Louisville is like a box of chocolates. The peanut ones are really good, but nobody ever eats the coconuts and... no wait that's not the line.
Forrest Gump told us you NEVER know what you are going to get and that is the absolute best way to describe the offense of this young Louisville Cardinal team... kind of. Quarterback Lamar Jackson and wide receiver James Quick have emerged as the only constants in an otherwise erratic offense. Jackson is responsible for 45 percent of Louisville's rushing attack with 482 yards, which is almost double the next Cardinal. Jackson also accounts for half of the team's 12 rushing touchdowns. Quick leads the team in receiving yards (310) and has half of the total touchdown catches (4). These two aren't just staples of this offense, they make the engine go. The problems come when Louisville is forced to go beyond its dynamic duo. No one else is producing much beyond these two.
Wake Forest is having some of the same problems as Louisville. The Demon Deacons haven't found a rhythm or consistency. They have really struggled on both sides of the ball. Their defense can't seem to stop any one, as they are giving up around 35 points a game over the last five games, four of those being losses. That problem is magnified when the offense has only averaged 17.7 points a game during the same span. Ironically, Wake Forest's only win in the last five games was against Louisville's last opponent, Boston College, a game that the Demon Deacons won with just a single field goal. This matchup has the makings of a real ugly game.
Louisville at Wake Forest
Kickoff: 7 p.m. ET
Spread: Louisville -11.5
Three Things to Watch
1. Louisville Must Expand Offensive Options
Louisville's offense has emerged into a two-dimensional, yet predictable attack. If the ball isn't being run by Lamar Jackson, then it is being thrown by the freshman quarterback to James Quick. The problem is that you can't keep winning with that formula. The Cardinals must get some help. The Cardinals need someone to step up. Brandon Radcliff, L.J. Scott, or someone must make a play in the running game. Jackson is the focal point of the ground attack at this point, and it is critical that someone step up and take some of the pressure off him. If you keep exposing him, even to weak defenses, it will catch up to him. Jackson also must find other ways to get the ball to true freshman Jaylen Smith, so that Quick can become even more open. The bottom line is someone not named Quick or Jackson must make a play.
2. Lamar Jackson is Good at the Football
OK... as much as Jackson is probably doing way too much in this Louisville offense, it is fun to watch him do what he does. He may not be a prototypical quarterback but he is an amazing athlete. He's not easy for opposing defenses to prepare to play against, and that is a good thing for the Cardinals. If he could get any help on the field anywhere, he would be that much more explosive. Jackson needs to continue getting better as a passer if he wants to be more than an athlete playing quarterback. If he can continue to develop in the pocket, then he will be a serious dual threat, and thereby a huge problem for opposing defenses.
3. Wake Forest is Good at...
In their second year under head coach Dave Clawson, the Demon Deacons are still trying to find their identity. The offense also boasts a do-all-dual threat freshman quarterback in Kendall Hinton, who leads the team with 330 yards rushing and six touchdowns. That sounds impressive until you understand the magnitude of the statement and the numbers behind it. If Hinton leads the team, then that means there is absolutely NO offense anywhere else. In addition to the lack of offense, Wake Forest is currently struggling to stop... everybody in the ACC. In five conference games thus far, Wake Forest is giving up an average of 27 points a game. There seems to be no end in sight.
Wake Forest has a lot of problems. The Cardinals have dominated the series matchup with the Demon Deacons and that trend doesn't appear to be changing anytime soon. Look for Louisville to open up the playbook a little and for Jaylen Smith to have a multiple-touchdown game. Also, the Cardinals' defenses should be relentless toward freshman QB Kendall Hinton, making it a long day for the Wake Forest offense. The Cardinals have been waiting for a breakout game for a talented young team. This Friday night, with the nation watching, could be that game.
Prediction: Louisville 31, Wake Forest 10
— Written by Lloyd H. Spence, Jr., who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Spence also has written for the Dallas Morning News, Yahoo!'s Rivals.com, and ESPN Louisville. Follow him on Twitter @TalkinNOIZ.