LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Now we will discover precisely how much improvement Scott Satterfield and his staff have coached into the University of Louisville football team.
Boston College at home Saturday, followed by Wake Forest on the road Oct. 12.
Two games the Cardinals can win against a pair of programs that defeated Louisville by a combined 39 points in consecutive weeks last season.
Louisville sits at 2-2, the same record the Cardinals flashed after four games last season.
Boston College and Wake handled Louisville later on the 2018 calendar, after U of L had lost three straight to Virginia, Florida State and Clemson. It was the Wake game, when the Deacons pinned 591 yards on Louisville, that signaled the Cards were in complete surrender.
The signs are more encouraging this season. At 1 p.m. Monday, they were favored by 4 1/2 points against BC. The Sagarin ratings currently project Wake as roughly 10 1/2 points better than Louisville.
Wake is 5-0, a newcomer (No. 22) to the Associated Press Top 25 this week. But the Demon Deacons have won twice by a field goal. Sagarin ranks their schedule only the 85th toughest in the nation and 11th toughest in the Atlantic Coast Conference.
BC has wins over Richmond, an FBS program, Rutgers, which fired its coach, and Virginia Tech, which has an embattled coach. Satterfield would probably prefer that nobody tells his guys BC gave up 48 points at home and lost to Kansas.
It starts Saturday -- and Satterfield knows there is no hocus-pocus on what Louisville must do to win the game.
Stop Boston College's running game.
Run defense has been one of the most significant improvements that Louisville has made this season. The Cards have allowed 135.8 yards per game, cutting the average from last season by more than half.
But Boston College has overtaken Louisville as the top running attack in the ACC. The Eagles average 252 yards per game. The Eagles have rolled to at least 228 rushing yards in four straight games and have averaged better than 5 yards per carry this season.
"We know they're going to be a very physical football team," Satterfield said. "Maybe the top rushing team in the conference."
A.J. Dillon has been the top running back in the league for three consecutive seasons. The only ACC player who has out-rushed him has been Lamar Jackson. He has averaged better than 125 yards per game and 5.1 yards per carry this season.
Dillon is 6 feet and 250 pounds. His backup, David Bailey, is 6-1 and 240 pounds. Bailey has also averaged better than 5 yards per carry. Satterfield compared them to a pair of linebackers. He said that the problem with tackling big backs is that they're usually capable of falling forward and creating second-and-five situations.
"This team can go over 300 yards if you're not fit (in the schematic gaps) and tackling," Satterfield said.
"It can be demoralizing. Once you have everybody in the box you can't go grab more guys and get them in the box, too … We'll see how we stack up stopping the run this week."
Satterfield said that he certainly expected quarterback Malik Cunningham and probably Jawon Pass to play against the Eagles. Both guys have been available for more work in practice, which Louisville resumed Sunday after Satterfield gave his players Friday and Saturday off.
He also said that as much as his team's defense has improved there is another upgrade that unit needs to make -- creating turnovers.
The Cardinals rank 12th in the ACC in turnover margin, sitting at minus-4 in that category after four games. The Louisville defense is the only one in the ACC and one of two FBS programs without a pass interception. The other is Rice -- and Rice is 0-5.
"We've got to get better in the secondary," Satterfield said.
Boston College and Wake Forest will be perfect measuring sticks to determine how much this team has improved.
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