Saturday’s ACC matchup between (21) Louisville and Virginia is an important one for both teams. The contest will be Louisville’s second ACC game and Virginia’s first, and an opportunity for both teams to assert themselves in the conference hierarchy. For Virginia, already having one loss on their record makes this game of the utmost importance as starting 1-2 would be incredibly difficult to bounce back from. Though it would be easier to favor a home team during an in conference, matchup, there are two things that have helped Louisville to become a seven point favorite in Charlottesville:
1. Bobby Petrino’s offense, although not what we had expected, has been playing well and will continue to. Both Dominique Brown and LJ Scott have had a great first two weeks, proving that Petrino can feature more weapons that just a highly potent passing game. When Brian Brohm was a freshman at Louisville, people knew he was a special quarterback, he just was not quite ready to take on a featured role. He often came in for special sets and sometimes played the entire second quarter. I expect Petrino to do the same thing with current freshman quarterback, Reggie Bonnafon. During Louisville’s 66-21 rout of Murray State, Bonnafon demonstrated an ability to drop back and throw dimes to receivers way down field, but proved he’s also capable of tucking the ball and running the ball as well. Though Virginia has been able to force nine turnovers this season, Louisville has yet to throw an interception and has only lost two fumbles, both coming in week one by then-first time starter Will Gardner.
2. Virginia’s offense is likely to struggle. Saturday’s starting quarterback will be a game-time decision, never a good sign, especially in competitive conference play against a ranked team. Louisville’s defense has been exceptional this season, and their speed has been astonishing. Don’t let 21 points by Murray State fool you. 14 were given up by the third team defense and the other seven came on a fluke blown-coverage on a screen play. Look for defensive coordinator Todd Grantham to ensure that doesn’t happen this week. Lorenzo Mauldin IV and the Cardinals have been fierce, intimidating and overwhelmingly impressive and I don’t see Virginia getting their offense going. Even if their defense can force some turnovers, their offense will still struggle. Last season, Virginia forced 21 turnovers, but was only able to convert that into 13 total points. Look for more of the same this week against the Cards.
The home field advantage will definitely help the Cavs, as Louisville is likely to come in antsy and nervous. The Cards will overcame that once the game starts though with their speed, powerful offense, and great coaching.
Prediction: Louisville 24-Virginia 14
*Section Photo credit to Andy Lyons, Getty Images; Featured Photo (above) credit to Timothy D. Easley, Associated Press