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Louisville vs. Duke Football Prediction and Preview

Malik Cunningham, Louisville Cardinals Football

Malik Cunningham and the Cardinals look to become bowl eligible with a road win over the struggling Blue Devils on Thursday night

After a convincing win against Syracuse last week, the Louisville Cardinals will attempt to become bowl eligible with a victory in Durham on Saturday.

Louisville (5-5, 3-4 ACC) will travel to Wallace Wade Stadium hoping to secure its first postseason berth since 2019. The Cardinals are coming off its most lopsided win in four seasons in a 41-3 blowout of Syracuse.

Duke (3-7, 0-6) will miss out on a bowl for the third straight season as rumors have started to surface that head coach David Cutcliffe may not return in 2022.

The Blue Devils started this season with three wins in their first four games but have dropped six in a row, all in conference play, and have been outscored by 177 points (264-87) during this stretch. Last Saturday, Duke gave up 573 yards of offense, including 297 on the ground, in a 48-17 road loss to Virginia Tech. It was the first time in 43 games that the Hokies put up 500 yards.

Thursday will make only the third time Louisville and Duke have played each other and the first since 2016. The Cardinals won the two prior matchups.

Louisville at Duke

Kickoff: Thursday, Nov. 18 at 7:30 p.m. ET
TV: ESPN
Spread: Louisville -19.5

When Louisville Has the Ball

Malik Cunningham has somewhat quietly put together a strong season. He's fifth in the ACC in total offense at 300 yards per game. He's thrown for 2,286 yards with 13 touchdowns and five interceptions and also is the team's leading rusher with 709 yards. Cunningham also leads the conference and is tied for fourth nationally with 16 rushing touchdowns. He is clearly the focal point of the Cardinals' attack and needs to be the priority for Duke's defense.

Louisville is in the middle of the ACC leaderboard when it comes to passing offense, as seven different players have recorded double0-digit catches this season. One of those is freshman wide receiver Ahamri Huggins-Bruce, who had six receptions for 54 yards and two touchdowns in last week's rout of Syracuse. He was named ACC Co-Rookie of the Week.

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Coming off of a big win, Cardinals head coach Scott Satterfield expressed the need for his team to not take Duke lightly despite its record. "I hope we can avoid being complacent, and it's all about our preparation," Satterfield said. "There's great motivation for this game to so we can have that extra three weeks of practice to get ready to go play in a bowl game. I think for us, we've been on the cusp of a lot of these games and our guys continue to fight and strive to get over the hump and win these games."

When Duke Has the Ball

Last week, Riley Leonard became the first true freshman quarterback to start for the Blue Devils in 15 seasons. After the loss to Virginia Tech, there's a decision to be made at the position, especially if Gunnar Holmberg can't play due to an upper-body injury suffered two weeks ago in the loss to Pittsburgh.

"We've got to find the mix of where we are," Cutcliffe said earlier this week.

"We've got to put ourselves into position to be successful regardless of what anybody thinks or says or does. It's all whatever is inside of us, and we have to find the very best part of us.

For his part, Leonard went 7-for-16 for 84 yards and added 30 rushing yards on 16 carries. Fellow freshman Jason Moore also got significant playing time against the Hokies because it was a blowout. He was 6-for-12 for 53 yards and a touchdown as a passer to go along with a team-high 113 yards on the ground (with another score) on 17 attempts.

Running the ball has been Duke's strength this season with Mataeo Durant leading the way. He's second in the ACC with 1,095 rushing yards to go with nine touchdowns. He was held to One area Duke has been good at this season is in the running game. Mataeo Durant is the second leading rusher in the ACC as he has 1,098 yards on the ground along with nine touchdowns. He was held to a season-low 33 yards on 10 carries against Virginia Tech.

Final Analysis

These two teams are headed in opposite directions. Louisville is on the cusp of securing a bowl invite and will get a number of extra practices as a result. Duke has just two games left this season, and the end really can't come any sooner.

The Cardinals have the overwhelming advantage at quarterback with Cunningham while the Blue Devils aren't even sure who will be under center for them. Combine that with a Duke defense that ranks last in the ACC in scoring, total and passing defense and it could be a very long night for the home team.

With a tough matchup against Kentucky looming, expect Louisville to sew up bowl eligibility in convincing fashion.

Prediction: Louisville 41, Duke 20

— Written by Antwan Staley, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and has extensive experience covering Florida sports teams. Staley has written for Bleacher Report, Pro Player Insiders and is a reporter for Sports Talk Florida. Follow him on Twitter @antwanstaley.