Hello all, welcome to another edition of “Biscuit’s 5 Keys To Victory”. Last week was, to say the least, a gut punch. There were several positives I gleaned from the first three and a half quarters of play. Play calling was more cohesive, receivers were running free on every play, and the young playmakers on this roster were given a real opportunity to shine. It wasn’t perfect, but it felt like a step in the right direction…until it all fell apart on “the call”. One hopes that the team can still build off of the positives from last Saturday, but those often get lost to such a jarring result. Georgia Tech presents a unique challenge, bringing a strong running attack driven by an option scheme. If Louisville is going to pull off the win, it will come down to a few key areas.
KEYS TO VICTORY
1. Don’t Lose the FSU Game Twice: If you’ve been watching football for a significant amount of time, you’ve seen it. A team loses in heartbreaking fashion one week, then comes out flat the next week and loses a game it shouldn’t lose. The best example I can think of would be UK/Syracuse 2007. After “Stevie got loose” in Lexington, the Cards didn’t even bother to show up against the Orange the next week, getting smacked around the field by a team they were favored over by almost 40 points. I already had this game circled preseason as a difficult turn around, having a short week to prepare for the most unique offense in the league (coming off the FSU game). When you add in the awful way they lost to the Noles, it’s easy to see a scenario where they have a tough time focusing on GT and come out flat. On the other hand, sometimes a quick turnaround after a bad loss is exactly what a team needs to refocus their efforts. Here’s to hoping it’s the latter. The team ought to have something to prove.
2. Stay In Your Lane: Defending Paul Johnson’s option attack is all about disciplined assignment football. Interior linemen and linebackers need to maintain gap discipline, while the defensive ends and outside linebackers have to set the edge and mark the pitch man. The ends and OLBs are the keys to the option play most of the time. GT primarily runs a flexbone/double wing offense, with their bread and butter being the triple option, the counter option, and belly option. Over the course of the game, this system can lull a team to sleep. That’s when mistakes happen, especially when a defense is fatigued. The defense has to avoid eight or nine minute drives, while the Louisville offense needs to put together a few sustained drives of their own to keep the defense on the sideline. And while the secondary will spend most of its day in run support, Tech will throw the ball, especially if they catch your defensive backs out of position. Everybody has to stay sharp. Brian Van Gorder has a strong resume against Johnson’s option. This has to count for something.
3. Exploit their weakness: Louisville must exploit GT’s weakness, something they failed to do against FSU last week (the Cards are the only ACC team this season to fail to record a sack against the Noles’ terrible offensive line). GT has a new defensive coordinator this season in Nate Woody, formerly of Appalachian State. Woody has had mixed results in his first season. GT ranks 50th in total defense, a stat which is often skewed by the fact that their option offense keeps the ball out of the opponent’s hands, leading to smaller yardage totals. That said, their run defense is average, and their secondary can be exploited (although they are 11th in the nation in interceptions). Bobby called his best game of the year last week. I hope the trend continues. We need to be able to sustain a balanced attack with long drives to keep the defense fresh, but if we expect to win this game, our receivers have to win their battles against an overmatched secondary.
4. Quarterback Play: Jawon Pass made some real strides against FSU, and looked confident in the pocket for the first time since the Bama game. That being said, he missed a bunch of open receivers. If UofL had pulled off the win, this would have been a positive step in his development with room for improvement. Instead, each of his missed throws (and his late key interception) are magnified. Jawon needs to be more decisive with his reads, and hit receivers as they are coming out of their breaks. Beyond that, his accuracy just has to improve. The position is his at this point. He doesn’t need to look over his shoulder. It’s time for him to take another step.
5. Turnovers, Turnovers, Turnovers: Louisville is in the bottom ten in the country in turnover margin. While Tech is, by definition, average (52nd). The Cards cannot expect to win tonight if they give the ball away. Period. On the defensive side of the ball, Georgia Tech gives opponents opportunities to take the biscuit, as they’ve fumbled the ball 15 times on the season (they’ve only lost 5). UofL needs to capitalize when these opportunities inevitably present themselves.
WHO/WHAT BISCUIT’S WATCHING
– Third downs. Louisville improved dramatically last weekend, converting on 10/19 3rd down opportunities while holding FSU to 3/13. I’m looking for that trend to continue in a positive direction this week.
– Micky Crum. Crum has quietly had a very effective season for the Louisville offense, and that finally translated into points this past weekend. Micky is an enthusiastic blocker and physical presence on the offense. I’m happy to see him have a good year.
– Offensive Line. Because of course I am. There was some real improvement in certain aspects of the line’s play last week, but I am still concerned with how slow they seem to play. They are often beaten to the spot and are catching instead of hitting on some plays. Sometimes this is a product of overthinking the game. Either way it needs to change. We are getting beat across the face constantly.
– Demeanor. I said it last week and I will say it again. Early attitude and engagement will be key. They succeeded in this area last week. We will be able to tell early if the team is ready to go.
– The crowd. Wear black, drink your beer, get loud. It’s a Friday night game in Louisville. This is OUR THING. I don’t care how disappointed you are, hit your tailgate and get in your seats. Have a little fun with it. But don’t drive drunk. If there is even a question about your sobriety, hand the keys off or call an Uber.
– Tutu Atwell. I feel like Bobby is finally making a concerted effort to get him the ball, and it’s only a matter of time before he breaks one off and goes the distance. He is dangerous.
– Special teams. Hassan Hall on kickoff return and Rodjay Burns on punt return both look like they could house the next kick at any moment. It’s exciting to watch.
– Depth. This offense can be hard on a defense that’s already dealing with injuries. A lot of young players are playing in key spots with little margin for error.
– Chris Mack Commitment Counter…because you never know.
I keep vacillating on this one. A part of me thinks that GT will have a very hard time stopping Louisville if the offense executes like they did last week. And Van Gorder knows the GT offense. But I am worried about fatigue and depth if our offense does not put together a few sustained drives early. Tired bodies lead to distracted minds. Distracted minds make mistakes.
I think this one is going to be a slog. But in the end, Tech pulls out a close one from the Cards.
Louisville 24 – Georgia Tech 30
Again, I hope I am wrong (per usual). Go Cards.