Conference: Atlantic Coast Conference--ACC
Record 9-3 Overall, 7-1 Conference
The Purple and Gold will be playing in the Citrus Bowl in Orlando, Florida on New Year’s Eve. Awaiting them will be the enigmatic Louisville Cardinals. On a good day Louisville can play toe to toe with teams such as Alabama, Ohio State, and Clemson. On a bad day they can lose to Harvard, not taking anything away from Harvard.
Bobby Petrino is in his second stint as head coach with Louisville. Tiger fans should remember Petrino when he coached at Arkansas. Petrino is usually not big on defense. However, the 2016 Cardinals are not the worst defensive team in college football. Louisville is 12th in the nation in total defense, allowing 4.6 yards per play and 2.99 yards per down rushing. The Cardinals gave up 316.3 yards per game on defense. Louisville had 84 tackles for losses, tfls, for the season, an average of seven per game.
Louisville has playmakers on defense.
Junior outside linebacker James Hearns had 11 tfls, including eight sacks for the season. Senior outside linebacker Devonte Fields had eight tfls and five sacks during the season. Senior tackle DeAngelo Brown chipped in with 12 tfls and three sacks in the regular season campaign.
Senior inside linebacker Keith Kelsey was the leading tackler on the team with 80, 43 unassisted. Junior inside linebacker Stacey Thomas was the second on the team in tackles with 74, 27 solos, and six tfls.
Senior Josh Harvey-Clemons, a safety who stands 6’5 and weighs 228 pounds, had 61 tackles, 38 unassisted, and six tfls for the campaign.
The biggest playmaker of them all, however, is sophomore quarterback Lamar Jackson. The 2016 Heisman trophy winner passed for 3,390 yards during the 2016 season. He threw 30 touchdowns with nine interceptions. He averaged 16.4 yards per throwing completion while averaging 282.5 yards passing per contest. Jackson rushed for 1,538 yards and 21 touchdowns. He averaged 6.5 yards per run, and rushed for 128.2 yards per game. It would seem like, after all this, Jackson would not have time to do anything else, but he did have time to do other things.
One of them was to throw the ball to senior wide receiver Jabari Staples, who had 35 receptions for 593 yards in 2016, averaging 16.9 yards per catch.
Senior James Quick had 42 receptions for 688 yards and six touchdowns, averaging 16.4 yards per reception.
Sophomore Jaylen Smith had 27 receptions for 599 yards and six touchdowns. Smith averaged 22.2 yards per catch.
Senior tight end Cole Hikutini had 49 receptions for 656 yards and a team leading eight receiving touchdowns.
Senior running back Brandon Radcliff rushed for 877 yards for the season. He averaged 6.68 yards per carry, which led the Atlantic Coast Conference.
The Cardinal offensive line is anchored by senior three year starter Tobijah Hughley at center and two year sophomore starter Geron Christian at left tackle.
Louisville is second in the nation in total offense. They averaged 558.8 yards per game in the regular season, averaging 7.46 yard per play. The Cardinals have accumulated 6705 total yards of offense.
The Cardinals do not fool around with the ball. Their touchdown drives average between three minutes and three minutes and thirty seconds.
So, which Louisville team will show up? Hopefully, the Purple and Gold can deal with anything the Cardinals have to ofeer.