This week the Cards welcome in a familiar foe. One that brings with them a great deal of history and a chance for Louisville to get the 2020 season back on the tracks. Both teams are coming off arguably their best games of the year against top five teams, with Louisville producing a fantastic defensive effort against #4 Notre Dame in a 12-7 loss, and the Seminoles held off #5 North Carolina 31-28.
Through the first few weeks of the season, this game looked like one of the automatic wins on the schedule. FSU was coming off an offseason full of distractions and roadblocks for new head coach Mike Norvell, and the Noles did nothing to allay those concerns with a loss to projected ACC bottom-dweller Georgia Tech and a massive blowout loss to Miami. Of course, since then UofL has struggled with every team not names Western Kentucky, and FSU has seemed to find something that works, starting with former UofL QB Jordan Travis, just before their matchup with Louisville.
The only thing consistent about UofL this year has been their inconsistency. As I said last week, it seems like every time they fix a problem, another one arises. I just want this team to struggle with the same thing week to week so I know what to expect. All these surprises are killing me.
THE FIVE KEYS
- Defense must build on their momentum – Going into last week’s matchup against Notre Dame, I expected the Irish to wear the Cardinal defense down with their elite offensive line and potent rushing attack. While ND ultimately rushed for over 200 yards, the Cards did a good job of getting enough wins in the running game (and completely shutting down the Irish passing attack) to keep Notre Dame out of the end zone most of the day. UofL’s corners had BY FAR their best game of the year, allowing Bryan Brown to utilize his blitzes with confidence. An Irish line that had not yielded a sack all year gave up four to the Cards. As I said in the open, every facet of this team has been inconsistent to some degree, and the defense is no exception. I want to see the defense come out and build on last week’s impressive performance, and give this team some sort of stability on that side of the ball
- Monty Montgomery vs. Jordan Travis – Stopping Jordan Travis will be a team effort, and Monty Montgomery will be spearheading that endeavor. Montgomery has been productive when on the field for the Cards (he led the team with 5 sacks last season,) and has been spectacular at times this season. He hasn’t been listed as starter this year, but he has arguably been the best playmaker on this defense. The Cards have had mixed results against dual-threat QBs, but look best when successfully utilizing a spy, most notably against WKU (Pigrome) and ND (Book.) Against the Irish, Montgomery was all over the field, tallying 13 tackles and a pair of sacks. Jordan Travis has the ability to really hurt you with his legs, both downfield and by extending plays. Montgomery will be key in neutralizing Travis as he did Ian Book, using his superior speed to limit the damage done as Travis looks to extend plays and operate outside the pocket.
- GET. A. DAMN. TURNOVER. – Or two? Please? Honestly this could be a key every week (and has been a few times.) Louisville has been shockingly bad at forcing turnovers this season, recovering only two fumbles and tallying one interception on the season, while giving the ball up a total of eleven times. While there is an element of luck to this, they’ve only forced four fumbles total, and seem resistant to the idea of intercepting the football. I’ve talked about the success UofL had defensively last week, especially pressuring the quarterback and in coverage. It feels like the next step in the development of this defense is to turn the ball over consistently game to game. In a seemingly even-matched contest like the one on Saturday, turnovers will be paramount. Travis was a big reason why FSU was able to beat UNC last week, but he’s young and far from perfect. He was only 8/19 and threw a pick. He did average almost 24 yards per completion, reflecting the explosive, big-play nature of his game, but I believe turnovers will be there to be had if the Cards are able to apply pressure similar to last week.
- The offense must have more early down success – There are a lot of issues you can point to with the offense thus far this season, but much of it can be traced back to too many plays for no gain or negative yards on first and second down, setting up 3rd and longs. Coach Scott Satterfield owned his share of the responsibility for that this week, admitting that he needs to shake up his own routines and tendencies. Although the DNA of this program under Satterfield will ALWAYS be to establish the run and to run much of the offense off of that base zone run set, the pattern has become predictable. Not only does UofL seem to run on first down nearly every time, when 2nd & long arises, Satterfield & OC Dwayne Ledford often insist on running the ball again. Notre Dame stacked the box time and time again in these early down spots, continuously putting UofL in third and unmanageable. This staff proved their chops as play-callers last season, and we’ve seen flashes of that potential this season. They’ll need to mix it up against FSU.
- Open up that passing attack – Again, a theme we’ve seen develop this season. Obviously the run sets up the pass and vice-versa, so all struggles can once again be traced in part back to those issues. But the Cards have to find a way to get the ball to playmakers not named Tutu Atwell. Tutu is an incredible weapon, but he is somewhat nullified if you target him too much and neglect the multitude of weapons at your disposal. Your entire offense becomes much more effective when you use Tutu as a decoy and exploit the massive respect defenses are giving him. Getting Javian Hawkins more involved in the passing game was a great step in the right direction (wheel routes give me life.) I thought Malik Cunningham was solid last week, not spectacular. He was 16/19 in windy conditions that were not conducive for a down-field passing attack. Weather should be clear and is not projected to be very windy. Hopefully Malik can spread the ball around and this offense can scratch that preseason potential.
WHAT BISCUIT’S WATCHING
- The RG depth chart is currently listed as Robbie Bell OR Cam DeGeorge, with DeGeorge actually starting the game against Notre Dame. This wasn’t surprising after watching the rotation during the early weeks, but I will be watching the snap distribution closely.
- Hassan Hall – Louisville’s 2nd back was banged up during the 2nd half at Notre Dame, opening the door for other backs to get touches. He was listed on the depth chart behind Javian Hawkins, but the situation may be worth monitoring. Maurice Burkley and redshirt freshman Aidan Robbins could see an expanded role.
- LB Corps – Monty Montgomery was not the only backer who ate against ND. Everybody had their moments, including Nick Okeke, who earned the “OR” distinction with Yasir Abdullah at OLB. If the defensive line can step up once again on Saturday, the LB corps should be free to wreak havoc again.
- Marvin Wilson. I will be very happy when this monster is in the league and out of the ACC.
- Will Smith in the World Series – He has already hit the first WS homerun by a former UofL player in history. One of the best parts of this year has been watching Will emerge as a premier catcher and clutch hitter in the major leagues. Looking forward to many more years of this.
- Kei’Trel Clark – Clark looked inspired in his return to the field last Saturday. I’m excited to see what he does for the rest of the season, as strong corner play can unlock a defense.
- Super, super, super excited to see more political commercials about “Extreme Amy” & “Moscow Mitch” (I am not in fact super excited for this and cannot wait for this to be over. Side note: Please vote. The process is as easy as it has ever been in Kentucky. Don’t wait til Election Day if you can help it.)
WHAT BISCUIT’S COOKING
I have been slacking on the timeline photos for the people, so I will make sure to remedy that this week.
I will be cooking my classic pork chop creation – the Sweet Pig on Pig. That’s a thick cut boneless pork chop with my signature pork rub, seared to perfection, with three thick cut slices of bacon and a grilled pineapple slice…all topped with my Thunda Sowce. It will change your life, man.
This feels like two similarly matched teams that could go either way the rest of the season. They are both coming off arguably their best performances of the year, although they looked very different in the process. FSU raced out to a massive lead, but held on for dear life against UNC, while UofL grinded til the very end, getting bled to death in 4th quarter and losing by a score to ND. It really felt like Louisville found something with their defense, bringing pressure from different sources and backing that up with strong coverage, while FSU has seemed to find an identity with Jordan Travis at the helm. That’s where I think this game will be decided. And I expect the Cards to get enough pressure on Travis to force some mistakes and ultimately pull this one out.
Cards – 33 Noles – 24
Go Cards. Beat FSU.