LOUISVILLE CARDINALS (8-1, 5-1) vs. VIRGINIA CAVALIERS (2-7, 1-4)
Game Time: 7:30 p.m.
Location: L&N Stadium: Louisville, Ky.
Announcers: Matt Barrie (play-by-play), Dan Mullen (analyst) and Harry Lyles (sideline reporter)
Favorite: Louisville by 20.5
All-Time Series: Louisville leads, 6-5
Last Meeting: Louisville won 34-17 on Oct. 8, 2022 in Charlottesville
Louisville Depth Chart:
Game Day Guide:
It’s been a long time since WVU has been in a place in which I feel like I’m justified to talk smack, but I have absolutely no hesitation in saying West Virginia would absolutely beat Louisville. Undoubtedly #HailWV ️ Birds are very overrated. pic.twitter.com/Wdzn2sg6VX— Carson Fox (@Carson_Fox27) November 8, 2023
It’s insane how overrated Louisville is lol— Kentucky Sports (@KentuckySp0rts) November 8, 2023
Excitement Level: 8.4
Everything in the world to play for. Plus: Glow Game.
Game Attire: Retro grey “Louisville Cardinals” crewneck
Although we may have to have a game time pivot to shorts and a t-shirt the way this weather is going.
Pregame Meal: Chicken Wings
Eden & Kissi. Tell your friends.
Bold Prediction: Someone besides Jawhar Jordan, Maurice Turner or Isaac Guerendo scores a rushing touchdown
We’ve hit four out of the last five, but this might be our biggest swing yet.
Jeff Brohm Tick Play Alert Level: Beige (not great)
Here’s hoping we don’t need one.
Predicted Star of the Game: Isaac Guerendo
This has been sort of a curse in recent weeks, but the Wisconsin transfer breaks the trend by going off for the second week in a row.
Tony Elliot has gone through more than any head coach I can think of in his first two years on the job. Not only did he have to rebuild a program that saw a lot of portal defections before he took the job but three of his players were murdered in a mass shooting during the season last year. Elliot has handled all of this with grace and he has earned a lot of respect over the last year. The issue for Elliot is that he has to win games and that just hasn’t happened yet.
Virginia didn’t have high expectations this year and a big reason for that was their lack of proven talent at quarterback. Brennan Armstrong decided to head to NC State and Elliot was only able to replace him with Tony Muskett who had starred at the FCS level. Muskett was solid in the first game of the season but missed time after an injury and has struggled since. Muskett was also injured again this past weekend and will likely miss the Louisville game.
Enter Anthony Colandrea who is one of the more fun true freshmen that I’ve seen play quarterback in a while. Colandrea is a high-energy and high-risk player with a solid arm and very twitchy athleticism. He has shown some real ability like when he lit up an impressive James Madison defense but he also makes silly mistakes like taking his helmet off in celebration which negated a 2-point conversion to tie the game against NC State. While he is definitely a player to watch for, he can lose the game as quickly as he an win it for the Hoos.
Running back is an area where Elliot has improved things for UVA. He has mixed the talent he inherited with some portal additions and the group as a whole has played pretty well this year. Mike Hollins, who was the lone surviving football player from the shooting last year, leads the team with 7 touchdowns. Kobe Pace, who transferred from Clemson, has been an option in the passing game while leading the team in carries. Then you have Perris Jones who is averaging 5.3 yards per carry on the year. This is far from a potent rushing attack, but they do have some skill.
The best receiver UofL will see this year in the regular season is on Virginia’s roster. Malik Washington is top-5 in the country in catches and yards and he is dynamic in space. Virginia uses Washington in a number of ways but he is a possession guy for them who gets first downs and moves the chains. He can also run away from people if he gets space to run. Washington isn’t Zay Flowers but he is a similar type of talent when you look at what he means to this offense. He isn’t likely to take over a game like Flowers with big plays but he can put up big numbers and help the offense keep drives alive.
The Hoos only throw the ball to two people Washington and Malachi Fields who is their big outside threat at 6-4/220. Fields is a solid player but he is only catching a little more than half of his targets. I think this is mostly due to inconsistent quarterback play but he is also the threat down the field which leads to more misses. Teams have not had much success throwing the ball against UofL’s corners this year. Pitt hit a big play early on and Notre Dame hit one as well but most throws down the field have been incompletions. Fields has size, but I haven’t seen anything from him to think the trend will change.
The true issue with UVA’s offense is their offensive line. It is arguably the worst line UofL will see this season and they really struggle in pass protection. UVA has given up 86 pressures per PFF and their quarterbacks have been sacked 32 times already. Run blocking has been a bit better but not good enough for the offense to be run-heavy. I said this before the Pitt game, so we know it doesn’t always play out this way but this is a clear advantage for Louisville that should play out well for the Cards.
Louisville has faced some bad defenses this year but most have had some solid performances to make you wonder if they could show up in the game. Virginia doesn’t have that argument to make. They have been consistently poor this season with no real moments of hope. UVA has one of the tougher schedules in the country with every team they’ve played having a winning record currently. But, even with that being so, there just hasn’t been much to hang your hat on with this defense.
Things got much worse for this defense early in the season when Kam Butler was lost for the season. The defensive end still leads the team in sacks with 3.5 even though he hasn’t played since week four. With the team total sitting at 8 right now, you can imagine how big of a loss he was. The rest of the line has experience with players like Aaron Faumui but no one up front has made much of an impact this season.
Virginia’s most veteran linebacker is James Jackson who is essentially playing his second year of college football. Jackson is a talented player with good athleticism but he is also lining up next to a player who arrived on campus in June from high school. This group has to be one of the youngest in the country with no real veterans to lead the defense. Jackson was a nice get as a recruit as they beat out Louisville and Stanford to keep him home. Kam Robinson who is the aforementioned freshman was a recruiting win over FSU and others. But talent only gets you so far and I think the lack of experience is a big factor in the struggles on defense.
To make things worse, Robinson was injured last weekend and may be limited if he can even play. With Josh Ahern already out, UVA could be down to their third-string option at linebacker.
Virginia has produced some solid secondary players over the last handful of years but this year’s group has had a tough go due to the lack of pressure up front. Coen King is another veteran on this defense who has been solid. King is among the team leaders in tackles and has 6 PBUs on the year. Malcolm Greene and Tayvonn Kyle are also two Power Five transfers that could have an impact on the game.
The top player on the defense is safety Jonas Sanker. He is another veteran but he has made some truly impactful plays this year. He leads the team with 8 PBUs which is really impressive for a safety. Sanker is a well-rounded player but I think he is at his best against the run. He closes space very well and he arrives with bad intentions. He will be a player to watch with Louisville running the ball so well recently.
—Louisville has won 10 consecutive home games, the fifth longest active streak in the country.
—During its home winning streak, the Cardinals have covered the spread in all 10 of their victories.
—Louisville’s 10-game home winning streak is tied for its third longest in program history and is its longest since a stretch from 2003-07.
—Thursday will be UVA’s fourth night game of the season and first Thursday night matchup since defeating Georgia Tech 16-9 in Atlanta last season. UVA is 69-59-1 all-time in night games.
—Louisville is 13-12 all-time in Thursday night games. The Cards’ most recent Thursday night contest was a blowout victory over Murray State in week two of this season.
—Louisville is 47-8 all-time and 3-0 this season in home games when playing as a team ranked in the AP top 25 poll. The Cardinals are No. 11 in both this week’s AP poll and the College Football Playoff Rankings.
—Virginia has owned double-digit leads in six of its nine games this season. The Cavaliers have been on the wrong end of four games decided by three points or less this season.
—In the first 19 games of Tony Elliott’s tenure, the Cavaliers have been a part of eight games decided by a field goal or less and are 1-7 in those contests.
—Louisville is 118-45 all-time at L&N Stadium.
—Virginia starting quarterback Tony Muskett missed last week’s game against Georgia Tech with an ankle injury. True freshman quarterback Anthony Colandrea started in his place. Muskett’s status for Thursday night is still uncertain.
—Louisville is a 20.5-point favorite in this game according to DraftKings Sportsbook. It’s the ninth time in 10 games that the Cardinals have been favored.
—Road teams have won just three games in the history of this series, but they have won each of the last two.
—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. The game two years ago was decided by a single point.
—Virginia is 7-8 all-time against teams from the state of Kentucky.
—Louisville ranks fourth in the nation in Red Zone Defense (66.7%) and in field goals allowed (5).
—Louisville is looking to start 8-1 in a season for the first time since 2016.
—Louisville quarterback Jack Plummer is second in the FBS in completions of 70 yards or more (3) and 10th in the FBS in completions of 30 yards or more (20).
—Louisville DE Ashton Gillotte ranks sixth in the FBS with three forced fumbles and seventh in the FBS with 8.5 sacks.
—Virginia wide receive Malik Washington leads the ACC in receiving yards (1,044) and receptions (79) and ranks third and second in FBS, respectively in these categories. He has caught a pass in 34-straight games and recorded 100-yard receiving efforts in four consecutive games, the first UVA wide receiver to accomplish the feat. He currently ranks sixth all-time on UVA’s single-season receiving yards list and needs just 18 yards to vault up to third.
—Louisville is 18-0 over the past five seasons when shutting out its opponent in the first quarter.
—Of the 11 all-time meetings between UVA and Louisville, eight have been decided by one score, four by one or two points.
—Louisville RB Jawhar Jordan is second in the ACC in rushing with 881 yards and needs just 119 yards to become the school’s 23rd 1,000-yard rusher in a season.
—Louisville has outscored its opponents 69-7 in the first quarter so far this season. A Pitt touchdown represents the only opening quarter points surrendered by the Cardinals since their regular season finale last season.
—Louisville has held each of its last five opponents to less than 100 yards rushing.
—Louisville has won 32 of its last 33 games when holding teams to less than 300 yards of offense. Its only loss in such a situation came earlier this season against Pittsburgh.
—Louisville is averaging 40.2 points per game at home this season.
—The Louisville defense is allowing just 10.2 points per game at home and has shutout two opponents.
—In home games, the Louisville defense has allowed just 22 out of 61 opposing offensive possessions to advance past the 50-yard line.
—Three of Virginia’s four ACC losses this season have come by exactly three points.
—The Louisville defense is allowing opposing offenses to convert on just 28.2 percent of their third down attempts, the sixth best rate in the country.
—Louisville is 161-174-52 all-time during the month of November.
—Louisville has held back-to-back opponents (Duke and Virginia Tech) without a touchdown for the first time since beating Cincinnati 20-0 and Southern Miss 6-3 in Nov. 1980.
—Virginia ranks 82nd nationally in total offense with an average of 361.9 yards per game.
—Virginia ranks 89th nationally in total defense, allowing an average of 395 yards per game.
—Louisville has gone over 400 yards of offense in three of its five home games this season.
—Louisville is 82-29 all-time and 3-1 this season when playing as a team ranked in the AP Top 25 poll.
—Louisville is 42-38 all-time in ACC games.
—Since 2019, Louisville is 25-4 when winning the turnover battle, and just 3-19 when losing it. The Cardinals’ only loss this season came in the only game where they lost the turnover battle.
—Louisville is currently riding a consecutive game scoring streak that spans 296 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 excited to get back on the field Thursday night in front of our home crowd. It is another big football game that we have to go out and find a way to win. I think our guys have played hard here recently. We’ve worked hard to improve and to get better each and every week. We have to continue to stay on that same path. The team we are playing is very competitive. They’ve lost five games by less than four points, and they beat North Carolina on the road. They will challenge us, so we’re going to have to play well and practice well. It’s a quick turnaround, but I think our guys understand what’s at stake. Winning is very important and we have to go out and win the football game.” —Jeff Brohm
—“We’ve been here before, so there shouldn’t be any pressure. It’s something that you’re capable of doing, so don’t put any more added pressure on yourself. We’re chasing playing a complete game, but playing our best game, more importantly.” —Virginia head coach Tony Elliott
—“I think it’s a credit to coach understanding what we’re good at and what we’re doing. He’s not one of those guys that says, ‘This is what we’re gonna do, and this is how we’re gonna do it.’ He’s gonna adapt to his players and what’s been going well for us this year. Obviously, we’ve been running the ball really well.” —Jack Plummer
—“The biggest thing is we’re playing for pride. My message for the guys post-practice (Monday) is, we’ve got to decide. We’ve got three games left, and we want to decide that going forward this is what the standard is going to be.” —Virginia head coach Tony Elliott
—“For us, it’s simple: if you win and take care of business, then good things can happen. It’s important that we understand that none of this can happen if you’re not winning.” —Jeff Brohm
Card Chronicle Prediction: Louisville 38, Virginia 17
Odds/lines subject to change. T&Cs apply. See draftkings.com/sportsbook for details.