Micale Cunningham and the Cardinals open their season against the Hilltoppers from Conference USA
WKU posted a 3-9 record in 2018 but finished 9-4 last season, including a 23-20 victory over Western Michigan in the First Responder Bowl.
A year after stumbling to a 2-10 record, the Cardinals went 8-5 last season, capping things off with a 38-28 victory over Mississippi State in the Music City Bowl. Second-year head coach Scott Satterfield and his Louisville program will hope for bigger things in an abbreviated college football season due to COVID-19.
Saturday will mark the 34th meeting between the Hilltoppers and the Cardinals. The two teams met last season with Louisville coming out on top, 38-21.
WKU at Louisville
Kickoff: Saturday, Sept. 12 at 8 p.m. ET
TV: ACC Network
Spread: Louisville -11.5
When WKU Has the Ball
The Hilltoppers' offense is led by prolific running back Gaej Walker. Last season, Walker rushed for 1,208 yards and eight touchdowns and could be a factor in the Doak Walker Award conversation.
WKU will have a new quarterback running their offense. Maryland transfer Tyrrell Pigrome has been named the starter. Pigrome notched seven starts during his four seasons at Maryland, completing 56.7 percent of his passes for 1,777 yards and nine touchdowns with 10 interceptions. He also ran for 617 yards and eight scores.
Pigrome will help guide an offense that finished No. 40 nationally last year in passing yards per game with 259.3.
Defense was a problem all of last season for Louisville, finishing 102nd in yards allowed per game (440.1) and 111th in points (33.4).
When Louisville Has the Ball
The Cardinals' attack will be led by junior quarterback Micale Cunningham. Last season, Cunningham passed for 2,061 yards, 22 touchdowns against only five interceptions. He also rushed for 482 yards and six touchdowns, so WKU's defense will need to be on their toes against the dual-threat signal-caller.
In offensive coordinator Dwayne Ledford's second season, Louisville's offense could be put up even bigger numbers than it did in 2019 when the Cardinals finished in the top 30 nationally in total yards, rushing yards and points per game. Wide receiver Tutu Atwell led the nation with 18.2 yards per catch as he recorded 69 receptions with 11 touchdowns.
There's also Javian Hawkins, a sophomore who impressed in his first season by finishing third in the ACC with 1,525 rushing yards to go along with nine touchdowns. Louisville has the horses, but WKU's defense can't be overlooked, not after ranking 24th nationally in yards allowed per game and 22nd in points. The Hilltoppers return nine starters on that side of the ball, including defensive end DeAngelo Malone, the reigning Conference USA Defensive Player of the Year who recorded 11.5 sacks last season.
Louisville shouldn't take WKU lightly as the Hilltoppers return a talented, veteran defense that ranked among the nation's best last season. If the Cardinals play up to their potential, they should win this game easily.
Micale Cunningham and Javian Hawkins will create a ton of problems for WKU's defense. Then when the Hilltoppers bring extra men in the box, the Cardinals have the ability to throw the ball down the field to different targets, the primary one being Tutu Atwell.
It could be a close game early, but the home team should be able to pull away in the second half.
Prediction: Louisville 48, WKU 27
— 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.