The UCF Knights and Louisville Cardinals face off on Friday night, and there’s no better way to understand the opposition than to ask our SB Nation compatriots from Card Chronicle.
Stepping up to the place is John, also known as @CardinaIStrong on Twitter, and a writer for the Chronicle.
You can see my Q&A with him about UCF here.
Let’s get to it.
1. What do you think the Cardinals have to do Friday night to beat the Knights?
I’m gonna keep it simple and say the offense just has to get things rolling.
Louisville lost some next level weapons from last year in Tutu Atwell and Dez Fitzpatrick at wideout and lost their starting back (Javian Hawkins) to the league as well. Even with an “offensive mind” like Satterfield and a returning QB in Malik Cunningham, they still are looking for guys to step up in key positions and make plays.
Another big issue so far is the performance of the offensive line. They have 7-8 guys they can situationally throw out there with a good mix of vets and newbies but man, they are not gellin’ yet. A performance from them on Friday that gives Cunningham some time to make it through his progressions would do wonders. My fear is we could be in another mid to upper 30’s shootout on the scoreboard.
2. Who are the key players (one on offense, one on defense) to Louisville’s success?
This is where you typically do a [insert QB/WR/RB name here] type answer, but not me Jeff. I’m not built like that.
I dig. Carry on.
I’m going to feed off my last answer and hit you with the center position on the offensive line which will likely be either Cole Bentley or Bryan Hudson. The last two weeks the middle of the line has been getting pushed around like the AAC does UConn football, and it’s infuriating to watch. The middle has to tighten up not only in the passing game but ol’ Satt loves to run outside zone and you’d be stunned the amount of times the middle of the defensive line blows up those plays going to the edge. The trenches don’t get much attention unless things are going bad...and let’s just say they are getting some attention.
On the other side of the ball, I need Monty Montgomery to break off the leash and create some chaos. The ILB had little impact against Ole Miss due to a targeting call that resulted in his ejection (one of about six that game), but came back last week with five tackles and a QB hurry. I need him to get a sack or two, force a fumble, get a pick, something to create some energy on that side of the ball. He’s been great in the past getting into the backfield with limited opportunities (he wasn’t a starter until this year) so I’m looking for that production to continue.
3. UCF’s win at Louisville in 2013 was a landmark moment for the program, especially leading up to this past week. But what is the memory of that game from Louisville fans’ perspective?
My memory is that it was a crap game, Jeff. Not too thrilled about even eight years later.
That’s too bad.
The Cards were coming off a Sugar Bowl win the season prior, and had this “holdover” year in the AAC before jumping to the ACC, and many (myself included) expected them to run the table, and have an outside shot at a championship, but at a minimum a back-to-back trip to the BCS. The program was riding high, Teddy ‘two gloves’ Bridgewater was captain of the ship, and Charlie Strong had the program moving upward again.
If they go 13-0 that year I think Charlie stills goes to Texas, but the decision would have been tougher as they entered the ACC. If I remember right Teddy had like 350 in the air and a couple touchdowns but the Cards couldn’t stop Bortles or Storm Johnson to save their lives. Still stings.
4. Friday night is our first game up there since that evening. We saw there were some issues regarding concessions and ticket lines that were so bad that Louisville’s A.D. had to publicly apologize. Have those issues been handled and what should UCF fans traveling to Louisville be aware of?
If you want to know the current state of Louisville athletics look no further than fans losing their absolute minds about concession issues and video board operators.
Things haven’t been all that great around the athletic department the last few years from scandals, to NCAA investigations, to attempted extortion, to under-performing football and basketball teams. You toss in having to wait over an hour to get a beer in the first home game and people are ticked.
It was a big issue for sure due to staff shortages, not accepting cash due to COVID, card readers not working, running out of food, etc, etc, etc. It was so bad the AD came out this week with a video apology and a letter to season ticket holders. You can read all about it here, but the SparkNotes version is there doing a bunch of stuff to fix it and you guys get 50% off drinks until halftime. Our pain is your reward.
5. Give us a best-case scenario and a worst-case scenario for Louisville for the game, plus a score prediction.
Best case scenario, Cards come out hot, the offense gets in sync and the defense turns the corner we’ve been waiting to see for about the last 5-6 games. The Cards look like the team many hoped they would be this year with a veteran QB playmaker and some transfers on defense that are out there making plays. Louisville jumps out to a big lead, holds off a little push from UCF and then closes the door late with a couple turnovers. If we walk out of there Friday with a 35-14 win or something along those lines you can charge $20 a beer on the way out of the stadium and sell quite a few.
Worst case...is bad. We see a repeat of the Ole Miss game where the offense sputters, we see unimaginative play calling which UCF eats up, and the defense bends a bit and then breaks under the tempo of the Knights. Louisville gets down early and the “we don’t’ play great from behind” offense looks even worse as we still call runs in the A Gap on 3rd and 9. If UCF gets out big early you will 100% hear some boos on Friday and those boos will likely turn into ghosts in the seats the remainder of the season.
This is a huge game for how 2021 might play out here in Louisville and a demoralizing loss could spell big trouble. Worst case...45-17 UCF, and when the Cards travel to the ‘Bounce House’ next season they may have a new coach leading the charge.