Where to Watch: 7:00 p.m, ESPN2
Betting Line: LOU -35, O/U 55 (ESPN)
Last Time: Forcing five turnovers and holding Wake Forest to a completion under 33%, Louisville escaped Winston-Salem with a 20-19 win over the Demon Deacons. Lamar Jackson had a stellar night passing, going 19-for-26 for 207 yards and two touchdowns, both to Jamari Staples (10 rec., 133 yards). However, Jackson would leave the game early due to injury.
Louisville is undefeated in the series, holding a 3-0 record against Wake Forest (including the 2006 Orange Bowl).
About the Wake Forest Demon Deacons
Entering tomorrow night’s game at Louisville, the Demon Deacons are 6-3, making them bowl eligible for the first time since 2011. Wake Forest accomplished that by winning five of their first six games, including solid road wins against Duke and Indiana. Other than a 33-16 loss against NC State, WF has hung in there against every team, including a 17-6 loss at Florida State.
The fact that Wake Forest was able to hold FSU down to only 17 points on the road is a huge testament to their head coach, Dave Clawson. But they’ve also had a lot of close games, mostly due to a Wake offense that is 119th in the nation. Their defense, however, has kept the Deacons alive in almost every game up to this point, including a +8 in turnover margin (tied for 13th in the nation). You will always stay alive if you can put the ball back in your team’s hands, and that’s where Clawson’s defense has excelled up to this point.
Players to Watch
- MLB Marquel Lee: There’s a lot to like about Lee as a linebacker in Clawson’s defense, which is ranked 35th in yards per game. Lee is a solid playmaker who is averaging at one tackle for loss per game, and he leads the team with 71 total tackles. He will likely be the point-man to stop Jackson’s seemingly unstoppable option attack, and he might surprise Louisville fans with his occasional penchant for playmaking with a tackle for loss or forced fumble.
- WR Cortez Lewis: One of the main factors for Louisville’s one point win last year was Wake’s ability to connect on the deep ball, hitting two long touchdown passes to shell shock the Cardinals early. Lewis is probably their best deep threat, and he had a 78-yard touchdown reception last year. He and Tabari Hines will likely be the main targets for John Wolford, who is now a three-year starter at quarterback.
- S Jessie Bates: Bates is on his way to an All-ACC bid, with five interceptions on the season as a freshman. Bates is a great ball-hawk capable of sniffing out Jackson’s misdirection and preventing the deep ball, which Louisville has continued to excel at in the last three weeks. Expect Bates to potentially “bracket” against outside threats to help cornerbacks defend the likes of Jaylen Smith and Jamari Staples.
Keys to the Game
- Win the turnover battle. This is a good opportunity for the Louisville defense, who had immense success against Wake Forest’s passing game with forcing pressure and subsequent turnovers. Wolford has had issues with holding onto the ball too long in the pocket, but he can escape and create plays with his feet. Wolford’s 5:7 TD-INT ratio could signal that Louisville’s secondary could have another monster outing. Meanwhile, Louisville will have to continue to play efficient football
- Will Staples or Smith dominate?: Last year’s game was one where Jamari Staples clearly had the most impact, netting ten catches for 133 yards and two touchdowns. Against a Wake Forest group that is only 78th in passing defense, this may be a good opportunity for him or Jaylen Smith to have a monster game. Smith might be another guy to watch, as the sophomore has netted a touchdown in six of the last seven games. Smith had a career-high six catches for 123 yards and a touchdown at Boston College last week, who had a top ten defense entering that game.
- Interior run D must be strong: With Wake Forest, you won’t see a lot of misdirection or outside runs that Louisville has been exceptional at, partially due to Wake’s lack of speed there and the general scheme that Clawson runs. This is a game where Louisville’s interior running game can return to form, and they will need to against Wolford and likely starting running back Matt Colburn. If Louisville can keep the running game bottled, that will help Louisville’s pass defense to prevent any deep plays that plagued Louisville in last year’s game.
Justin Krueger: 45-7. I found it interesting that Louisville was favored by a larger margin than Wake Forest had allowed all season, even if Wake has not allowed more than 33 points. But I will go against my usual instinct and take Louisville to go over 33 and cover the spread. Louisville’s defense should be up to bat against a Wake offense that has been bottom ten in the nation, statistically. Expect another quality outing from the Louisville offense, as they get a fine tune-up heading into Thursday’s night game at Houston.
Jeremy Wahman: 55-17
Jacob Pratt: 52-10
Mitch Motley: 63-13
Jeff Nunn: 48-13
Paige Sherrard: 28-10