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No. 17 Louisville Takes on No. 24 NC State in Thursday Night Battle

NCAA Football Louisville Cardinals NC State Wolfpack

Carter-Finley Stadium will host two ranked teams for the first time since 2000 on Thursday night when the No. 17 Louisville Cardinals ┬átake on No. 24 NC State Wolfpack. This game starts off another great week of college football and should be exciting to watch. Both teams are in need of a few quality wins and this game will definitely provide that for one of these teams. The Cardinals are 3-0 against the Wolfpack since joining the ACC and have won six of the team’s seven meetings all-time.

Louisville comes into this game at 4-1 losing their only game to No. 2 Clemson. The Cardinals haven’t won pretty this season against power five schools, but they have been effective. The Wolfpack lost their opener to South Carolina, but bounced back from the loss and has won four straight. Beating Florida State on the road was huge for this Wolfpack team.

Reigning Heisman Trophy winner, Lamar Jackson has been solid this season completing 64 percent of his passes for 1,636 yards and 13 touchdowns. He also leads the Cardinals in rushing with 437 yards on 72 carries, and 5 touchdowns. While all eyes will be in Jackson, don’t overlook Ryan Finley for the Wolfpack. Finley has completed 71 percent of his passes for 1,409 yards, and 9 touchdowns. He hasn’t thrown a pick in 192 attempts this year. Louisville will switch up pro-style sets on offense while NC State will play a fast-paced spread as their strategy to cause mismatches in the passing game.

The Wolfpack defense is giving up 284 yards through the air which will benefit Jackson. Louisville is averaging 365 passing yards per game. The Cardinals will be without top receiver Jaylen Smith again, but Seth Dawkins and Dez Fitzpatrick have filled in nicely. Fitzpatrick has 16 catches, 280 yards, and 6 touchdowns this season. In spite of giving up a good chunk of passing yards, the Wolfpack secondary have made some big plays on defense. Cornerback, Johnathan Alston has 3 picks on the year. Shawn Boone is solid at the nickel position.

The key to stopping Jackson for the Wolfpack will be for the defense to get a lot of pressure on the mobile quarterback. Jackson is exceptional outside the pocket, but he does force his throws under pressure and that can cause problems for Louisville’s offense. Defensive end, Bradley Chubb, can definitely bring the pressure for the Wolfpack. Chubb is 10th in NCAA football with 5.5 sacks this season. A potent rushing defense should help contain Jackson. He’ll get his yards, but the goal is to prevent big plays on the ground.

Defense has been a strongpoint for Louisville. The Cardinals are allowing 317 total yards per game. Jonathan Greenard and James Hearns combine for 7 sacks this season. All-American contnerback, Jaime Alexander has been out the past four games, but is practicing with the team. If Alexander can go, it will be a huge gain for the Cardinals. Finley likes to spread the ball around for the Wolfpack  so the Cardinals secondary and linebackers need to stay disciplined in their coverage schemes.

The game will be close, but the Cardinals have the advantage in the end. Lamar Jackson was stopped by Clemson, but the Wolfpack is nowhere near the team on defense that Clemson is. If NC State can establish the running game and wear down Louisville’s defensive front, things could go their way late in the game. The game is scheduled to kick off at 8pm est. You can watch it on ESPN.