As we close in on 72 hours until kick-off on Monday night in Atlanta, it’s never too late to absorb a few more details about the Louisville Cardinals. And if we can do that while running out the clock on the Friday of a three-day weekend, even better! Never let it be said I did not serve the public.
Over the last week here at Red Cup Rebellion, your subscription has brought terabytes on terabytes of all-things Ole Miss football and the Chick-fil-A kickoff game right to your desktop or mobile device of choice. Player previews, podcasts, and a Q&A with the Louisville SB Nation team site should have helped get your mind right for Monday night.
As a final offering and to honor the company that fueled Louisville football, I’m going to break down the Cardinals’ offense and defense and find their equivalent among the items on Papa John’s menu. This will help you, at the game or a watch party, accurately and efficiently explain to your fellow Ole Miss fans that Louisville’s run game has more papadias energy than handcrafted specialty energy.
Granted, they may stop talking to you after that, but the analogy works. And if papadias is ever the answer to a bar trivia question, well, congratulate yourself for earning your team a point. You’re that much closer to $10 each or a free beer!
Now, let’s get to the breakdown
As Card Chronicle noted, Louisville ranks 93rd overall in Bill Connelly’s returning production rankings (Ole Miss is 22nd). However, that ranking sinks so low mostly due to the defense being ranked 114th in returning production.
The Cardinals offense comes in at 61st, with 73 percent of its production returning. Not great, not terrible. Probably going to have some good moments, with a significant sprinkling of agony at times. The Meats Pizza, if you will.
Pepperoni, sausage, “real beef”, bacon, and Canadian bacon combination has some potential, but there will be, ahem, issues.
Leading the offense is redshirt junior quarterback Malik Cunningham, who threw for just over 2600 yards and ran for another 609 in 2020, while accounting for 27 total touchdowns. He is the best player on the field for the offense and without him playing well, it will not go well for the Cardinals.
According to the algorithm created just for this post, that makes him the Create-Your-Own Pizza. It’s the most popular option and usually reliable, but if the franchise location can’t rise to the occasion and deliver quality custom pizzas, abandoned building ahoy!
While Cunningham is the leading returning rusher, junior Jalen Mitchell is the leader among the returning running backs. Mitchell, who only played in five games last season, averaged almost seven yards a carry in limited action.
He’ll be backed up by Hassan Hall and Maurice Burkley, who have plenty of backing up experience as that’s what they did in 2020. It’s a small sample size for all three guys, which, as previously mentioned, gives them the papadias label.
No one really knows much about them, they could be good, obviously can’t vouch for them, but I’m INTRIGUED by yet another thing to drown in the garlic sauce.
Louisville’s top two returning receivers, Braden Smith and Marshon Ford, both had over 300 yards receiving last year, which is basic-ass cheese pizza vibes, but after that, YIKES.
There’s very little production from anyone else who will be on the Louisville sideline on Monday. Of note is redshirt sophomore Tyler Harrell, who ran a hand-timed 40 in 4.19 seconds and had an official time of 4.24,
However, outside of the top two receivers, the rest of the group is the entire dessert menu because NOPE.
Based on the depth chart released this summer, the starting offensive line has 79 starts among five players, which is not good, not terrible. However, two players, left guard Caleb Chandler and center Cole Bentley, have 59 of those starts between them (standard sausage pizza: Old Reliable).
An area of PRETTY SCARY, BOB is both players listed at left tackle have zero starts, which, as they say in the biz, is not ideal. While our friends at Card Chronicle are high on the options available, rolling into a college football season with your top two left tackles having zero starts is a Garden Fresh pizza situation: TRASH.
I won’t be getting into individual positions because I have already demonstrated above that I don’t value my time, making this section more of a speed round. As mentioned, the Cardinals’ defense ranks 114th in returning production, which is very not great, but maybe it’s #blessed because it was a defense that wasn’t very good last year?
Behold, advanced stats from 2020 and their rankings:
- Opponent points per play - 66th
- Opponent yards per play - 69th (OBLIGATORY: Nice)
- Opponent third down conversion percentage: 55th
- Red zone efficiency - 62nd
From that defense, only four of their top 10 tacklers return (numbers 1, 4, 8 and 10 in that list), so we’ll find out pretty quickly whether it’s something fresh or a re-order of not good.
In general, the defense is new, will have to work to be worse than last year, but could be a pleasant surprise, with a solid risk of crippling food poisoning, which makes it the one and only Shaq-a-Roni-XL Pizza.