I know. Trust me I know. This weird season has been a little disappointing through four games, and all of us are looking for answers. The defense has been underwhelming, and the offense inconsistent. This whole season feels a little like Whack-a-Mole. When it seems like the team is making progress in one area, something else pops up. Whether it was assignment, alignment, or a lack of talent, I think most of us could stomach most of shortcomings up until the 4th quarter of the GT game, when it seemed like the defense gave up. Effort can’t be an issue for this team.
Bottom line is, as I said in last week’s Keys, Georgia Tech was not a game Louisville could lose and have a chance at a top third finish in the ACC. But here we are.
Despite reports to the contrary, all is not lost. This is year two of the rebuild, and Satterfield and staff have at least proven themselves capable of righting the ship. Obviously Notre Dame is not an ideal opponent for a bounce back, but this season is so messed up that a competitive game wouldn’t surprise me at all. On to the Keys!
THE FIVE KEYS
- Put Georgia Tech in the Rear View – After heightened offseason expectations, losing a few games early can do a number on a team’s confidence. Losing three in a row, capped by a loss to a rebuilding Georgia Tech team, could be devastating. I don’t think that will be the case, but it’s incredibly important that the Cards learned what they could learn from the film, and then toss that entire game aside. They can’t afford to lose that game twice, the Irish are a formidable opponent without the Cards carrying baggage into on to the field.
- Take the Top Off the Irish Defense – I wrote some about Micale Cunningham’s struggles last week. I thought we needed to write off the Pitt game (as it pertains to Cunningham, at least) because he simply had zero time to throw. The line was beaten on almost every play. Georgia Tech was different. For most of the night, Micale had a pocket and time to throw. He just seemed uncomfortable back there. he was seeing ghosts and feeling non-existent pressure. He seems to be holding the ball too long and doesn’t look confident in his decisions. Most of this was probably holdover effects from the Pitt game, but either way he needs to find his rhythm again and soon. Maybe his greatest asset is his touch on the deep ball, and maybe the team’s greatest asset is the receiving corps. To that second point, Micale seems to be zeroing in on Tutu too much. We have SO MANY weapons at receiver, we need to utilize them. It will make everybody more effective in the long run. Both of the Irish’s conference opponents were able to complete at least a couple of long balls, Cunningham needs to do the same on Saturday.
- FORCE TURNOVERS/Win the Turnover Battle – Of all the reasons and excuses that have arisen from the loss last Friday, the most simple and straightforward explanation is probably the turnovers. Louisville simply could not hold on to the ball, and didn’t force one turnover from a quarterback that had been VERY generous with the ball up to that point. Every single turnover was a momentum killer for the Cards and a massive boost for the Jackets. Suffice to say, the Cards absolutely cannot afford to cough the ball up against a very good Notre Dame team. They’ll need to disrupt the steady play of the ND offense and swing momentum their way. They CAN NOT lose the turnover battle against Notre Dame and win the game.
- Force Notre Dame to Throw the Ball – It’s no secret that Notre Dame has an incredible offensive line. To put it one way, 3/5 of the first team All-Pro line in 2019 were former Irish linemen, yet many think that this year’s unit is the best Brian Kelly has had in South Bend. That is scary to think. And that offensive line paves the way for one of the most effective run games in the country. Notre Dame has the 7th best rushing attack in the nation, averaging over 270 yards per game. They have multiple talented backs in Kyren Williams and Chris Tyree. What I am getting at is they’re damn good at running the football. And it will be damn near impossible to *stop* them from running the ball. But the UofL defense needs to make enough stops on 1st and 2nd to make Ian Book beat them through the air. Book has been the starting QB at Notre Dame since the Carter administration, and is fine. Just fine. But he’s not a world beater. The Cards have to get some wins in the run game on defense, period.
- Establish the Run – As I stated earlier, I thought the offensive line played pretty well against GT. There were consistently holes to run through, and at times the offense really established a rhythm (which turnovers killed.) They need more of the same Saturday. The best way to keep the Irish from establishing that methodical running game is to keep the ball out of their hands. Eating clock while hitting the occasional big play will be the recipe for success against Notre Dame.
WHAT BISCUIT’S WATCHING
- The Youth Movement – In recent weeks, we’ve seen more young players get reps (Dezmond Tell, Ja’Darien Boykin.) Scott Satterfield has certainly made it sound like we might see more of the newcomers this week. Look for Lovie Jenkins, Henry Bryant, and a few others, especially if the game goes south early.
- TACKLING – Wrap. Your. Man. Up. Technique and effort have little to do with talent. When they’re in position to make plays, the linebackers and DBs have to follow through.
- Pass distribution – As I wrote above, Cunningham has had tunnel vision a little bit lately. After a big first week, it seems Braden Smith has all but disappeared, and we only hear Justin Marshall’s name occasionally. I want to see the ball spread among our wealth of weapons.
- Cards in the NFL – While Mekhi Becton nurses a nagging injury (and suffers under a horrible, horrible coach,) other former Cards are thriving. Lamar is Lamar, Devante Parker is having a solid season for Miami, and Teddy Bridgewater is THRIVING in his new role as a full-time starter for the Panthers. Not to mention Jaire Alexander has emerged as one of the best corners in the league. Big stuff.
- Alabama-Georgia – This looks to be the best matchup of the early season, with added intrigue stemming from Nick Saban’s positive Covid case. Although it seems Saban is trending towards being present on the field Saturday, I think Georgia pulls this one out. We will see.
- FIRE ADAM GASE
WHAT BISCUIT’S COOKING
This week I won’t be able to cook on Game Day, but I’m planning on a pork butt on Sunday. Time to fire the big boy smoker up for an all-day cook. Also, I’ve had some questions about my legendary homemade BBQ sauce, THUNDA SOWCE. I am well past due to make another batch. I haven’t made any since my nap last year…stay tuned.
This is a tough one for me. All signs point to a struggle this Saturday. There aren’t many indications that Louisville should be able to compete with the Irish for a full four quarters. But this is such a weird year, and I feel like one of these weeks Louisville’s offense is going to click. Opportunities will be there for the UofL offense, if they’re able to take advantage. I fear that in the end, Notre Dame’s offensive line will be too powerful for the defensive front to overcome.
Louisville – 27 Notre Dame – 44
I am a believer in this coaching staff and the direction the program is going. Last week was unacceptable in many ways, but this season is far from lost. Even in a loss, this team can make progress.
Go Cards. Beat the Irish.