Cardinals look to exceed 2018 win total with a victory against struggling Eagles
First-year head coach Scott Satterfield and the 2-2 Louisville Cardinals will look to exceed last season's win total on Saturday when they play host to struggling Boston College. At 3-2, the Eagles actually have the better record entering the contest, but they have dropped two of three, including a 48-31 home loss to Kansas, with the only win in that span coming over lowly Rutgers.
Last week, Steve Addazio's team fought valiantly in a 27-24 loss to Wake Forest, while Louisville was idle. Its last time out, Louisville rallied from 21 points down to lead Florida State in the fourth quarter before falling late, 35-24.
Despite being without star running back AJ Dillon, Boston College won last season's contest in Chestnut Hill, 38-20. In Dillon's absence, the Eagles had two players — David Bailey and Ben Glines — eclipse the 100-yard rushing mark. Boston College has won the last two in the series after losing the previous four.
Boston College at Louisville
Kickoff: Saturday, Oct. 5 at 12:30 p.m. ET
TV: ACC Network Extra
Spread: Louisville -6.5
When Boston College Has the Ball
He missed last season's contest to injury, but AJ Dillon will be the focal point of the Boston College offense on Saturday. The 250-pound junior ranks third nationally with 627 rushing yards to go with six touchdowns. Dillon has eclipsed the 150-yard mark in each of the last three games and has averaged 27 carries over that stretch. In his last contest against Louisville two years ago, Dillon had a coming-out party as he rushed for 272 yards and four touchdowns.
At quarterback, third-year starter Anthony Brown is in the midst of his best season yet. Brown is a dual-threat QB, but the Cardinals would rather force Brown to beat them with his arm. Brown had not thrown an interception until being picked off twice last week against Wake Forest. Brown does a good job spreading the ball around, but wide receiver Kobay White and tight end Hunter Long are his preferred targets. The Boston College offensive line, which starts two seniors, is very good. The Eagles have allowed just three sacks and are averaging five yards per carry.
Defensively, Louisville still has its issues, but linebacker may be the best position for the Cardinals. Linebackers have accounted for eight of the team's 11 sacks in the 3-4 scheme. Rodjay Burns may be the best of the bunch and leads the squad with two sacks, but C.J. Avery is also very good.
The Cardinals have been much improved this season defensively, particularly against the run, which is critical, since the Eagles have carved up Louisville on the ground in each of the last two seasons. Up front, Louisville starts two redshirt seniors and a redshirt junior. Senior safety Khane Pass leads Louisville with 27 total tackles. Louisville has yet to intercept a pass this year.
When Louisville Has the Ball
Who starts at quarterback for Louisville is anyone's guess at this point. Malik Cunningham has started the last two games in place of an injured Jawon Pass and played quite well. Pass is regarded as the better thrower of the two, while Cunningham is seen as the better runner, but Cunningham passed for 286 yards and a pair of scores last time out. Cunningham is averaging better than 10 yards per pass attempt and has four touchdown passes to just one interception.
After a strong start on the ground, Louisville was held under three yards per carry last time out against Florida State. That could change against a Boston College team that ranks just 13th in the ACC in total defense. Freshman Javian Hawkins has been the top back with 390 rushing yards on nearly six yards per carry through four games, and Hassan Hall is a nice compliment. Louisville likes to run behind 375-pound junior left tackle Mekhi Becton. Tutu Atwell and Dez Fitzpatrick are two receivers capable of stretching the Boston College defense.
The Eagles have played better in recent weeks on defense after giving up 48 points to Kansas early in the year. Linebacker Max Richardson, a junior, ranks second in the ACC with 49 total tackles and leads Boston College with six tackles for a loss and 1.5 sacks. As a team, however, Boston College has not been able to generate much of a pass rush, with only five sacks on the year. Among Power 5 schools, only Rutgers and Arizona have fewer. The Cardinals did allow six sacks last time out against Florida State.
The Boston College defense has not been good, but it has been opportunistic. The Eagles' eight interceptions lead the ACC and rank third nationally behind only Florida and Arizona. Junior safety Mike Palmer leads the team with two picks. Louisville looks to have the advantage in the kicking game, as kicker Blanton Creque and punter Mason King, both seniors, have had very productive careers.
Louisville may be just 2-2 with wins only over directional schools from the Bluegrass State, but the improvement so far this season is undeniable. The Cardinals were competitive in losses to Notre Dame and Florida State and seem to have improved in every facet of the game. There is an argument to be made that Louisville may actually be better with Malik Cunningham under center. Boston College may have the ACC's best back, a good offensive line, and an experienced quarterback, but the defense has been abysmal thus far in 2019. This contest is also on the road against a rested group of Cardinals.
Prediction: Louisville 34, Boston College 30
(Top photo courtesy of @UofLFootball)