The Cardinals are coming off a week in which they won a defensive slug fest against Boston College and now look to carry some of that momentum into Winston-Salem on Friday night as they face the Demon Deacons for the first time on their home field. The game will kick-off the teeth of the schedule for Louisville and it is grind time. The opponent Friday night is one that will be a Trivial Pursuit Sports question someday if it isn’t already. “Who did the Louisville Football Program play in their first BCS Bowl Appearance?” The Wake Forest Demon Deacons will forever be a part of Cardinal lore after that 2007 Orange Bowl and now are a yearly conference foe. The Cardinals and Demon Deacons have only met twice with the Cards taking the 2007 Orange Bowl championship against them 24-13 and winning the game last year 20-10. Playing on Friday, Oct. 30, the Cardinals will be playing their 74th game in school history on Friday. Louisville owns a 44-28-1 all-time record in games played on this day of the week. The Cardinals are 3-4 on the season and 2-2 in the ACC.
Wake Forest is a team that is going through one of those complete program makeovers. They have a second year coach in Dave Clawson who was the former coach at Bowling Green. Wake Forest is the youngest team in the nation according to college football expert Phil Steele. Wake Forest has a total of 48 freshmen on the team (31 true freshmen, 17 red-shirt freshmen) and 26 sophomores (8 true sophomores, 16 red-shirt sophomores). A total of 74 of the 103 players on the team are either freshmen or sophomores, accounting for 72 percent of the team. Of Wake Forest’s 149 points scored this season, 143 have been by true freshmen, red-shirt freshmen or sophomores. Their six-member senior class is the smallest senior class in FBS.
On the offensive side of the ball the Deacons have young guys at all of the skill positions passer, rusher and receiver. Completely reshaping this offense Coach Clawson describes his coaching style as one that utilizes the available talent to maximize success. His philosophy focuses on getting individual play-makers more touches rather than sticking to a rigidly-defined system. His offenses have displayed components of the Pro-Style, Spread and Power Running attacks.
Like Louisville Wake Forest has used a few quarterbacks this season. Sophomore John Wolford was leading the ACC in passing yards before an ankle injury against Army in the 3rd game of the year knocked him out. He has thrown the ball for 1012 yards with 6 touchdowns and 5 interceptions. Wolford is listed as the starter on their depth chart for Friday, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see them also use Freshman QB Kendall Hinton who gives them a more mobile option. He is the team’s leading rusher with 330 yards and 6 touchdowns. He has also thrown for 812 yards with 2 touchdowns and 4 interceptions. Of the two Hinton certainly looks to be far superior at evading pressure and making something happen out of nothing. The Louisville defense who recorded a season-high eight sacks last week and against Wake Forest the last time they played them will be bringing the pressure Friday night. A Louisville rush defense that ranks 27th in the country could also force Wake Forest to air it out Friday and that would seem to favor Wolford more.
There is only one Wake Forest rusher that is averaging more than 4.0 YPC this season (Kendall Hinton). Their next two leading rushers Tyler Bell and Matt Colburn are averaging 3.3 and 3.9 YPC respectively. Bell has 234 yards on the season with no touchdowns and Colburn has 204 yards with one touchdown on the season. While the Demon Deacons struggle in their rushing game they are much more effective in the passing attack. They are tied for second in the nation in the number of receivers with 22 or more receptions and spread the ball around. The Deacons are led in receptions by Cortez Lewis (35), Cam Serigne (35), KJ Brent (30), Chuck Wade (23) and Tabari Hines (22). Their top targets are K.J. Brent with 392 yards and 1 touchdown, Cortez Lewis with 390 yards and 1 touchdown, Cam Serigne with 372 yards with 3 touchdowns. Seringe is their Gronk type tight end who ranks third in the country with 35 receptions among other tight ends.
The Louisville Defense played arguably one of their best games of the season limiting Boston College to 79 yards of total offense and -14 yards rushing in the home win. It was the lowest total since limiting Wake Forest to just 100 yards last season. The Louisville defense is ranked 27th in the country in rushing defense allowing only 121.9 yards and are ranked 34th in the country in passing yards allowing only 193.6 yards per game. I look for Sheldon Rankins, James Burgess, Devonte’ Fields and company to have another big day up front while Trumaine Washington, Josh Harvey-Clemons and Chucky Williams will hold things down in the Cards secondary. Shaq Wiggins is going to have to step up his game this week as fellow CB Jaire Alexander will not play Friday night. This Louisville defense has started to get on a roll and I think their dominance continues this week.
The Cardinals offense is still finding it hard to develop any consistency or any cohesiveness as a unit. I think this is due to all of the new parts this season especially up front on that offensive line. I do like how Coach Petrino has started to use Lamar Jackson and Reggie Bonnafon in tandem. Jackson completed 15 of his 25 passes for 230 yards with no touchdowns and 2 interceptions. Jackson also ran for 15 yards and a touchdown. As a running back Reggie Bonnafon carried the ball 10 times for 56 yards against Boston College. They kept a very good BC defense on their toes all day and I think they’ll continue to have that effect on every defense they play going forward. It really helps things open up with these two great athletes on the field together at times. Jamari Staples, who missed the first four games due to injury, has caught 10 passes for 174 yards over the last three games, including four receptions for a career-high 96 yards against Boston College. He is starting to get comfortable now and he is going to be big down the stretch. James Quick is another guy who has been gaining a lot of momentum and he should have another big night on Friday.
Much like their offense the Deacons defense is going through some growing pains but they are not too bad on this side of the ball. Wake’s Secondary has proven to be the real star section of this group ranked 17th in the country in passing yards allowed this season, while the team is very mediocre in rushing defense ranking 76th in the nation and allowing 172.5 yards per game. LB Brandon Chubb and S Ryan Janvion are both among
the top 40 players in the NCAA in active career tackle leaders. Chubb ranks 17th in the nation with 285 career tackles. He also ranks 19th with 127 career assisted tackles. Janvion is 31st nationally with 248 career tackles and 15th in the country with 8.0 tackles per game for his career. Wake Forest leads the ACC in conference games only in red zone defense, allowing points on just 10 of 15 attempts for 66.7 percent. This group should pose a good challenge for the Louisville offense.
Like last week I must again mention special teams and a special kicker. Wake Forest has the best punter in college football in Alex Kinal and he owns the Wake Forest school records for punts and punting yards in a career. Kinal set the ACC record for career punting yards, and has had 104 punts fair caught, has 101 career punts inside the 20 and has 51 career punts of 50 yards or longer. Games are often won and lost in field position battles and Kinal is a good weapon to have.
On a Halloween week in Winston Salem the Demon Deacons will try to pull out all of their tricks to treat the Cardinals to their 5th loss of the season. But our Cardinals will have some tricks of their own and I look for them to keep their momentum going against the Deacons. Wake Forest has been very inconsistent while Louisville has shown signs of being a pretty good team. This game will be won by the team with the best athletes on the field.
The Beak Prediction:
Louisville 37 Wake Forest 10