Early football preview and predictions: Louisville Cardinals
Observer Sports Staff | Monday, April 27, 2020
With only two games left in the season, Notre Dame returns from a trip to Atlanta, Georgia for their final home game of the season. This senior day matchup will pit the Irish against the Louisville Cardinals in a rematch of each team’s season-opener on Labor Day 2019.
Opponent: Louisville Cardinals
Date: Nov. 21
Location: Notre Dame Stadium
Kickoff: 2:30 p.m. EST
History of the Matchup:
Notre Dame and Louisville have met only twice before. In 2014, the No. 24-ranked Cardinals marched into South Bend and handed the Irish a 31-28 loss as Kyle Brindza missed a 32-yard game-tying field goal with 51 seconds left.
The Irish got a shot at revenge last season, however, when they played their first and only game in program history in the state of Kentucky. Coming off a dismal 2-10 season that saw head coach Bobby Petrino get fired and even many players quit on the season, former Appalachian State head coach Scott Satterfield arrived in Louisville to take Petrino’s spot and reinvigorated the locker room and fan base.
However, Satterfield couldn’t start his Cardinals tenure off with a win as No. 9 Notre Dame avenged their loss five years prior. Despite an injury to then-junior running back Jafar Armstrong on the opening drive, and the absence of tight end Cole Kmet and wide receiver Michael Young due to broken collarbones, Notre Dame shook off a slow start and bested the Cardinals 35-17.
2019 Performance and Outlook:
The expectations for Louisville and Scott Satterfield last year were low coming off an abysmal 2018 season. However, after a 7-5 regular season campaign and tacking on a 38-28 bowl game victory over Mississippi State, the Cardinals turned heads and are within shouting range of many way-too-early preseason top-25 polls.
While Louisville likely won’t break into the polls until amassing several victories, they are poised to do so with who they have returning. Rising redshirt junior quarterback Micale Cunningham completed 112 of 179 passes last season for 2065 yards and 22 touchdowns, while also carrying the ball 122 times for 482 yards and six scores.
Rising junior wide receiver Chatarius “Tutu” Atwell also returns after leading the team with 1276 yards and 12 touchdowns on 70 receptions, and leading rusher and rising redshirt sophomore Javian Hawkins will be back after posting 1525 rushing yards nine scores on the ground on 264 carries.
In addition, while their defense struggled last season — giving up more points (434) than the offense scored (430) in 2019 — they should see a marked improvement next year. Six of their top seven tacklers, seven of their top eight leaders in pass breakups and every player who recorded an interception last season returns for the Cardinals in 2020.
Hayden Adams — Sports Editor
Credit to Scott Satterfield and “Scott’s Tots” (shoutout to Kentucky Sports Radio) for vastly improving last season. Not to discredit the work he did as coach, but improving from a 2-10 season is pretty easy to do, especially after you get rid of an absolute program plague like Bobby Petrino. Also, they have a lot of the same talent from last season returning.
As much as I hate to praise Louisville, they will be a good team next season. With a full season of Satterfield’s system, plus 10 games in 2020 under their collective belt coming into South Bend and seeing the job he did getting them to eight wins last season, this is a dangerous (and dare I say trap) game for Notre Dame.
The Irish will have superior talent and coaching, but if they’re not on their A-game, they can’t BS a quarter like Clemson did last year against the Cards and still dominate. It’ll be a tough senior day matchup, but the Irish should pull away late.
FINAL: Notre Dame 34, Louisville 27
Nate Moller — Sports Writer
Notre Dame often has a bad history in senior days. In the past 30 years, there have been many occasions where the Irish have been heavily favored going into the game and still lost. Although I think Louisville does have the potential to be a top-25 team this year, I fully expect the Irish to come into the game as double-digit heavy favorites.
I anticipate the Irish to be a bit sluggish at first and expect a very close game at halftime. The second half will be all Irish, though, as I expect Ian Book to step up and play his best ball in the second half of his last game at Notre Dame Stadium to propel the Irish to victory. Louisville definitely cannot be taken lightly, however, and the Irish can not be looking ahead to their upcoming clash against USC if they are going to win. At the end of the day, though, the Irish are much more talented and there is no excuse to lose to the Cardinals.
FINAL: Notre Dame 41, Louisville 31