Hokies, Cardinals clash in Louisville
After losing four consecutive games, the Louisville Cardinals were able to get back on track last weekend. Louisville defeated Florida State to get its second victory of the season. Now the Cardinals will try to continue their winning streak at home against the Virginia Tech Hokies.
At 3-2, the Hokies will attempt to recover from their 23-16 loss against the Wake Forest Demon Deacons. The loss was a blow to their chance of making the ACC Championship Game after they entered the season a few votes shy of making the AP Top 25.
Saturday will be the first time since 2006 that Virginia Tech and Louisville will play each other. Their last meeting came in the 2006 Gator Bowl, where the Hokies picked up the 35-24 victory.
Virginia Tech at Louisville
Kickoff: Saturday, Oct. 31 at 4 p.m. ET
TV: ACC Network
Spread: Virginia Tech -3.5
When Virginia Tech Has the Ball
Hendon Hooker struggled last weekend against Louisville. Although he completed 17-of-33 passes for 223 yards, Hooker threw one touchdown and was picked off three times. Part of the Hokies problem is that there's been a lack of weapons on offense. Only four Hokies have topped 50 receiving yards through five games, and none have reached 300. James Mitchell leads the team with 265 receiving yards and four touchdowns, while Tayvion Robinson has 231 yards with a pair of scores.
With Louisville having problems stopping the run last week against Florida State, expect the Hokies to attack them using their rushing attack. The Seminoles were able to rush for 265 yards, even in a loss. Virginia Tech, meanwhile, carried the ball 43 times for 210 yards against Wake Forest. If they're going to pick up the victory against the Cardinals, the Hokies rushing game will likely have to play a significant role in the game.
When Louisville Has the Ball
Louisville running back Javian Hawkins was named the ACC Running Back of the Week, after his impressive performance against Florida State. Hawkins finished with 174 yards, which was the second-highest rushing yards for his career, and three touchdowns. Hawkins' performance took pressure off of Malik Cunningham, who Cunningham ended up going 16-of-24 for 278 yards and two touchdowns in the victory.
Virginia Tech rushing defense hasn't been among the best in the nation this season. The Hokies are giving up 194.6 yards per game on the ground. In its lost to Wake Forest, Virginia Tech gave up 236 yards, including 129 yards to Christian Beal-Smith. Stopping Hawkins will be the key for Virginia Tech, as Lousiville's offense goes as their rushing attack does. This also opens up opportunities for Tutu Atwell, who caught three receptions for 129 yards and one touchdown against Florida State.
Virginia Tech is the favorite in this game, but this is certainly a game Louisville should feel good about. The Cardinals have a high-powered offense with Cunningham, Hawkins, and Atwell.
Louisville has faced tougher competition than Virginia as three of their four losses were to ranked times at the time, and two of those losses were a combined eight points. Although neither one of these defenses is great, the Cardinals' offense will be the difference in a game that could light up the scoreboard.
Prediction: Louisville 37, Virginia Tech 31
Podcast: Week 9 Preview and Predictions
— 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.