RALEIGH, N.C. (WDRB) -- If it's one thing the University of Louisville football team didn't expect to face much of this season, it was pressure. Oddsmakers figured the rebuilding Cardinals would do well to win four games under new coach Scott Satterfield.
Instead, with three games to play, Louisville heads to North Carolina State on Saturday as a 4-point favorite to win, and to become bowl eligible.
For a program many thought could have been years away from another bowl game, that's a lofty achievement already. But there is pressure in trying to finish it off -- and beyond.
There's also the pitfall of hearing praise from all quarters on what has already been done and being satisfied. That's something Satterfield has worked to combat.
"No matter who you are, you can look at all the champions out there, that if you think you've arrived, that's when you're going to get and I think you know, for us this team, we certainly have not arrived," he said. "I mean, we know we've got a lot of work to do a lot of deficiencies that need to get better. I think you know coming off of that stretch we had there in October, people pat you on the back because I didn't think you'd be this good or, you know, win this many games and, and, and hopefully, you know, guys didn't buy into that. We've lost too many games to think about any of that mess. We've got to continue to get better and a long ways to go."
The Cards also have some injuries to consider, but a golden opportunity is in front of them at N.C. State. A closer look at the game:
1). Time: 7:30 p.m. EST, Carter-Finley Stadium, Raleigh, N.C.
2). Where to watch: ACC Network (Dave O'Brien, Tim Hasselbeck, Katie George). Where to listen: WKRD 790-AM (Paul Rogers, Craig Swabek, Jody Demling). Sirius 119. XM 104.
3). Line: Louisville by 4. (Opened: Louisville -4. Max: Louisville -4.5.) Over: 54. Against the spread records: Louisville 5-4, N.C. State 3-6 (1 for its last 7).
4). Scouting Louisville: When it has faced unranked teams this season, Louisville has found a way to be in the game late, no matter the opponent -- until last week at Miami, when uncharacteristic penalties hurt the Cardinals, who couldn't climb out of an early hole in an upset loss. Louisville lost star offensive lineman Mekhi Becton, leading wideout Tutu Atwell and starting quarterback Micale Cunningham during the game, but Atwell and Cunningham are expected to play, while Becton remains day to day.
Satterfield is hoping to establish the running game, and see a strong bounce-back effort.
"I think the guys will come back," Satterfield said. "Listen, Sunday's practice we talked about the system we chart the exertion. How much they put out in practice. It was one of the better Sundays putting-out wise. So hopefully it lit a fire under them and to know that they are going to come out and give everything they have. I think that's what you have to ask from these guys. To be resilient, you have to be able to come back. When you face adversity, how do you come back from it is what is going to be measured and so that's what we are looking at and we have to come back strong."
4). Scouting N.C. State: The Wolfpack suffered a blowout loss to Clemson last week, their third straight loss. They'll rely on freshman running back Zonovan Knight, who is coming off a career-best 139 yards on 12 carries. They have a top receiver in Emeka Emezie, who leads the team with 43 receptions for 431 yards and one score. N.C. State is giving up just 133 yards per game on the ground, and ranks 12th in the nation in sacks.
"They always play good defense," Satterfield said of the Wolfpack. "I think obviously (Wolfpack coach Dave Doren) is a defensive-minded coach and they're structurally sound on defense. The kids play hard on that side of the ball. You know you're going to get that -- they want to be a physical football team. They want to be that blue-collar, tough-minded football team. That's what they want to be. Again, you're playing so many young guys with so many injuries they put themselves in the last couple of weeks in bad spots with turnovers you know, against Clemson they're backed up as a lot of short fields early night game next thing you know it's out of control you know, so that those things can happen obviously. . . . We’ve got to go into this game expecting they'll play their best."
5). Spotlight players: This game likely will turn in the direction of which young running back has a better night -- Knight for N.C. State or redshirt freshman Javian Hawkins for Louisville.
6). Sideline storyline: The entire drama of this game for Louisville is on the ending -- can the Cards become bowl eligible, and what is the reaction if they do?
7). Fan tip: Rain is in the forecast for this game. Steady rain all day Friday and early Saturday is expected to give way to a game-time temperature of 37 degrees with a wind chill of 25 and a 66 percent chance of precipitation throughout.
8). Picks: Rick Bozich has it 27-17, Eric Crawford picks Louisville 31-24.
Copyright 2019 WDRB Media. All Rights Reserved.