Time and Date: Saturday, September 12 at 8 PM ET
Network: ACC Network
Location: Cardinal Stadium — Louisville, KY
Spread: Louisville (-11.5)
All-time series: Louisville leads, 21-12
Last meeting: Louisville 38, Western Kentucky 21 — September 14, 2019
To begin a strange season in college football, the Louisville Cardinals and Western Kentucky Hilltoppers begin their respective campaigns with an interstate matchup against one another. This primetime matchup will feature two coaches on the rise as well as a number of players looking to make their mark in a primetime matchup.
Many Kentucky households boast alumni of both schools, so televisions and laptops across the Bluegrass State will be tuned into this one with a few fingers of the good bourbon (Woodford or better, please).
Western Kentucky Outlook
Tops’ head coach Tyson Helton seemed optimistic about his team’s development following his team’s mock scrimmage last weekend.
Defensively, the Tops’ main selling point is reigning C-USA defensive player of the year DeAngelo Malone. The Atlanta product tallied 11.5 total sacks last year and could be trouble for Louisville’s relatively inexperienced offensive line. WKU’s defensive backfield, on the other hand, have plenty of experience under their belts. The Tops had the fourth best pass defense in C-USA last year allowing 211.6 yards per game.
Offensively, a lot rests on the shoulders of transfer quarterback Tyrell Pigrome. The former Maryland Terrapin makes his first start as a Hilltopper this weekend. Of his new starting quarterback, Helton had this to say at this pregame presser:
“I’ve been very impressed with him. He has managed the offense well through Fall camp. He’s a mature guy. Doesn’t seem to get rattled very easily. I think he has the ability to make big plays happen, whether he’s throwing the ball deep down the field or running around and creating play. I just like his calmness, his demeanor, and his maturity.”
Getting Pigrome comfortable will be perhaps the biggest key to success for the WKU offense. Luckily for him, he also has a running back to lean on in Gaej Walker who ran for over 1200 yards in 2019.
Cardinals head coach Scott Satterfield has his program trending upwards after an 8-5 season in 2019. In the year prior, Bobby Petrino led the Cardinals to a 2-10 overall record.
Part of the Cardinals’ rejuvenation in 2019 came from a big boost to the offense. Louisville had the second ranked scoring offense in the ACC behind Clemson with 33.1 points per game. Junior receiver Tutu Atwell totaled more receiving yards than any other player in the conference last season with 1272. The Cards also have talent at the other main receiver spot with fifth year senior Dez Fitzpatrick.
On defense, redshirt senior outside linebacker Rodjay Burns will be one to watch. Burns was second on the team in tackles last season with 83 tackles and proved to be a problem on the blitz for opposing offenses.
On facing WKU in the season opener, Satterfield had this to say:
“They did an outstanding job last year and won nine games. They do have a veteran team coming back you mentioned a new quarterback, but as you look at their team, I think really on both sides of the ball, a lot of guys that have played a lot of football games, and particularly look at these seniors...I think their coaching staff is there now has done an outstanding job. We know they’re going to come in here and have a really good football team.”
The Cardinals have enough of an edge in talent to carry them through this one. That being said, the Cardinals are known for slow starts both to games and their seasons at large. Expect Satterfield’s squad to make some costly mistakes early, but then pull away in the second half.
Prediction: Louisville 35, WKU 24