of the group as the former running back has been able to find some space in defenses and separate from coverage.
Tobias Marryweather and Jordan Thomas are the big targets outside and they have both shown flashes as go-to guys who can make big plays. The other guy that has stood out is Rico Flores who is a big-time recruit out of California who has been pushed into a bigger role and has responded well. There may not be a key guy in this offense but you do have to account for all of ND’s receivers.
Tight end has been a major bright spot for the offense as the untested receivers get more acclimated to their roles. Mitchell Evans leads the team in catches and yards and he is easily the favorite target for Hartman. Evans is 6-5/251 and he has consistently shown that he can make tough, contested, and highlight catches in the middle of the field. Holden Staes is also a capable pass catcher and blocker at tight end and Louisville will likely see a lot of him in the run game. I’ve been impressed by his speed with the ball in his hands.
Coming into the season, the Notre Dame offensive line was considered one of the best in the country. I’m not sure that can be said anymore with the way that Sam Hartman has had to scramble and doge pressure. The right side of the line seems to be the issue as Rico Spindler and Blake Fischer grade out as very average compared to the left side. Fischer has given up 6 pressures on the season and will likely be matched up with Stephon Herron for most of the game. Joe Alt is one of the top left tackles in America and his battle against Ashton Gillotte will be one of the best of the season.
Notre Dame fans may have questioned the decision to give the head coaching job to Marcus Freeman but no one could question his defensive acumen. Freeman’s defenses at Cincinnati and Notre Dame were impressive and that trend has continued as a head coach. The Irish defense has been tested in different ways this year and they have held their own very well. Louisville will bring a new test as they have shown that they can create big plays in the passing game as well as the run game.
Notre Dame’s top tackler this year is their defensive tackle Howard Cross. In all of my years writing this post, I don’t believe I’ve ever seen this. Cross also leads the team in tackles for loss and finds himself around the ball a lot. The Irish are deep in the interior and they also have a lot of veterans but they are not a big group. The Irish are vulnerable in one key area and that is against the run. They are not bad by any stretch, but teams have found some success there.
I haven’t been overly impressed by the edges of the Irish defense but Jordan Botelho has flashed a handful of times. Bothelo will miss the first half of the game after a targeting call but his fresh legs could actually benefit them in the second half. Javontae Jean-Baptiste didn’t see the field all that much at Ohio State but he has entrenched himself as a starter for ND. He is due for a sack or two based on his time at OSU, so he is a guy to keep an eye on.
People talk about defenses “flying around” all of the time but I’ve been really impressed by how fast and how active the ND back end is. The linebackers get to the ball so well and JD Betrand has been a stud in the middle. These guys will be a big factor in the run game but I do wonder if Jeff Brohm looks to use more play action to take advantage.
One thing that I’ve noticed in watching the Irish is that they don’t really have a specific player that stands out like a Payton Wilson but instead, they play well as a group. I think that makes it hard to plan against. Though Wilson went off last week, it took NC State moving him around (pretty normal for them) which left some other spots as a weakness. I just don’t know that you can do that against this defense that is so old and experienced.
The secondary is the strong point of this defense and they have one of the best cornerbacks in the country in Benjamin Morrison. After a freshman All-American season, Morrison has not slacked off this year. He has four pass breakups to go with an interception and a tackle for loss. His matchup against Jamari Thrash should be a lot of fun to watch.
Xavier Watts is the other player that makes a ton of plays for this defense. You can’t watch the game without noticing just how much he shows up on the screen. He is a huge factor in the run game on the edges as well as in support behind the linebackers. If we see one of those back-breaking big plays by the defense, I’d expect it to be from Watts.
The Irish defense overall is stellar but the one stat that has caused them issues is third down defense. Ohio State was able to hit 58% on third downs and it was a huge factor in their win. The other big factor in Notre Dame’s season is their turnover margin. They’ve forced 9 fumbles so far and recovered 1 while picking off 6 passes. They’ve only turned the ball over twice so far. This is where Louisville has to win the game. Be efficient stay on schedule and don’t give the Irish extra possessions.
—Louisville is 5-0 for the first time since 2013 and 3-0 in the ACC for the first time ever. A win over Notre Dame would give the Cardinals their first 6-0 start since 2012.
—Louisville head coach Jeff Brohm is just the second U of L head football coach to begin his coaching stint with a 5-0 record, joining Tom King who won his first 10 games coaching the Cardinals in 1925 and 1926. King played his college football at Notre Dame.
—Notre Dame is 22-7-1 all-time when playing as the Associated Press No. 10 ranked team, which includes the 45-24 victory at NC State earlier this season. The Irish are 4-4-1 against other ranked teams while holding the No. 10 AP ranking.
—Saturday marks just the third time Notre Dame will face the Associated Press’ No. 25 ranked team (1-2). The Irish were unranked in all three previous meetings against No. 25.
—Louisville has won seven consecutive home games, which is the eighth-longest active streak in the FBS and tied for the 11th-longest streak in school history.
—Notre Dame has appeared in prime time 152 times with a 94-56-2 record under the lights (night games are defined by any contest that starts after 4 p.m. local time to the site). It is 23-7 all-time in home night games, 22-11 in neutral site contests and 49-38-2 on the road.
—Notre Dame is 16-1-1 on October 7. The first victory on October 7 was a 28-0 win over Michigan State on October 7, 1905. The most recent a 33-10 victory over North Carolina on October 7, 2017.
—Notre Dame head coach Marcus Freeman will be facing Louisville for the first time on Saturday. U of L has won six consecutive games against coaches making their debut against the Cards: Jeff Scott (USF), Tony Elliott (UVa), Curt Cignetti (JMU), Kerry Coombs (Cincy), Brent Key (Ga Tech), and Tom Allen (IU).
—Louisville is 44-8 all-time in home games when playing as a team ranked in the AP top 25 poll.
—The Cards are 3-2 in home games where both teams are ranked in the AP top 25 poll, and 2-1 in home games where both teams are ranked and the opponent is ranked in the top 10.
—The Notre Dame defense has held its opponents to 18.2 points below their average scoring output of all other games this season. The Irish are 14th in the country in scoring defense (13.0).
—Louisville has outscored its opposition 34-0 in the first quarter this season. They have held opponents scoreless in the first quarter for six-straight games, the longest streak since doing so for seven consecutive game in 1973.
—Notre Dame has won 30 consecutive regular season games against ACC opponents. The Irish have not lost a regular season game to an ACC team since 2017 and have won 15 consecutive games on the road against ACC opponents.
—Louisville starting QB Jack Plummer is 0-2 in games against Notre Dame, starting for Purdue against the Irish two years ago and for California last season.
—Notre Dame starting quarterback Sam Hartman is 2-3 in his career against Louisville, with all five games coming during his time at Wake Forest. Hartman is 1-2 in games started at L&N Stadium, including last season’s 48-21 loss to the Cardinals where he turned the ball over six times in the third quarter.
—Hartman has started the season with 145 pass attempts without an interception. It is the longest such streak in Notre Dame history to start the year, the fourth-longest overall and the second-best streak in FBS this year.
—Louisville is a 6.5-point favorite in this game according to DraftKings Sportsbook. It’s the first time this season the Cardinals have not been favored.
—Louisville is 7-0 against the spread in its last seven home games.
—Notre Dame is 10-0 against the spread in its last 10 games against ACC opponents.
—Louisville is off to a 5-0 start for just the eighth time in program history.
—Notre Dame is 318-162-23 (.655) all-time in road games.
—Louisville has won 30 games in a row when holding teams to less than 300 yards of offense.
—Louisville RB Jawhar Jordan leads the FBS with 3 scrimmage plays of 70+ yds and shares lead with 2 rushes of 70+ yds and 5 all-purpose plays of 40+ yds.
—The Notre Dame defense currently ranks third in the country in pass efficiency defense (91.30), fourth in total passing yards allowed (146.8), 11th in total defense (271.0) and 14th in scoring defense (13.0).
—The Irish held their first five opponents of the season to less than 150 yards of rushing.
—Louisville has won six of its last seven non-conference games.
—In 10 years as a head coach, Jeff Brohm is 23-13 in non-conference games.
—During the game, former Louisville quarterback and current offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach Brian Brohm will have his jersey inducted into the U of L Ring of Honor.
—Jeff Brohm will be facing a top-10 opponent for the 11th time in his career. He owns a 3-7 all-time mark against teams in the top 10, including a loss at No. 10 Notre Dame in 2021. His last top 10 win was versus Michigan State — a 40-29 win over the Spartans in 2021.
—Louisville is 8-14 all-time in games that pair two top 25 teams and have lost its last six encounters, most recently a 23-20 loss at Pitt in 2020.
—Louisville is 7-27-1 all-time against top-10 foes, but did defeat No. 18 Wake Forest 48-21 last season at L&N Stadium.
—Louisville is 6-2 all-time in games played on Oct. 7, with its last game being a 42-3 win over Kent State in 2017.
—Louisville is 18-63-1 all-time against ranked opponents.
—Louisville is 214-94-5 all-time during the month of October.
—Since 2019, Louisville is 22-4 when winning the turnover battle, and just 3-18 when losing it. The Cardinals won the turnover battle in the first two games this season, and matched Indiana (1), Boston College (0) and NC State (3) in turnovers the last three weeks.
—Since 2018, Louisville is 8-0 when scoring 40-49 points, and 5-0 when scoring 50 or more.
—Louisville is currently riding a consecutive game scoring streak that spans 292 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 10th-longest nationally.
—Louisville is 200-14 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.
—“We’re definitely excited about this week. I know our players are looking forward to playing a top quality opponent like Notre Dame in front of a great atmosphere at our stadium. It’s just a tremendous opportunity for our football team that Saturday night.” —Jeff Brohm
—“It doesn’t take long to watch film to see why they’re 5-0. It’s another night game and will be a great atmosphere and opportunity. They have an explosive offense and an experienced quarterback. They have speed at the skill (positions).” —Notre Dame head coach Marcus Freeman
—“It’s a huge honor to have my jersey number going up in the Ring of Honor. There’s obviously a lot of great players that have played in this program. A lot of great names that are up there on the Ring, and a lot of great names that haven’t been up there that are going to go up there at some point.” —Brian Brohm
—“It’s been a bumpy road the past two weeks. A bunch of emotions fluctuating — happy, sad. But it’s been fun.” —Notre Dame RB Jeremiyah Love
—“These opportunities are dwindling down. They’ll be grateful; they’ll be ready.” —Notre Dame head coach Marcus Freeman
—“Our guys have worked really hard. They know what’s ahead of us. We try to treat everything as a one-game season. Without question, this is an unbelievable opportunity for our football team to go out and play a high quality opponent.” —Jeff Brohm
Card Chronicle Prediction: Notre Dame 28, Louisville 21
Odds/lines subject to change. T&Cs apply. See draftkings.com/sportsbook for details.