FACTS & STATS: Site: Notre Dame Stadium (80,795) — South Bend, Indiana.
Television: NBC. Home Record: Louisville b4-1, Notre Dame 4-1. Away Record:
Louisville 3-2, Notre Dame 0-2. Neutral Record: Louisville 0-0, Notre Dame
3-0. Conference Record: Louisville , Notre Dame 0-0. Series Record: First-ever
GAME NOTES: A few weeks ago, Notre Dame was jockeying for position in the
College Football Playoff picture. However, with losses in three of their last
four games, the Fighting Irish are simply looking to finish strong, as they
close out their home slate on Saturday against the Louisville Cardinals.
Brian’s Kelly’s Irish won their first six games, but have dropped three of
their last four, including last weekend’s improbable 43-40 overtime loss to
Northwestern. With the recent skein, Notre Dame has tumbled from a top-10
ranking to out of the most recent Top-25 poll.
Bobby Petrino’s second stint at Louisville has gotten off to a solid start, as
the Cardinals are also 7-3 on the year, including a 5-3 mark in the team’s
first year in the ACC. Louisville has won two of its last three games,
including a 38-19 win at Boston College on Nov. 8. The Cardinals were idle
this past weekend.
This marks the first-ever meeting between these two teams.
The win over Boston College came at a price, as Louisville’s starting
quarterback, sophomore Will Gardner, suffered a season-ending knee injury.
True freshman Reggie Bonnafon is expected to get the nod the rest of the way
and will be tasked with continuing Louisville’s offensive success.
The Cardinals are averaging 31.6 ppg this year, doing so on 387.4 yards per
Bonnafon will be just fine under center if he utilizes his varied options in
the passing game, specifically All-America candidate DeVante Parker.
Louisville’s star receiver missed the first six games due to injury, but has
made up for lost time, eclipsing the 100-yard mark in each of his first four
games, amassing 25 receptions, for 490 yards. He is averaging 122.5 yards per
game and has re-established himself as one of the nation’s premier receivers.
The Louisville ground game is spearheaded by a pair of talented backs in B
Radcliff (445 yds, 5.1 ypc, 8 TDs) and Michael Dyer (414 yds, 4.6 ypc, 4 TDs).
The Cardinals came into the season having to fill some defensive holes, but
others have stood up and the unit may actually be better for it. Louisville
ranks fifth nationally in total defense, allowing just 285.7 yards per game.
Foes are completing just 53.2 percent of their passes, which has Louisville
ranked 18th nationally.
Junior safety Gerod Hollimon has all but locked up a spot on the All-America
squad, leading the nation with a ridiculous 13 interceptions. Fellow junior
safety James Sample has had a strong season in the secondary as well, pacing
the team in tackles (64), with three INTs. Junior end Sheldon Rankins (39
tackles, 11.0 TFL, 7.0 sacks) and senior linebacker Lorenzo Mauldin (39
tackles, 12.0 TFL, 6.5 sacks) are difference makers up the field.
The loss to a struggling Northwestern team was certainly unexpected, so
turning things around down the stretch is extremely important for Notre Dame.
Cutting down on miscues will be a must and it starts with quarterback Everett
Notre Dame’s signal caller has completed 60.7 percent of his passes this year,
for 3,044 yards and 27 TDs, but he has thrown 12 interceptions and has been
guilty of several costly fumbles.
Still, and offense that is averaging 465.1 yards per game remains dangerous.
The passing game is averaging over 300 yards per game and has received a huge
boost with the emergence of wideout Will Fuller, who has burst on the scene
with 61 receptions, for 853 yards and 13 TDs.
Tailback Tarean Folston (668 yds, 5.1 ypc, 4 TDS) leads a rushing attack that
generates 160.7 yards per game. Golson has helped out as well with his legs,
ranking second on the team with 339 yards and a team-best eight rushing
Notre Dame’s defense has had its ups and downs, with last week representing a
real low, as it marked the first time Northwestern eclipsed 30 points this
season. Overall, opponents are averaging 27.1 ppg, on 383.2 ypg.
Sophomore linebacker Jaylon Smith is the team’s top playmaker with relentless
sideline-to-sideline pursuit. The 6-foot-2, 235-pounder leads the team in
tackles (78), with 6.5 TFL, 2.0 sacks and 1 forced fumble. Junior Sheldon Day
is a player to watch up front for Notre Dame.
Notre Dame needs to take better care of the football. The Cardinals are an
opportunistic bunch that thrives on big defensive plays. Parker is a nightmare
for defenders for contend with and should continue his run in this one.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Louisville 31, Notre Dame 28