In preparation for Georgia Tech’s showdown against Louisville, we interviewed Big Red Louie expert Jacob Lane.
We asked Big Red Louie expert Jacob Lane six questions regarding tomorrow’s game so you know what to expect out of the Louisville Cardinals once toe meets leather.
Question 1: How would you describe how the Cardinals performance so far this season? Obviously, the outside world can tell it’s been a tough season so far but what is your expert take on the season so far?
Jacob: It’s been very frustrating, to say the least. Coming into the season we knew that there would be a lot of questions that would have to be answered, especially with the loss of former Heisman Trophy winner Lamar Jackson, and first rounder Jaire Alexander. But we expected that Bobby Petrino would be able to make it right with a high power offense that featured a former four-star QB, several dynamic, big time playmaking wide receivers and a much improved offensive line. However, the play calling has been erratic, the quarterback play hasn’t been to the level we’d thought, and even with a new defensive coordinator on board in Brian VanGorder, there have been major struggles. The staff has major question marks around it and it’s fair for the fanbase to point blame at the head coach. No one saw this team at 2-3 through five games, and especially not to finish the season with a record less than 8-4, but at this point, that’s where things are headed.
Question 2: The Cardinals have just one FBS win this season and was blown out by UVA before narrowly losing to Florida State last weekend, why are they struggling so much this season?
Jacob: It’s a combination of things. Like I mentioned before, the play-calling and QB play have been two big struggles. Petrino has pulled QB’s quickly, rotated running back’s rather fast, and playmakers haven’t stepped up. I think the majority of the problems sit with the offense, and with them not being able to move the ball or score points, it’s put way too much pressure on the defense.
Question 3: Everyone knew Lamar Jackson was going to be a big loss but did everyone perhaps underestimate just how much he was going to be missed? How have the quarterbacks been so far this season and do we expect Jawon Pass to be the starter on Saturday?
Jacob: Louisville has already played two QB’s in Jawon “Puma” Pass, a former high school All-American, and dual-threat redshirt freshman Malik Cunningham, both of whom have struggled mightily. Petrino has tried to flip-flop between a traditional, run-heavy offense and the more modern RPO scheme but neither has been successful due to the struggle of the QBs. Pass is clearly Louisville’s best option as you saw during the first half against Florida State, but he has been injury and turnover prone so far. Against Georgia Tech I fully expect Petrino to try and get his big playmakers at WR involved in Jaylen Smith and Dez Fitzpatrick and force Georgia Tech to stop the pass. If he can do that, and get Trey Smith and Hassan Hall going at running back, Louisville could pull out a victory.
Question 4: The offense has had its struggles, that’s no secret but what should Tech fans expect out of the Louisville defense?
Jacob: If you check out our most recent piece over at Big Red Louie, we detail the big statistical categories for both the offense and defense. The numbers say that Louisville will likely give up a lot of rushing yards and a lot of points against a very potent Georgia Tech offense living by their “bend but don’t break” mentality. The Cards struggled to stop the last dual-threat QB they faced in Virginia’s Bryce Perkins and has given up 170+ rushing yards in every game this season, aside from their most recent matchup against FSU, so my guess is they’ll struggle with TaQuon Marshall and the plethora of Tech’s running backs. However, new defensive coordinator, Brian VanGorder, has a lot of experience matching up against triple-option offenses and should have a good game plan ready. I do expect the Cards to be disciplined, tackle the best they have all season, and be mindful of filling gaps. However, with injuries to Jon Greenard (top defensive end) and speedy linebacker CJ Avery, I think Louisville will succumb to the run game and give up a lot of yards and points.
Question 5: Who are players on both sides the ball to watch out for?
Jacob: Offensively I would say watch out for Jaylen Smith, Louisville’s senior star receiver. Smith was primed for a big season after deciding to return instead of head off to the NFL draft, but an emergency appendectomy three weeks before Louisville’s season opener has kept him from looking like his normal self. Until now. Smith had a huge game against Florida State, along with his counterpart Dez Fitzpatrick, and now looks to build upon that against a secondary of Georgia Tech that’s allowed several receivers to have big games this season. Puma Pass has struggled to get his top weapons going, but if he can do so against Tech, watch out.
Defensively, I think the biggest player to watch out for will be PJ Blue at linebacker. Blue had a breakout performance against FSU, where he led the team with eight tackles. He is an extremely fast and instinctive player for the Cards, and going up against the triple option, where Tech will be trying to get the edge all night, a big game from Blue could be huge for the defense.
Question 6: What are your predictions for the game?
Louisville has the 92nd best rush defense in the country, currently giving up almost 170 yards per game and going up against Georgia Tech’s #1 ranked rushing attack.. To me, that combination spells disaster for Louisville’s defense. One thing you have to do against Georgia Tech to win is one, having long possessions and take good care of the football and two, score a lot of points. Unfortunately for Louisville they really haven’t been able to do either against Alabama and four other subpar and below opponents. I think Louisville’s offense will play well, but if Georgia Tech can force two or more turnovers they win easy.
Score prediction: Georgia Tech 41 – Louisville 24