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Louisville Cardinals vs. Virginia Cavaliers Prediction and Preview

Virginia Cavaliers RB Jordan Ellis

Virginia Cavaliers RB Jordan Ellis

Both the Louisville Cardinals and the Virginia Cavaliers will open up ACC play on Saturday as they will square off against each other at Scott Stadium.

Last week, Louisville won a nail-biter against Western Kentucky 20-17 as the Cardinals came back from a 17-0 deficit. Virginia was much more successful in their win last week against Ohio 45-31 in a game that was relocated from Charlottesville to Nashville, Tennessee, due to the threat of Hurricane Florence.

Saturday will be the seventh all-time meeting between the Cardinals and Cavaliers with Louisville holding a slight 4-2 edge.

Louisville at Virginia

Kickoff: Saturday, Sept. 22 at 12:30 p.m. 
TV: ACC Network

Spread: Virginia -5

Three Things to Watch

1. Virginia's offense
Against Ohio last week, the Cavaliers were able to jump out to a 38-point lead at halftime thanks to a productive running attack. Jordan Ellis piled up 171 yards and three touchdowns on the ground in the first half alone. Also, wide receiver Olamide Zaccheanus set a school record with nine catches for 247 yards (27.4 ypc) on the afternoon.

Virginia scored on its first two offensive plays. If the Cavs are going to win Saturday, they will need another solid game from quarterback Bryce Perkins, who completed 25 of 30 passes for 379 yards and three touchdowns in the victory over the Bobcats. 

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2. Malik Cunningham 
During his press conference on Monday. Louisville head coach Bobby Petrino said Cunningham would be the team's starting quarterback against Virginia. Cunningham replaced an ineffective Jawon Pass in the second quarter against Western Kentucky and Petrino said the freshman has "come in and given us some fire."

Unlike Pass, Cunningham has athletic ability similar to his predecessor, former Heisman Trophy winner Lamar Jackson. In the win over the Hilltoppers, Cunningham has 129 rushing yards on 21 carries while throwing for 88 yards

If Cunningham can have similar success running the ball against Virginia, it should open up some opportunities in the passing game.

3. Cavaliers' defense
While Virginia was piling up the points in the first half last week, the defense let Ohio hang around. The Bobcats chipped away at the Cavaliers' lead and trimmed it to 10 points after a one-yard touchdown run made it 38-28 with 9:27 remaining in the third quarter.

Ohio finished with 118 rushing yards and 246 through the air. Virginia will certainly need to be ready to stop the run with Cunningham getting the start at quarterback for Louisville. If the Cavaliers can limit the damage the Cardinals do on the ground, then they will force a freshman quarterback to try and beat them with his arm. 

Final Analysis

Three games into the season, Louisville is still searching for its identity and will start a freshman at quarterback to open ACC play. On the road in a tough environment and against a tough-minded defense, it is hard to go against Virginia. 

Virginia: college football picks against the spread

The Cavaliers' offense was clicking on all cylinders during the first half of last week's game against Ohio. Quarterback Bryce Perkins seems to be comfortable in this offense and he has the weapons to do some damage. Virginia makes a triumphant return home by doing enough to secure the key conference victory in Scott Stadium. 

Final Score: Virginia 31, Louisville 17

— 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.