Welcome back to Biscuit’s 5 Keys to Victory. I am Biscuit. I hope you all enjoyed the consequence-free day spa that is a college football bye week. As much as I missed the Cards in action, it’s always nice to sit back and watch other teams beat each other up. We saw the wheels fall off the wagon for the team down the street, and Clemson *almost* throw away their championship dreams. Meanwhile, here in Louisville we had another awesome Louisville Live event, and some major news in both men’s and women’s hoops. Local product and JuCo sensation Jay Scrubb committed to Louisville and both Georgia Tech transfers (Elizabeth Balogun and Elizabeth Dixon…the two Elizabeths) were ruled immediately eligible. Learn their names, folks. Both were McDonald’s All-Americans and ACC All-Freshmen selections. Jeff Walz’s squad is scary good.
Anyways, football is back, and hopefully it brings with it some damn fall weather. If the thermometer never again hits 90 in Louisville I will be happy. It’s unnatural. The 2019 version of the UofL football team comes into game 5 with the expected record (2-2), but they’ve looked a little different than most people thought they would. The offense has looked most competent when feeding their two-headed monster at running back while trying to find a steadying influence at quarterback. The defense has been vastly improved over the dumpster fire that was the 2018 Cards, but is still prone to coverage breakdowns and late-game mental lapses. The Cards welcome Boston College to town this weekend. BC sports their normal power running attack, but their normally stout defense has been mediocre at best this season, which should set the table for a high scoring affair. Doug Flutie ain’t walking through that door. Without further ado…
KEYS TO VICTORY
- GET THE RUNNING GAME BACK ON TRACK – Louisville is best when Javian Hawkins and Hassan Hall are humming. Period. The zone-heavy running scheme has been uber effective this season, with the notable exception of the FSU game. I warned that even though they hadn’t performed up to that point, the Seminole line would present the Cards with their stiffest competition of the young season. And they did, limiting the Cardinal running game to under three yards per carry, well below their season average. Neither back really got going for the Cards, forcing Malik Cunningham to make more plays through the air to keep Louisville afloat. Boston College does not seem to present the same challenge. So far this season, BC has been atrocious against the run (really against everything). Thy give up 183 ypg and 4.34 ypc. This should be a bounce-back game for the Louisville O-Line. Let the run game eat.
- STRETCH THE BOX – This is really 1A. but I am going to make it its own key to victory because it’s my column. If you don’t like it get your own column. BC is just as bad against the pass as they are against the run. It’s kind of mind-blowing that a coach that has predicated his entire coaching career on a strong running game, dominance in the trenches, and stout defense has seen that third facet struggle so mightily. This is the third consecutive opponent that appears vulnerable on the back end of the defense. BC is 99th in passing yards allowed. There should be receivers open, Louisville has to capitalize. I don’t know for sure, but it sounds to me like Malik will be the starter come Saturday. He looked decent overall against FSU (minus a few key plays), and finally got Dez Fitzpatrick involved. I want to see them take a few shots downfield early and really loosen the safeties up.
- MAKE ANTHONY BROWN BEAT YOU THROUGH THE AIR – We are very familiar with AJ Dillon here in Louisville. I am pretty sure Chucky Williams is still right where AJ left him around midfield two years ago (Sorry, Chucky. It’s all love and I know that play wasn’t really your fault.). He is an absolute beast and the focal point of the Eagle offense. Dillon is third in the nation in rushing with 627 yards and 6 TDs. I’m not sure the Louisville defense can *stop* AJ Dillon, but they have to do their best to contain him. He is 250 pounds of power running and attitude. I expect them to cheat the safeties up a bit, bring some run blitzes, and force Adazzio and company to beat them through the air. Anthony Brown has been very solid and has shown the ability to do just that. But I will take my chances with Brown’s arm over Dillon’s legs. The Boston College offensive line is excellent in all facets, averaging over 5 yards per carry and giving up only 3 sacks to this point. This will be a serious test for the Cards.
- PROTECT THE FOOTBALL – There’s a reason BC ranks 104th in total defense, but 68th (not great, but better…and almost nice) in scoring defense. And that’s because they rank 11th in turnover margin. The one thing the defense does well is take the ball from you, especially through the air. The Eagles rank 3rd nationally in interceptions with 8, and they’ll be looking to Malik Cunningham to make a mistake through the air. Malik has to be extra smart with the ball. This game may hang on which offense blinks first.
- FINISH THEM – As is often the case when a coach takes over a losing team, this Louisville squad just doesn’t quite know how to win yet. Losing and winning are both habit-forming. Louisville has been mistake-prone late in games to this point in the season, their typical sharp play giving way to blown assignments and an uptick in flags. As I stated before, fatigue leads to mental mistakes. That was part of why the Cards kind of spit the bit once they took the lead against the Seminoles. Taking their ACC opener against a team that has beaten them two seasons in a row would go a long way to changing that mentality.
WHAT BISCUIT’S WATCHING
- The rest of the ACC. I am having a little bit of a problem figuring out this league past Clemson (don’t let last week fool you, they’re still really, really good). Wake is solid, Virginia seems solid as well. Everybody else is a crap shoot.
- Seth Dawkins. Dez made a triumphant return to relevance. It’s time for Man Hands to get his shot. He is too valuable to stay on ice.
- Mekhi freaking Becton. I told you all preseason to enjoy every snap, because this man will not be on campus for his senior year. He is starting to get all kinds of love from national outlets and OL gurus, including Duke Manyweather (whom you should all be following on twitter @BigDuke50). He will be a top 2 round pick, with a bullet.
- Coach Satterfield expressed a desire to get Marshon Ford and the running backs more involved in the passing game. I am very much in that corner after Bobby Petrino seemingly forgot that RBs are also eligible receivers the last few seasons.
- The crowd. I don’t generally obsess over crowd size, but with public and Catholic school on fall break combined with the noon-ish kick (and the resulting conflicts with youth sports), attendance will be interesting. I’ll be there, with extra buttra.
- Steve Adazzio. Can’t help it. I really like that guy. He’s just a guy being a dude (check YouTube if you don’t get that reference)
- The uniforms. I love the clean, black on white Ali-themed uniforms. They are one of the sharpest color combos we’ve got, and those helmets are money. Let’s play as good as we look.
- Somebody who knows Mrs. Ledford please tell her I am a nice person and would like a batch of her cookies. For research.
- If anybody wants to see Brian Van Gorder get pummeled Bowling Green travels to South Bend to play Notre Dame at 3:30 on Saturday. After we seal the victory, indulge in some good old-fashioned schadenfreude. You earned it, Louisville.
- I’m gonna find one of these new pretzels. Somebody who knows tell me where in the stadium the Ben’s Pretzel stand is…
Louisville and BC are not dissimilar in the way they approach the game. They both have offenses predicated on the run game. The difference is Louisville’s defense has been much better to this point, while BC’s defense has been more opportunistic (turnovers). This one will be a high scoring affair, with whichever defense steps up late being the difference. My money is on Louisville at home.
Louisville – 37
Boston College – 31
Yes, this is the exact same score I predicted last week. Second time is a charm?