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irish insider

Head-to-Head: Louisville Cardinals

| Friday, October 16, 2020

Notre Dame Passing

The Irish offense is looking much more settled through the air than it did in the first month of the season. Quarterback Ian Book has clearly gotten more comfortable with his receivers, and he spread the wealth to seven different guys during last week’s matchup against Florida State. Louisville has returned the majority of a secondary that struggled in 2019, and the woes have continued in 2020. The raw talent in this mismatch should be enough for Notre Dame to pass the ball at will. 

EDGE: Notre Dame

 

Notre Dame Rushing

The Notre Dame ground game is looking strong as of late and offensive coordinator Tommy Rees is relying heavily upon Kyren Williams and Chris Tyree. The two young backs put up big numbers in the win over FSU with their No. 1 PFF rated offensive line providing ample run blocking. Notre Dame should be able to use their dominant line and shifty backs to work the ball downfield on the ground against the Cardinals, whose rush defense is below average. Louisville is ranked in the bottom half of the country against the run, and Tommy Rees is showing that he is not scared to keep the ball on the ground and tear through defenses with his stout offensive line. Expect Williams and Tyree to get plenty of touches out of the backfield again as the Irish air game is piecing itself together at a somewhat slower clip. 

EDGE: Notre Dame

 

Notre Dame Offensive Coaching 

Louisville just can’t seem to find any luck with defensive coordinators. From Todd Grantham to Brian VanGorder to now Bryan Brown, with Lamar Jackson gone the Cardinals’ defensive flaws are now laid bare for the world to see. While they won eight games last season, they did so while giving up more points per game than they scored. This year that differential has increased, and despite veteran players at key positions along the defense, the dysfunction persists and only grows. Tommy Rees hasn’t yet proven to be a revelation as the Irish offensive coordinator, but that’s mainly because of the competition he’s faced. But if he puts forth the sort of efforts he has so far against a team like Louisville, that alone provides a major advantage.

EDGE: Notre Dame

 

Notre Dame Offensive Special Teams

The Irish special teams unit didn’t have the best showing against Florida State. One muffed punt by junior receiver Lawrence Keys III and a near second prompted special teams coordinator Brian Polian to send in sophomore reserve Matt Salerno to field a fair catch. Freshman running back Chris Tyree looked explosive as usual in kickoff return, but senior kicker Jonathan Doerer now finds himself 3-5 on field goals this season after hooking a 45-yarder. Much like Notre Dame’s defense the special teams unit will likely sharpen up with more time back in the flow of the season, but for now the Cardinals have been playing well enough in this regard to draw even.

EDGE: Even

 

Louisville Passing

The Cardinals return Mikal Cunningham at quarterback, who has been struggling from the pocket despite a fairly successful season in 2019. Cunningham has thrown five interceptions across four games, as many as he gave up across the entirety of last year’s season. He’s not the only one to blame, however, as Louisville has recorded nine fumbles with an overall turnover ratio of -8. The Notre Dame secondary has been consistent, and with Kyle Hamilton who should look stronger than he did against FSU, Louisville will have trouble having their way through the air. 

EDGE: Notre Dame

 

Louisville Rushing

Notre Dame’s defense looked rusty after a three-week hiatus from the gridiron. That and a surprisingly strong performance from Florida State dual-threat quarterback Jordan Travis still only led to the Seminoles rushing for 153 yards. Louisville’s run-game is similar in that the Cardinals, like the Seminoles, boast talented players coming out of the backfield and a quarterback who can make plays with his feet. That said, Louisville’s offensive line is also similar to FSU’s concerning its poor ability to open holes. They’ll likely play up to the competition of Notre Dame, but the Irish front seven — even while missing senior defensive tackle Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa — should look sharper as time goes on.

EDGE: Notre Dame

 

Louisville Offensive Coaching

It’s not much of a secret that Clark Lea has the advantage over most offensive coordinators he faces in college football, both in terms of the personnel at his disposal and the way he goes about implementing them. The defense did not look its best against Florida State, but extenuating circumstances make that performance less worrisome, assuming they get back to what has made them successful against the Cards. They’ll have the opportunity to do that as, despite talented skill players, Louisville offensive coordinator Dwayne Ledford’s unit is averaging 29 points per game and has a -8 turnover margin. Even if the Cards get something going in the first half, expect Lea to quash it in the back 30.

EDGE: Notre Dame

 

Louisville Offensive Special Teams

Louisville’s kicking game is solid if nothing else. Sophomore James Turner is 4-4 on field goals this season with one longer than 40 yards, two in the 30s and one in the 20s. He’s also perfect on extra points. Redshirt senior linebacker Rodjay Burns has returned three punts for an average of 10 yards per, while junior running back Hassan Hall seems to be the most dangerous kickoff return man averaging just over 21 yards when he brings it out of the endzone. It isn’t anything stellar, but if Notre Dame isn’t careful, there’s a chance the Cards could pop off. But the Irish coverage units looked better against Florida State than did those returning or kicking, so they should handle Louisville just fine.

EDGE: Even

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