Notre Dame Football Primer: Irish Make First Trip to Louisville

College Football is officially back! The Notre Dame Fighting Irish will head to Cardinal Stadium for the first time to take on the Louisville Cardinals Labor Day Night. “Black Out” conditions will be in effect as the Cardinal faithful will be supporting black shirts throughout the stands. It’s time for the Irish to turn the page on the 2018 playoffs and once again look to prove skeptics wrong.

Essential Game Info:

  • Game Time: September 2nd at 8:00 PM ET on ESPN
  • Location: Cardinal Stadium, Louisville, Kentucky
  • Matchup History: Notre Dame is currently 0-1 all-time against the Louisville Cardinals (Last Meeting 2014: Louisville won 31-28)
  • Current Odds: Notre Dame -20.5

Weather Forecast

The current forecast for GameDay shows a 20% chance of rain with a high of 85 degrees and a low of 63.

Louisville Details:

  • Conference: ACC Atlantic Division
  • Head Coach: Scott Satterfield
  • 2017 Record: 2-10
  • 2018 Record: 8-5

Louisville Storylines:

Scott Satterfield Era begins. The last time the Irish faced the Cardinals was back in 2014 against Bobby Petrino. When Notre Dame travels to Louisville, the Cardinals will be led by their new Head Coach. Satterfield built a great resume coaching at Appalachian State for the past six seasons. Since joining the FBS in 2014, he led the Mountaineers to 3 Sun Belt Championships and a Sun Belt Coach of the Year honor.

While at Appalachian State he coached the Mountaineers to 3 straight bowl wins and fell 7 points short of beating Penn State in overtime last season.

Culture Change in Louisville. After going 2-10 last fall, a change of culture is much needed for the Cardinal Program. For several seasons the Louisville Cardinals were one of the top programs in the ACC. They went toe-to-toe against Florida State and Clemson for numerous years. Lamar Jackson was a vital reason for the program’s success. In 2016 he won the Heisman Trophy and masked a lot of the weaknesses on both sides of the ball by putting up a lot of points.

Jawon Pass named Starting QB. In 2018, Pass went 162 for 300 (54%) with eight touchdowns and 12 interceptions. He was also sacked 30 times on the season, which certainly wasn’t accommodating. Jawon Pass attempted 76 rushes for a total of 93 yards on the season. The Louisville Quarterback has running capabilities. However, the sacks hampered his yards per carry average.

Can the offensive line keep Jawon off the ground? That might be the most significant question mark heading into this matchup.

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Notre Dame Storylines:

Irish Lack Receiver Depth. The Irish were hit with more devastating news on Monday. Sophomore wide receiver Kevin Austin Jr. will be out for the entire season for an apparent violation of University rules. Notre Dame is already without starters Cole Kmet and Michael Young. Both Kmet and Young suffered broken collarbone injuries in the last few weeks.

Coach Kelly expects both players to be back at some point during the season, but there is no set timeline.

Youthful Linebackers. The biggest question mark heading into the fall would be the linebacker experience. Long-time starters Drue Tranquill and Te’Von Coney were unrivaled leaders for the defense in 2018.

Drew White (middle linebacker), Asmar Bilal (weakside linebacker), and Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah (Rover) are the probable starters for now. Bilal contributed 50 tackles last season for the Irish and is expected to bring a leadership presence. However, White and Owusu-Koramoah lack that experience. Expect Shayne Simon, Bo Bauer, Jack Lamb, and Paul Moala all to see action against the Cardinals.

Fast Start. Brian Kelly certainly wants his team to get off to a fast start against the Cardinals, as well as the New Mexico Lobos. With injuries and players moving on to the NFL, the Irish need to get as many quality reps and experience as possible before their trip to Athens. The Louisville Cardinals won’t be a push-over by any means, but there is certainly more room for error against the Cardinals than the Georgia Bulldogs in a few weeks.

It would be beneficial for the Irish to get any miscues handled early in the season. For instance, the Miami Hurricanes and Florida Gators tallied 23 total penalties last week.

Head to Head Matchups:

Notre Dame Offense vs. Louisville Defense: In 2018 the Cardinal Defense gave up 51 points to Alabama, 66 to Georgia Tech, 56 to Wake Forest, and 77 against Clemson. How much better could the Cardinals have gotten in one offseason? Even though the Irish are without some key players, I expect Notre Dame to put up a lot of points against the Cardinals.

Ian Book’s passing attack, along with Jafar Armstrong and Tony Jones Jr. running behind four returning starters does not look well for the Louisville Defense.

Advantage: Notre Dame

Louisville Offense vs. Notre Dame Defense: The Notre Dame Defense was elite in 2018. Clark Lea and the Irish Defense did lose a few players to the NFL last season, but still, expect the Irish to dominate again with their pass rush and talented secondary. Louisville only averaged 19.8 points per game in 2018, and I don’t expect them to put up a lot of points against the dominate Irish Defense on Labor Day.

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Advantage: Notre Dame

Special Teams: Justin Yoon will no longer be kicking field goals for the Irish in 2019. Junior Jonathan Doerer from Charlotte, North Carolina is now the Notre Dame placekicker. He will have big shoes to fill as Yoon was consistent and set the Notre Dame all-time points record.

Highly recruited punter Jay Bramblett from Tuscaloosa, Alabama will oversee punting duties this fall.

For the opposing Louisville Cardinals, they return starting kicker Blanton Creque who was 10 for 12 last year. Over the past two seasons, he has averaged 84.62% which is solid for college football but has never made a field goal of 50+ yards.

There is no resounding advantage for either team in this category.

Tie

My Prediction:

There is a reason the Irish are highly favored in this matchup. Scott Satterfield has a great track record, and I expect the Irish to face a more formidable Cardinals teams in the future. The atmosphere, new starters, and injuries may keep this game close for the first quarter or two.

But I believe the Notre Dame pass rush and secondary will lock down the Cardinal Offense. Ian Book’s elite accuracy combined with the running game will be able to put up a lot of points on the road. The Irish will pull away and win this matchup on the road convincingly.

Prediction: Notre Dame 41 Louisville 17

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