How to Watch: Kickoff at 12:20, ACC Network
Spread: Louisville -3
Last Time: Despite three first half fumbles, Louisville rebounded with 41 unanswered points in the second half, 34 of them in the final quarter. The sixth-ranked Cardinals held the Deacons without a touchdown, forced three turnovers and allowed 214 total yards. Brandon Radcliff led the way with 141 yards and a career-high three touchdowns, as Louisville won 44-12.
Louisville leads the all-time series 4-0.
Meet Wake Forest:
After four seasons, head coach Dave Clawson has seemingly turned Wake Forest football around. The fourth-year head coach led the Deacons to their first bowl appearance in eight years, upsetting #23 Temple in the Military Bowl.
Since then, Wake has had an impressive start, but enters tomorrow’s game on a three-game losing streak. It should be noted, however, that their losses have been by one possession against Florida State, and two against Clemson and Georgia Tech.
Tomorrow’s game will be amplified with the much discussed “Wakeyleaks” controversy that happened during last year’s game between the Cards and the Deacons.
Players to Watch:
- WR Greg Dortch
I came into studying Wake Forest tape wanting to see fourth-year starter John Wolford (QB) and Tabari Hines. I ended up being most impressed with this freshman and what he adds to the table. The 5’9″ receiver adds a receiver capable of playing inside or outside, but more importantly, has the route running to get open. Dortch leads the Deacons in receptions (43), yards (555) and touchdowns (five).
In his last three games, Dortch has 23 catches for 413 yards, including a ten-catch performance against Florida State.
- DL Duke Ejiofor
For the Cardinals, they face another solid player on the defensive line. Ejiofor also can play inside and outside at his position, and has solid finesse moves to get around blockers. In a conference replete with quality pass-rushers, Ejiofor is just another guy you can add to that list. Ejiofor has 5.5 sacks so far with 13 tackles for loss in 2017, but can also disrupt passes at the line.
- DB Jessie Bates III
Losing linebacker Marquel Lee to graduation left a void in the Wake defense, and the sophomore defensive back has stepped up in a lot of ways for the team. Bates had 100 total tackles last year, and primarily helps Wake as a reliable run stopper in the secondary. Bates had a forced fumble in last year’s game, and has the lateral speed to play Lamar Jackson in the running game like Derwin James did last week.
- Louisville Running Game v. Wake Forest Front Seven
Last week, Louisville had perhaps its best overall game running the football for two reasons. They committed to a run-heavy scheme, parlaying Bonnafon inside runs into chunk plays with Lamar Jackson’s read-option game. Second, the overall run blocking was stout, as the line created holes to allow Louisville to tally 293 yards on the ground. Jackson, Bonnafon and even a returning Dae Williams all found the endzone on magnificent blocks from multiple positions.
It should be said here that Louisville should look to run the ball again tomorrow. The Cards had 346 yards in last year’s contest, thanks to 100-yard games from Jackson and Brandon Radcliff. Wake Forest is also 88th in rushing defense (182.7 yards per game), and despite Ejiofor’s playmaking ability, have given up at least 150 yards on the ground in their three-game losing streak.
- Turnover Battle
Louisville has been prone to turnovers for a while, as many are aware. The Cards had three of them in the first half last year against Wake Forest, but their defense was ample enough to hold them to only four field goals.
This time around, Louisville may not be so lucky if they cough up the ball like they did last year. Wake Forest’s offense is better with guys like Dortch available, and the Deacons could score touchdowns this time around. They’ll need to force some turnovers of their own to give the offense some quality field position. In their three-game skid, Wake is neutral in their turnover margin and Wolford has thrown his only two picks in that span.
- John Wolford v. Louisville D
Wolford has been solid in his fourth year as the Deacons’ starting quarterback (15 total touchdowns to two interceptions), but has struggled mightily against the Cardinals in his career. In three starts against Louisville, Wolford is 38/75 for 394 yards with one touchdowns and six interceptions.
Containing Wolford’s dual-threat ability will be key to stopping the Wake Forest offense. Dave Clawson likes to run a lot of inside runs or options, using Wolford and a stable of running backs (Arkeem Byrd, Cade Carney & Matt Colburn). Those runs usually set up quick play action passes to Dortch or Cameron Serigne. It’ll be on Louisville to keep Wake Forest’s running game in check, and force Wake Forest into third-and-long situations.
One stat to keep in mind here; Wake Forest is 108th in “opportunity rate” and 94th in stuff rate.
Other Things to Watch
- Dave Clawson Playcalling: Will Wake Forest take more shots downfield?
- Duke Ejiofor v. Louisville interior linemen
- Greg Dortch & Tabari Hines v. Louisville secondary
- Health status of Stacy Thomas and Jaire Alexander