Last week after blowing out the then-second-ranked Florida State 63-20, Louisvillebecame the trendy pick to not only win the ACC but also get into the College Football Playoff. Now the Cardinals will have to put last week’s win behind them as they are set to travel to Huntington, West Virginia, to take on the Marshall Thundering Herd.
Last Saturday, Marshall lost to Akron 65-38 behind four touchdown passes by Zips quarterback Thomas Woodson. The Thundering Herd were actually up 21-7 after the first quarter, but the Zips outscored them 65-17 after that.
Louisville leads the all-time series with Marshall 16-12. In their last meeting in 2011, the Thundering Herd defeated the Cardinals 17-13, which turned out to be current Minnesota Vikings quarterback Teddy Bridgewater’s first career start at Louisville.
Louisville at Marshall
Kickoff: Saturday, Sept. 24 at 8 p.m. ET
TV: CBS Sports Network
Spread: Louisville -26.5
Three Things to Watch
1. Lamar Jackson
Obviously, the No. 1 player to watch in this week’s game is Louisville’s dual-threat quarterback. The current Heisman Trophy front-runner depending on who you ask, Jackson put the nation on notice last week in the Cardinals’ blowout victory over the Seminoles.
He threw for 216 yards and a touchdown, while also gashing Florida State for 146 yards rushing and four scores. Marshall head coach Doc Holliday knows how dangerous a weapon Jackson is in the Louisville offense.
“Everything Jackson does is a threat, look at his numbers,” Holliday said. “He can definitely beat you with his feet. He runs away from people and he is not a guy who is going to slide. He is going to run over people and is very physical. He is a threat with his feet, and he is a threat with his arm. He has tremendous speed and is just an all-around great player.”
Last week against Akron, the Marshall defense gave up 560 yards of total offense. Holliday and the Thundering Herd coaches will have to hope their defense can do a better job in slowing down Jackson.
2. Chase Litton
Jackson won’t be the only quarterback that can put up a lot of offense on Saturday night at Joan C. Edwards Stadium. In his second season as Marshall’s full-time starting quarterback, Litton has posted some big numbers as well.
Litton has thrown for 722 yards, 10 touchdowns and only three interceptions in two games this season. Last week, Litton went for 413 yards and four touchdowns against Akron, but he also tossed three interceptions in the loss.
Despite the natural comparison to Jackson, Holliday says Litton can’t worry about what others say about him.
“Chase has to be Chase,” Holliday said. “He has to play our game and not concern himself with what Lamar Jackson is doing. We have to get better as an offensive football team ourselves. We have to take care of the ball and do what we do. Offensively, we cannot worry about what Lamar Jackson is doing.”
3. Louisville Defense
While it’s understandable that the offense received a lot of credit in the victory over Florida State last week, the Cardinals’ defense had just as much to do with the dominating effort.
Louisville held Florida State to just 2-for-13 on third downs last weekend. For the season, the Cardinals are holding opponents to 12-for-49 in that situation.
Not only did the Cardinals keep Florida State from converting on third down, but their defense also kept running back Dalvin Cook in check for the entire game. Cook finished with just 54 yards rushing on 16 carries.
Louisville also held Florida State quarterback Deondre Francois to 113 yards passing and limited the big plays through the air, as the longest completion was 23 yards. The Cardinals sacked Francois five times as well.
The Marshall secondary was exposed last weekend against Akron, to the tune of 379 yards passing. That’s not a good sign with the nation’s most productive offense coming to town.
Expect Lamar Jackson to get the ball to James Quick and the Louisville receivers down the field. Then Jackson will likely gain a ton of yardage on the ground, which will tire out the Thundering Herd defense.
Louisville is averaging an FBS-best 65 points per game, so it is hard to imagine Marshall slowing down the Cardinals enough to pull out the victory.
Prediction: Louisville 55, Marshall 24
— 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, the Miami Herald and the Palm Beach Post and is a reporter for Pro Player Insiders. Follow him on Twitter @antwanstaley.