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Virginia vs. Louisville Football Prediction and Preview

Malik Cunningham, Louisville Cardinals Football

Malik Cunningham and the Cardinals host the Cavaliers in an ACC matchup that should feature plenty of offensive fireworks

After back-to-back weeks of suffering tough losses, the Virginia Cavaliers got back on the right track last week.

Virginia (3-2, 1-2 ACC) defeated the Miami Hurricanes on the road 30-28 after freshman kicker Andy Borregales missed a 33-yard field goal as time expired as the ball bounced off the left upright. Now the Cavaliers will hope to carry that momentum into their next game against the Louisville Cardinals on Saturday.

Louisville (3-2, 1-1) wasn't so fortunate, as the Cardinals lost to Wake Forest 37-34 on a 29-yard field goal by Demon Deacons kicker Nick Sciba with 22 seconds left.

Saturday will mark the 10th meeting between Virginia and Louisville and the eighth in ACC regular-season play. The Cardinals hold a 5-4 edge in the series and have won all four matchups in Louisville.

Virginia is seeking back-to-back wins on the road for the first time since 2017. The Cavaliers have not won consecutive ACC road games since 2011.

Virginia at Louisville

Kickoff: Saturday, Oct. 9 at 3 p.m. ET
TV: ACC Network
Spread: Louisville -2.5

When Virginia Has the Ball

Quarterback Brennan Armstrong has been one of the biggest surprises in the ACC this season. He leads the conference with 1,973 passing yards and ranks second in touchdown passes (14). In the victory over the Cardinals last year, Armstrong accounted for 263 yards and three total touchdowns.

"Offensively, their quarterback is playing at a high level," Louisville head coach Scott Satterfield said about Armstrong. "He can throw the football well; he is a very accurate passer with a great catchable ball. They have some guys to throw it to as well; really good wide receivers, a big tight end that is about 6'7", and a little slot receiver that can run all over the place.

"They do some good things offensively; they are putting up a lot of big numbers as one of the top passing teams in the country with 400 yards or more per game.

Billy Kemp IV has racked up 362 yards and three scores on a team-high 34 receptions. Dontayvion Wicks has been the Cavaliers' big-play weapon. He's second in the ACC in receiving yards (535) and is averaging 22.3 yards per catch. He also is tied for third in the conference with five touchdown catches.

Louisville's defense ranks 12th or worst in the ACC in all four major categories, including dead last in both total yards (434.8) and passing yards (261.2) allowed per game. It should be pointed out that the Cardinals have played some of the nation's top offensive teams (Ole Miss, UCF, and Wake Forest all rank in the top 30 in the FBS in total offense), but the problem is that Virginia (seventh) ranks right up there too.

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When Louisville Has the Ball

Not only does Virginia have one of the best quarterbacks in the ACC, but so does Louisville in Malik Cunningham. In five games, Cunningham has thrown for 1,307 yards and seven touchdowns with just two interceptions. He also has rushed for 309 yards and an ACC-leading 10 touchdowns.

Against Virginia last season, Cunningham passed for 161 yards and rushed for 197, albeit in a losing effort as the Cavaliers won, 31-17.

"On a scale of whatever dangerousness there are, I would put him at the top of the dangerous scale in terms of how fast, how athletic," Virginia head coach Bronco Mendenhall said about Cunningham earlier this week. "He can pull it down and run on any given play. I'm just really impressed with him. I think he's a really good athlete. I think his throwing accuracy and precision has improved.

"On any given play, he's a threat. Yeah, doesn't take much to remind me from a year ago where we had a really hard time getting him on the ground or tackling him. He's a really good football player in a scheme that uses him really well."

Cunningham's top targets have been tight end Marshon Ford (23 rec.) and wide receiver Jordan Watkins (18), but a total of seven Cardinals have caught a touchdown pass this season. Cunningham also could use more support from his running backs. Jalen Mitchell leads the team with 331 rushing yards, but he's carried the ball only seven more times compared to Cunnigham (77 vs. 70 attempts), and he has just one rushing touchdown.

Virginia has certainly been vulnerable to the run. The Cavaliers are last in the ACC and 110th nationally in rushing defense, giving up 195 yards per game.

Final Analysis

This game shouldn't lack for offense, as both teams have dynamic quarterbacks who can light up the scoreboard. The difference could come on the defensive side of the ball.

Both Virginia and Louisville rank near the bottom of the FBS in several defensive categories. Also, neither team takes care of the ball well, as each has a negative turnover margin. Louisville's ground game is the significant difference between the two teams: the Cardinals are averaging 200 rushing yards per game, and the Cavaliers are one of the worst in the country in stopping teams from running the ball.

Just like last weekend's outcomes for both teams, this game could go down to the wire.

Prediction: Louisville 34, Virginia 31

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— 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.