--By Mike Gilpatrick
--File photo by Jared Anderson
The Louisville Cardinals officially kick off the new year tomorrow. Bobby Petrino and Co. take on No. 1 Alabama in Orlando at 8pm. While we gave our preview yesterday, there are a few keys to the game if Louisville wants to upset the *massive* 25.5-point favorite Crimson Tide.
After waiting in the wings for two years, Louisville quarterback Jawon Pass has his time to shine. A four-star recruit and the 19th-ranked player from Georgia, Pass showed glimpses of success last season. He went 23 for 33, for 238 yards and two touchdowns. He had 62 from the trenches, and a touchdown.
Pass will have his first start against an Alabama team that lost a lot on defense. Alabama replaces their entire secondary, and lacks a little on the line. Louisville has one of the best offensive lines in years, and a talented wide receiver unit with experience. They also have a stacked running game.
Bama runs the 3-4. Louisville should be prepared for outside blitzes. Pass should be prepared to try and get rid of the ball quickly, or run the option.
The nation knows what to expect from either Alabama starter. They’re not sure what to expect in Pass’s first start.
Don’t raise the flags
In their first game last season, Louisville committed 16 penalties. Over half were from offensive false starts. The Cardinals can’t afford to gift Alabama any additional yardage, on defense or offense. Nick Saban will take advantage of all the little mistakes.
Being in a neutral-site, which is significantly closer to Tuscaloosa, the crowd will be loud. There will be some confusion on when to snap the ball. Pass will need to be clear and deliberate on when the ball should be snapped, and the line should be ready.
Again, don’t gift Alabama anything. They’ll take it and run with it.
If the Cardinals get the lead after halftime, and the defense makes a stop, Louisville will need to chew as much of the clock as they can. If Alabama’s defense makes a stop, try and force the Tide to play from behind; and speed the game up. If the offense is rushed, there may be a mistake or two.
Be prepared for two
There are two starting quarterbacks listed on Saban’s depth chart. Jalen Hurts received most of the snaps in 2017, but was injured in the second-half of the national championship game; replaced by Tua Tagovailoa. Both QBs have over 60 percent passing, and over ten touchdowns in 2017.
Saban will wait until the last minute before he releases who starts the game. It wouldn’t be surprising if he had both quarterbacks come onto the field before the first play, and pull the non-starter off before the first snap.
Both QBs will also likely play at some point in the game. Brian VanGorder’s defense needs to be prepared for both.
Aside from the quarterback position, there are some similarities between the rosters. Both teams are dealing with losses on defense. Most offensive linemen come back. They bring a lot back on offense.
The closer the game comes, the more one must wonder if the names of the program have anything to deal with predictions. If both rosters switched, there will be a decent amount of national media outlets that will project Alabama to win.
Saban is 9-0 in neutral-site season openers. He’s 11-0 overall. There’s always a chance for No. 1. My season preview listed Alabama as being the 35-30 losers. To be different, I’ll agree with Bobby Petrino and Co. and say Louisville will win in a close game.
My prediction: Louisville 37, Alabama 35
It should also be noted that I did not do well on projections last season. Let us know what you think in the comments below