LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – It’s game day in Louisville, and perhaps the biggest game day the city has ever seen in at least one sense. U of L officials say that more than 60,000 tickets have been sold for Monday night's game against Notre Dame in Cardinal Stadium, which would make it the largest home crowd in Louisville football history.
School officials are opening the tailgate lots at noon for the 8 p.m. kickoff and will offer happy hour drink prices beginning three hours before the game in the hopes of getting the crowd into its seats early.
That may be an easier task than the one facing first-year coach Scott Satterfield and his staff, which faces a team that some think could be a bit underrated at No. 9 nationally after a trip to the College Football Playoff a year ago. A rundown:
1). Time: 8 p.m. EDT.
2). Where to watch: ESPN (Chris Fowler, Kirk Herbstreit, Maria Taylor). Where to listen: WHAS-840 AM (Paul Rogers, Craig Swabek, Jody Demling), Westwood One (Brandon Gaudin, Brady Quinn).
3). Line: Notre Dame by 20. Over/under: 55.
4). Scouting Notre Dame: The Irish lost six players to the NFL Draft, but returning quarterback Ian Book, who changed the team’s season when he was inserted into the lineup in the season’s fourth game. He’ll be asked to shoulder more of the playmaking load, but has an inexperienced receiver corps that will have to prove itself, with the exception of tight end Cole Kmet. Book threw for 19 touchdowns in seven games and completed 68.2 percent of his passes, a school record. But he’ll need to be more of a deep threat this season. The defense is led by senior cornerback Troy Pride Jr., a track star who runs a 4.3 40 as a sprinter for the Irish.
5). Scouting Louisville: The Cardinals gave up 50 points in five straight games to finish last season, which was one of the worst seasons statistically in program history. Satterfield has worked hard to rebuild the team’s psyche, but rebuilding its talent base will take longer. Still, the Cardinals have some playmakers at receiver, the question offensively is whether starting quarterback Puma Pass (or backup Malik Cunningham) can get them the ball regularly, and whether an inexperienced offensive line can allow him to do that. Defensively, the Cards are young, but could show marked improvement if their effort level is high. Still, both units lack depth beyond the starting 11, and opening the season against a Top 10 opponent is an especially tall task. Give Louisville credit for bold scheduling. The Cardinals opened against Alabama on national TV last season. It’ll be the fifth time U of L has opened its season against a ranked opponent, and is 0-4 in those previous games, all on the road.
6). Spotlight player: Tutu Atwell is listed at 5-9 and 153 pounds in the game notes, and that may be generous. But inch-for-inch, he might be the most talented player Louisville has. Look for the Cards to try to get him the ball in any way possible, whether by throwing it to him, getting it to him on sweeps or even a direct snap or two. His speed could be a weapon for the Cardinals against a much bigger defense.
7). Sideline storyline: It’s all Satterfield, who begins his Louisville career after a successful stint at his alma mater, Appalachian State. Satterfield has brought a more player-friendly approach, and has worked hard to earn the trust and confidence of his players. He says the team’s effort – beyond his first-team players on both sides – is a work in progress. He’s allowed ACC Network All-Access cameras into his practices and film rooms to throw a spotlight on his rebuilding efforts. The ultimate barometer of those will be on the field – but seeing the results there could be a multi-season proposition.
8). Fan tips: Arrive early. The game has been designated as a "black out" by U of L. Fans will notice new concessions in the stadium this season. Louisville’s “CardMarch” will begin at 5:10 p.m. under the Denny Crum Overpass on Central Avenue. More fan information can be found here.
10). The picks: Rick Bozich, Notre Dame 42-13. Eric Crawford, Notre Dame 41-14.
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