After an 8-5 season a year ago that included a 38-28 victory over Mississippi State in the Music City Bowl, Louisville was expected to be improved, but they have started 2020 a surprising 1-3.
Last week they fell to Georgia Tech 46-27 and also have lost to Miami by 13 points and Pitt by 3. Their only win was over Western Kentucky in week one, 35-21.
A year ago in week one at Louisville, the Irish fell behind 14-7 in the first quarter. But behind big games from Chase Claypool and Tony Jones Jr. took control late in the first half and cruised to a 35-17 victory.
Second year head coach Scott Satterfield returns 16 starters from last year including quarterback Malik Cunningham who threw for over 2,000 yards and 22 touchdowns. Cunningham is a dangerous dual threat guy, and also ran for 482 yards and another 6 scores. So far this season, he is averaging 229 yards per game passing and 21 yards rushing.
Javian Hawkins is a hard charging, superior athlete who is averaging 5.5 yards per carry. In 2019, he ran for 1525 yards and 9 touchdowns.
Tutu Atwell is a small but explosive receiver who led the ACC with 1276 yards a year ago and 12 TDs.
Perhaps the biggest problem the Cardinal offense has had this season in turnovers. On the year they have lost 6 fumbles and 5 interceptions. Ranking them 72nd out of 76 nationally in turnovers.
2019 was a long year for the Cardinals defense. On the season they gave up 439 yards per game and 33.4 points per game. Both ranking them among the worst in the nation.
Operating out of a 3-4 base, in 2020 the Cardinals are still struggling defensively. They have given up 12, 30 plus yard plays thus far, the most of any power five program and have been plagued by poor tackling.
Turnovers have been devastating to the Cardinals thus far in 2020. Knock off a fumble and interception or two, and their season might well look very different.
The Irish running game has looked nearly unstoppable and should have success against a Louisville front 7 that is young and has tackled poorly. Offensively the Cardinals have plenty of skill position weapons but the Irish figure to rebound to form after a Covid impacted off week against Florida State.
Vegas favors the Irish by 17. Over/under is 64. TV coverage on NBC starts at 2:30 PM South Bend time.
FIP Pick: ND 40 Louisville 17