--By Mike Gilpatrick
--Photo by Jared Anderson
The Louisville Cardinals hit the road for their first true road, and ACC test. A week after defeating Western Kentucky 20-17, Bobby Petrino and Co. take on Virginia; in Charlottesville, at 12:30pm. Louisville fans watching from home can view the game on Fox Sports South.
Virginia is looking to snap a three-game Louisville win streak. If the Cardinals do not wish for this to happen, a few things need to occur:
Virginia is stellar on third down offense. They’re average on third-down defense. So far, Louisville is neither.
The Cards allow a 46.94 conversion percentage. That is 117th in the FBS. Virginia converts 54.76 percent offensively. They rank 13th.
Saturday can get ugly fast if there’s not an improvement on the most critical down. The longer the defense remains on the field, the higher chance of fatigue, and mistakes. Virginia has a stellar offense, behind new-starting QB Bryce Perkins. Virginia is just hoping for Louisville to make mistakes, and to blow the game out of proportion.
On the other side of the ball, Louisville must do a better job on offensive conversions. 29.73 percent is the worst conversion percentage in the past ten years. While it may cut it against Indiana State or Western Kentucky; ACC
opponents will not be as forgiving.
The QB must show up, and show out
For the past two weeks, quarterback Jawon Pass started the game under center; and was replaced midways through by Malik Cunningham.
While the redshirt freshman has done a phenomenal job on the ground, his passing skills are somewhat unrefined. In two games, Cunningham has attempted 25 passes and completed 16 for 163 yards. Meanwhile, he has rushed 33 times for 183 yards. 21 of those times were against Western Kentucky.
Speaking of Western Kentucky, Louisville only managed 88 yards of passing offense. 204 were through the air. Virginia is 42nd in total defense, but is slightly worse at passing defense.
A balanced offense is key to success. The Cardinals proved they could pass in the Alabama game. Louisville will need to on Saturday to keep the defense on their toes.
This starts from the guy under center.
Prepare for anything
As listed above, Virginia quarterback Bryce Perkins is very good at his job. He is fourth in the ACC in passing yards; with 670. He is also ninth in rushing yards alone. Perkins is responsible for seven touchdowns, two of which were his own scrambles.
Add Perkins’ rushing attack to Jordan Ellis, and there is a dangerous combination. Ellis has rushed 51 times for 380 yards, reaching the end zone five times.
This is a dangerous combination. Louisville allows nearly 140 yards per game on the ground, which is 98th overall.
Louisville is even worse on passing defense. The Cardinals rank 113th in this regard.
Bronco Mendenhall will likely try anything against the Louisville defense. There will be many option plays. With Louisville down a few key defensive stars, replacements need to step up and make key stops; especially on third down.
Louisville has a ton of problems, and a ton of questions heading into this game. For starters, it’s unknown how Cunningham will perform getting the ball first. Second, there hasn’t yet been a leader on the defensive line or secondary to show out.
The game is not all bad, however. Louisville has owned Virginia the past three years. Petrino seems to have the right answer on both sides of the ball. Virginia also hasn’t played the best competition thus far, and Louisville is arguably the toughest team they will face thus far.
With the game being in Charlottesville, and the numbers both teams have put up, it is highly difficult to pick Louisville. The Cardinals can win this game. But I’ll have to take the under.
My prediction: Louisville 28, Virginia 35