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Georgia Tech Football: Opponent Previews - Louisville

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Louisville bounced back from a disastrous 2018. Can they take another step forward in 2020?

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: OCT 05 Georgia Tech at Louisville Photo by Michael Allio/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

You probably remember the last game between these two. The CPJ-BVG Bowl. CPJ still has a smirk on his face. GT scored on its first 9 possessions. You can relive that beautiful night here:

2019 Season Review

Of course, Bobby Petrino and BVG weren’t around much longer. Louisville made one of the best hires of the 2019 cycle, brining in Scott Satterfield from App State, and Louisville became a normal football team again.

Last year brought a 6 win improvement for Louisville. The Cardinals 8-5 squad checked in at #63 in Bill Connelly’s SP+ rankings, a dramatic improvement from the Petrino debacle of 2018. The positive changes came entirely on the offensive side of the ball, where the Cardinals used the dynamic trio of QB Micale Cunningham, RB Javian Hawkins, and stud WR Tutu Atwell to climb from 102nd to 29th in SP+. They were relatively inefficient but highly explosive.

On the defensive side of the ball, they let opponents stay ahead of the chains, struggling mightily in early down success rate. They ended up checking in at 100th in Defensive SP+, a one spot drop from the team that gave up 66 to GT in 2018. Putting it all together, Louisville beat the bad teams on their schedule last year, and they lost to the good ones. They rebounded strongly from the dumpster fire of 2018, but they still have rebuilding work to do, especially on the defensive side of the ball.

Who’s Gone?

Mekhi Becton - The biggest, in more ways than one, loss from the 2019 Louisville team, Becton was the 11th pick in the first round of this year’s NFL Draft. He was the offensive line’s anchor at Left Tackle. Though there is experience back, they will miss the top end talent of Becton.

G.G. Robinson - A space-eating defensive tackle, Robinson was second on the team in sacks last year. His absence will hurt what was an already relatively weak middle of the defense for the Cardinals.

Who Should You Watch For?

Tutu Atwell - Atwell caught 69 balls for 1272 yards, an 18.4 YPC average, including 11 touchdowns. PFF rated him as the best WR in the ACC last year and projects him to be the same in 2020.

Micale Cunningham - Cunningham burst onto the ACC scene last year. He completed 62.6% of his passes for an unbelievable 11.6 yards per attempt. By comparison, GT’s returning starter recorded 6.0 Y/A, barely half of Cunningham’s throwing efficiency. Cunningham added 482 rushing yards and 6 rushing TD’s. He’s primed for a huge year in 2020.

Javian Hawkins - The true freshman running back exploded for 1525 yards on 5.8 yards per carry last year. He will miss running behind Becton, but expect him to have another highly productive year on the ground. The Louisville offense is loaded in 2020.

Rodjay Burns - Burns was the leading playmaker for the underwhelming Cardinals defense last year. He recorded 11 tackles for loss, to go with 1 forced fumble and 1 interception. He will be counted on to do even more this fall (or spring?).

2020 Outlook and GT-Louisville Prediction

Using Bill Connelly’s team outlook for Louisville, which accounts for returning production, recent history, and recent recruiting, we should expect Louisville to have an elite offense and a merely below average defense in 2020. They check in at #41 on Bill’s preseason SP+ rankings, just a little bit ahead of Georgia Tech.

What about when GT hosts Louisville on Friday, October 9? SP+ sees it as a tossup, with GT winning about 43% of the time. It’s a great matchup for the formidable GT run game, and I like our talented and experienced secondary matching up with the explosive Louisville Offense. 31-28 Georgia Tech.

What do you see happening when the Jackets host the Cardinals?