LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Five days before the University of Louisville football team will open its 2020 season against Western Kentucky in Cardinal Stadium, I have a critical partial score to report:


That is how many Cardinal players head coach Scott Satterfield said will not be available against the Hilltoppers Saturday night because of injury or the novel coronavirus.

"We do not," Satterfield said when he was asked if the Cardinals will be without any players against WKU.

In a relentlessly unusual season where TCU was forced to postpone its opener against SMU because of a spike in positive tests, that's a remarkable number.

In a season where Tennessee was forced to switch from a scrimmage to a practice last Saturday because the Vols were without 44 players because of the virus, that's big, big news.

In a season where the Big Ten, Pac-12 and two other leagues have (currently) canceled their fall seasons, Louisville being all healthy will make Nebraska football fans howl louder and longer.

"We've been fortunate," Satterfield said Monday.

"We've got our fingers crossed and hope it stays that way for the rest of the season."

Hope does not drive the best college football teams. Planning and preparation does. Louisville is obviously doing something right.

As the Western game approaches with the plan to compete in front of 12,000 fans, Satterfield said that it remained essential for his players to follow the football and health and safety game plans.

Satterfield said preparation would become more "difficult if it (an outbreak) happens closer to the game."

Players must wear masks and remain socially distanced during team meetings, which have been moved throughout the Howard Schnellenberger Football Complex as necessary.

Players are taking a larger percentage of classes on-line rather than in person. They have been encouraged to remain at the practice complex and their living quarters. They live in suites but have separate bedrooms and restrooms.

"They really haven't gotten out into the public," Satterfield said.

Satterfield said that versatility will remain critical. Players have been asked to learn multiple positions in case the virus makes an appearance later in the week.

For the Cardinals, the most vulnerable areas remain the offensive line as well as the kicking game.

With quarterback Micale Cunnigham, halfback Javian Hawkins, receiver Tutu Atwell and other talented players returning on offense, Louisville should be primed to increase its scoring average of 33.1 points per game.

If they can block -- and stay healthy.

The losses of starting tackles Mekhi Becton (New York Jets) and Tyler Haycraft (New York Giants practice squad) left considerable holes on each end of the Cards' offensive front. Satterfield said the plan was to rotate six guys in the five spots.

Punter Mason King and kicker Blanton Creque have also departed. Satterfield was not prepared to say if James Turner or Brock Travelstead will handle the place-kicking or if Travelstead or Ryan Harwell, a junior-college transfer, will punt.

He did confirm that in a season where the Cardinals return 18 starters, those are two areas where he has questions.

Not that Satterfield was prepared to announce the Cardinals' starting lineup. On Monday morning, U of L announced it would not release the traditional two-deep depth chart until Western Kentucky coach Tyson Helton made a similar release with the Hilltoppers.

What does Las Vegas say?

The Cardinals are favored by 11 1/2, a year after Louisville defeated WKU, 38-21, in Nashville.

ESPN's Football Power Index puts Louisville's win probability at 88.4 percent.

Jeff Sagarin's computer formula favors Louisville by 21.2.

"We're much more advanced at the start of this season compared to the start of last season," Satterfield said.

"We do have so many guys who are back that we feel we were able to pick up where we left off last year and then also build upon that …

"…we're in a much better place (than last year). We're not starting at square zero. We've much more advanced."

With every player currently available.

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