The very good and gracious staff at Card Chronicle are eager to drop some knowledge about Louisville.
Our new friend, CardinalStong, was kind enough to sit down for what I assumed would be a short Q&A that turned into a treasure trove of information on UL and also this man clearly loves some Chick-fil-A, because he mentions it about a half dozen times. No judgment zone - the Lord’s chicken is great.
Red Cup’s questions are in bold with CC’s responses below. Cheers.
1.) Wow. We’re finally here. Who would’ve thunk? What are your thoughts on these neutral site opening weekend kickoff games?
Honestly, as a Louisville fan it’s become a bit commonplace to either play a neutral site opener or be the Labor Day night game. Including this year Louisville has done one of those two things four of the last five seasons with games against Bama and Purdue at neutral sites and the Labor Day night game against Notre Dame in 2019. They due a traditional Saturday opener in 2022 but then back to the Chic-fil-A kickoff in 2023 against Georgia Tech in Atlanta.
Since most of these schedules are made years in advance I’m not surprised at the way its laid out as the previous athletic department took a “we’ll play anyone, anytime, anywhere” approach to scheduling while trying to build the Louisville brand. For all your readers who grew up on ‘Trapper Keepers’ and ‘Starter jackets’ you likely remember Louisville playing on quite a few Thursday nights before that was a big thing. They wanted to get brand recognition and knew they could never compete with prime time Saturday viewing. Now that we have 100 channels that changes things up a bit but that mentality lead to some solid seasons and some really memorable games for Louisville fans. For me, I don’t mind the neutral site games against a quality opponent, especially if Option B is just a home game against the SCLSU Muddogs.
2.) Last season was not remarkable when looking at the overall record for the Cards, but it seems like Louisville was never really in over its head in any game. Do you think last year’s team was much better than it’s 4-7 finish?
Yes. While the top Google searches in Louisville last year likely remained ‘bourbon’, ‘basketball’, and ‘Churchill Downs tip sheets’ not far behind had to be ‘turnovers’. Louisville avoided turnovers about as well as they avoided COVID outbreaks, and they stunk at both. In the four games decided by ten points or less in 2020 Louisville was 0-4 giving up 23 points off turnovers in those contests. But, not only was the offense coughing it up, the defense was having none of it either. Like cowbells in Oxford turnovers were not welcome on that side of the ball, as they dropped “about 13 interceptions” as counted by the staff at the end of last year.
The -12 turnover margin was next to last nationally and the inability to protect the football absolutely lost them 1-2 games. Mix that in with two games where the Cards were literally down to single digit defensive lineman and missing major offensive weapons due to an outbreak within the team, and without much effort you could tack 2-3 victories onto their win total and the season is completely different. They weren’t without other flaws, but those self-inflicted issues are tough to swallow.
3.) Outside of Malik Cunningham, which offensive player or players do Ole Miss fans need to be obsessing and losing sleep over?
I’m a card-carrying member of the ‘Marshon Ford Fan Club’ so they would take away my privileges if I failed to mention him here. The former walk-on turned starting H-back (TE) is not just a weapon but may have a legitimate case as being the best tight end in the ACC. Ford only had 309 yards receiving last year but it was on 25 catches (12.36/rec) and of those 25 six (6!) of them were touchdowns. That about 25% of his grabs going for touchdowns for the mathematically challenged, and for those thinking maybe it’s a bit “flukey”, in 2019 as a freshman he went for 292/20 with seven (7!) touchdowns or nearly 35% of his grabs going for six.
Satterfield may have an unexplainable soft spot for South Carolina but the man is not dumb, and he will use Ford a lot this year with some unproven receivers replacing the likes of Tutu Atwell (Rams) and Dez Fitzpatrick (Titians). A couple other outliers for you are Jalen Mitchell who will get the bulk of carries this year and played well in limited action last year and speedster wide receiver Tyler Harrell. He may get in situationally and if he sees green, you ain’t catching him.
4.) This is still Louisville vs. Ole Miss - no sane human thinks this will be a defensive showdown. Should everyone just pound the over? Or do you think the Cards defense is underrated?
My gut, like 99% of other casual observers, initially thought this game is going to be a shoot-out, and my mom always said never get in a shoot-out with gun-toting
Rebels Land Sharks. But as of today, I see the total is at 75.5 which a HUGE number. While I don’t forecast Louisville’s improving defense to be the ’85 Bears I think they can at least hold Mississippi to their season average from 2020 which was around 40 points. That means Louisville, with some unproven weapons on offense, needs to drop 36 just to hit the number. Louisville in 2020, with Tutu and Dez, and Javian Hawkins (Titans) broke 36…once. We may see some fireworks Labor Day night from these two teams, but it’s probably going to be closer to the grocery store pack than the illegals at the shady pop up tent on the roadside. Life’s too short to bet the under, but I’d do it here.
5.) What did you at Card Chronicle think when you heard UL was facing Ole Miss in this kickoff game? How does that compare to your feelings this week?
Like I mentioned above, I like the anticipation building all summer for a big game against a notable opponent compared to a high probability win at home. I do a countdown all summer over at ‘Card Chronicle’ highlighting the Cards roster (shameless plug) and I can visible see the interactions and excitement build over the summer at a much earlier point in the year when you have a name brand game on national television.
The Louisville fanbase is a bit more deflated now than normal due to the performance in 2020 and Satterfield flirting with the South Carolina job at the end of the season, but a win, or even a well-played close contest on Monday will pull them right back in. Wins solve a lot of problems, and excitement level is absolutely one of them.
6.) Predictions for the game?
Even though we’re now within “game week” I’ve never publicly stated or written out a prediction for this game, so congratulations, you get the scoop. This answer alone will indubitably knock up the page views by single digits.
Let me start by saying the Louisville defense is going to better than folks think as one could argue at all three levels (line, linebackers, secondary) they either improved or stayed the same from 2020. The linebackers in the middle are solid multi-year guys who won’t get tricked and the two transfers they brought in at safety are also experienced upperclassmen. Both corners are talented, but Kei’Trel Clark is an All-ACC guy who can lock guys up weekly. These guys aren’t getting run out of buildings this season. With all that said, Matt Corral and Kiffin scare me. I think they can strike fast and if the Cards don’t come prepared, they could be looking at 17-0 before the first quarter is over. While the fan in me wants to be hyped and scream upset, I also understand what realistic expectations should be.
I think Louisville falls behind early before finally hitting a rhythm and clawing back to get it close. Ole Miss drops a couple late daggers in the fourth quarter to make it look worse than what it was and leave Atlanta with a catered ‘Chick-fil-A’ meal and a ‘W’.
Ole Miss 41, Cards 24