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2018 Opponent Previews: Lou-ah-vul

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The Gang Hits the Road

NCAA Football: Louisville at Kentucky
Bye Felicia
Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports

This is not your granddaddy’s season preview. The sole purpose of today’s season preview is to get you to a road game that’s worth going to. (Foreigner) you Athens, you’re not a worthy away game. I don’t care what you have going on, kid’s birthday, Bat Mitzvah, merit badge ceremony, take care of them in Louisville. Since we won’t play them at Louisville until the literal end of time (thanks ACC), take the time out of your life to breathe some fresh air for a change. www.kentuckytourism.com is our sponsor this week (haha I wish, I do this for free)

Pronounced in myriad ways, I’m sure Louisville was named after some English monarch, so that’s fun. Say it like there’s something in your mouth, and you’ll get the local treatment. Assuming you’re already taking the day off to go to this game (great job on Step 1 of the road game process: accept that you’re going), you have arrived at your first true decision tree: driving or flying.

The only direct flight from Atlanta (ATL) to Louisville (SDF) is on your hometown Delta Air Lines. They typically run somewhere in the region of $400, so we’ll be covering the driving aspect of this road trip because it just won’t be worth it to fly given the tradeoff in time.

Midtown to Louisville can be driven in roughly six hours if properly motivated. Google maps will likely tell you seven, depending on traffic, and then factor in bathroom breaks as you see fit. If you’ve gotta work a half day Friday, my personal advice is to salt up on the drive with some sunflower seeds and dehydrate yourself to the point that you don’t have to stop to pee because you have no more fluid left in your body. Those traveling with others will not be so lucky as to control the bladders of all parties making the trek.

You’ll drive through a lovely stretch outside Chattanooga, then get stuck in traffic in sprawling Murfreesboro (I hate you Bennie Cunningham). Then on to Nashville, where I would recommend not veering off the interstate. Keep on trucking. At this point, you’re about halfway to Louisville, do not be deterred. Soldier on.

You’ll pass through Bowling Green and see both the National Corvette Museum and Fruit of the Loom corporate headquarters. So if underwear and muscle cars are your deal, adjust your drive time accordingly.

Next talking point would be that I am roughly 84 percetn sure there is no Kentucky State Police. Anticipate knocking 15-20 minutes off your trip as you pass through the nothingness between Bowling Green and Louisville. Turn on your Waze App, fellow speeders, and keep a vigilant eye on the horizon in the event my 84 percent assumption doesn’t apply to you on this given day. Once you pass UPS Worldport at the airport, where all your next day air packages process through (super cool, IE heaven), you’ll be 99 percent of the way to your hotel accommodations. You made it.

Now depending on time, either stock up for your tailgate (there’s a local chain called Party Mart that is a top notch spirit wholesaler), or find your way to a local eatery to get a quick fix in before the game. This is the least consequential of your meals this weekend in the Gateway of the South (debatable, but everything on the internet is true).

On to Papa John’s Cardinals Stadium, for Friday night’s marquee match-up between your to-be No. 24 Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets and unranked, Team Also Receiving Votes That Should Be Ranked (TARVTSBR) Runner-Up Louisville Cardinals. Having lost to Bama to open the season, and then again in excruciating fashion to Florida State the week before, this Louisville team shows promise, but ultimately has yet to pull it together in the last quarter mile of the race (haha horse racing).

On the good guys side, and coming off a thankfully uneventful Bowling Green game, Georgia Tech will look to maintain momentum heading into what will be the teeth of the 2018 schedule.

At this point, the offense will more or less understand their limitations, and will attempt to play within themselves, and avoid the unfortunate turnover bug that often reared its head in the 2017 campaign. But, Louisville might have other plans in mind for this Friday Night Blackout contest.

Enter first-year Defensive Coordinator BRIAN VAN GORDER.

While he doesn’t possess world-beater Jaylon Smith that still hits the B-gaps of my dreams and blows up any pleasant thoughts I was previously having, don’t expect this defense to roll over to Tech. BVG being on the sideline shouldn’t scare me, but it does for some reason. I’m like a little kid that is 95 percent sure there isn’t a monster in the closet, but better safe than sorry, so dad will you please just look in the closet for me?

Hmm. Anyways, there’s a lot of football things to be said about stats and starters, and you can find them much more eloquently stated in Bill Connelly’s preview on the mothersite here. Basic takeaways defensively are as such:

  • They’re losing a ton of production on the defensive side of the ball (62 percent), and similar to Tech, they are losing almost all of their secondary.
  • Their run defense ranked 103rd in rushing success rate. Granted, this was under a since-fired defensive coordinator, but still. They’re also replacing a good bit of production in their front seven. While the returning pieces do come highly touted, they have yet to be game-proven, which could bode well for the Jackets especially given they will have played an emotionally draining home game against Florida State just six days prior.

Offensively, my initial assumption was “No Lamar Jackson, no worries.” Their new starting quarterback hails from the pre-season National All-Name Team, Jawon Pass. I’m not sure if I’m the only one to think this, but I pictured a James Blackman type at quarterback. Pocket Passer, twig of a ball player.

NCAA Football: Kent State at Louisville
HE’S SO BIG
Jamie Rhodes-USA TODAY Sports

“The Next Cam Newton” are like my four least favorite words to hear as a Tech fan.

He’s big as the wind. 6-4, 230 to be exact. The biggest thing to watch defensively is if they get him moving outside the pocket, how our linebacking corps, specifically the outside linebackers, are able to bring him down in space. If the Jackets are able to limit those explosive, often broken play QB scrambles, look for a solid defensive effort (i.e. 21-28 points allowed).

The Cardinals also return a decent amount of production on offense (54%). I’d expect them to establish the run game early behind 4 returning linemen. However, they lose their top two rushers, but appear to have a stable of backs waiting in the wings to make up for their departure.

But what we should worry most about, is the fact that the Cardinals return their top three receivers, all of which were deadly last year when they got the ball in their hands. (side note: their likely No. 1 receiver is named Jaylen Smith, so BVG might just have some magic in him yet).

For those of you who do not have the fanhood and blind faith necessary to commit to traveling to this game, (to be fair, I can’t go. I have a family commitment that unfortunately can not be fulfilled in Louisville that weekend, I am there with you in spirit) ESPN will be all over the game as Utah State - BYU will be the only other football on that night.

You’ll see the Quon long run against Tennessee showcased prior to the game, and if things are going as we hope, expect the broadcast team to say something to the effect of “you have to wonder with Louisville in the situation they’re in here late into the 3rd quarter (implied deficit), how they’d be faring with Jackson taking snaps out of the shotgun, a sight that many of us took for granted in the latter half of the year.” You all owe me $100 collectively if I’m within 10 words of that quote. I’m calling it early enough to get good odds.

All in all, I’d anticipate this looking like a wide open Atlanta United home game, lots of scoring, wide open play. Going off gut here, Tech comes in as the slight underdog, but pulls off what doesn’t really feel like an upset. Georgia Tech 38 - Louisville 31.

NOW WE’RE JUST GETTING STARTED. THE TIME IS NOW 11:00PM FRIDAY NIGHT. YOUR WEEKEND HAS JUST BEGUN.

Now is the portion of the show in which you choose your own adventure. Goosebumps style.

We have a couple options here. A) Retire to your quarters in anticipation of a long [Atlanta Rhythm Section] Saturday, or B) hit the tourist trap, the 4th Street Bars.

If you chose A) goodnight moon to you

B) My yolo-ers. Burning the candle on both ends, knowing tomorrow will be just as long as today was. Hit up the mechanical bull or karaoke bars and avoid ordering anything with bourbon just yet, it’s overpriced downtown, and you’ll need your liver and wits about you for tomorrow. Goodnight you beautiful disasters.

THE TIME IS NOW 9:00AM SATURDAY MORNING. WAKE UP WITH COLLEGE GAMEDAY. (Get up now, you’ll thank me).

Now we are again placed at a crossroads of options. Choose wisely, and at all times, follow your heart. (All you people that flew, here’s where you’re going to wish you drove, or at least splurged on a better Avis rental.)

A) Friday was enough football action for me, I’d like to see the city some if possible, maybe get a drink

B) I came here for football, follow me down that broken road

C) There’s bourbon in Louisville right?


Option A)

Long breakfast surrounded by loved ones at the following establishments: Wild Eggs Cafe, Hi-Five Doughnuts, or Highland Morning (go to Wild Eggs, there’s like four of them, all are delicious). After amply filling yourself, look to go take a tour a Churchill Downs. Lunch at either Feast (BBQ with bourbon slushies, personal favorite), El Mundo (simple Mexican, cool atmosphere with three separate dining areas), or just Yelp something for yourself and lie to me and say you loved the BBQ at Feast. Go to the river walk that spans the Ohio River into Indiana, come back, catch the end of the 3:30 SEC game at whatever bar is closest to you or your eventual dinner choice.

Here’s where things get fun. For dinner, I’ll give you 3 tiers of fancy.

Tier 1: Jack Fry’s or Louvino. Steak house and small plates respectively, suggested to get an open table (dot) com rezzie in advance, like a week+ to be safe with Jack Fry’s in particular. Tuck your shirt in, be fancy, cherish time spent with loved ones and friends in a foreign land over what are truly two GREAT dinners. Expected dinner cost per person: $50+.

Tier 2: Captain’s Quarters (seafood on the river), Mussel and Burger Bar, Coal’s Pizza. These are all self explanatory with the sufficient parenthetical notes provided, all quality meals, depending on what you’re looking for. Also could add in any of the aforementioned lunch spots to this list. Expected dinner cost per person: $20-30

Tier 3: Yelp it yourself and tell me you had a fit over the seared scallops and bacon wrapped dates at Louvino. And the George Clooney wine flight; playful, yet deep. That’ll be our little code to tell me to not put so much effort into my next preview.

Afterwards, end up in the Highlands for the following hang outs if you don’t have children or family that wouldn’t like staying up past 9 in tow: Hop Cat (cracked-pepper fries are worth the trip there on their own) for extensive beer list and football. Or for the beer snobs, Holy Grail. Uber home, nobody getting put in the clink based off my recommendations. Now, proceed to the end of the article.


Option B)

oh man, y’all are screwed. This weekends matchups include:

Iowa State @ Ok St. , SDSU @ Boise (sneaky good game) , Oklahoma/Texas in the Cotton Bowl in Dallas , F$U @ Miami , ND @ VPISU , Nebraska @ Wisconsin, LSU @ Florida pettiness continuation (somebody will be coaching for their job one way or another, just watch) , and Washington @ The Fighting Chip Kelly’s. Just a ton of good football to watch.

Find somewhere to hunker down for the long haul. Everybody else in these options is going to end up at Hop Cat, so stay somewhat close to there to be able to walk yourself there after sitting and watching football and downing suds for eight hours straight. Cracked Pepper fries to kick off the ABC night game, then Uber home and get a nice night’s rest, having dried out your eyeballs from the sheer amount of football you’ve consumed today. Proceed to the end of the article.


Option C)

This one’s open for a lot of interpretation. Do your homework on the side, as people have all different preferences. Hit up a solid brunch at Wild Eggs Cafe. From there, make the trek outside of the city to the Bourbon distillery of your fancy. If you still want the food options of Louisville at your disposal, Evan Williams highlights the in-town distilleries. Bulleit Bourbon is not far away either. Drink to your desire, but drink responsibly. (Keep in mind, you’ll want to make a reservation for any tour that you take, they take this stuff seriously).

For the more adventurous at heart, you can actually attempt to hit a lot of them (see the whole list at www.kybourbontrail.com), or just go to a select few you are already acquainted with, sort of like making a trip just to see Elvis’ birthplace in Tupelo, Mississippi. My personal favorites have been Woodford Reserve, Buffalo Trace, and Four Roses. They are outside of Louisville proper, but are within an hour and a half’s drive and worth the trip if this is something that catches your nose and taste buds. Have the designated driver take you home to change for dinner at Option A’s listed dinner recommendations, then proceed to Holy Grail bar to get your beer snob on, try some local brews, then hop, skip, or jump your way over to Hop Cat to meet up with he rest of Yellow Jacket nation, who, if following instructions properly will be there to fight, win (already handled the day before), and drink right along with you.


Glad to have you all back on the same page now. As for Sunday, hit up another brunch spot of your choosing, and be safe on the roads. Atlanta will welcome you with loving arms. And you will think to yourself as you cross back into Georgia and inevitably hit a pothole on 75 going through Ringgold, “you were right Stephen I had a great weekend that I wouldn’t have made the trek for otherwise.”

Georgia Tech moves to 5-1, a bump in the coaches poll to #21, and ready to face Duke for Homecoming.

If it even so much as dews too heavily on Friday morning, let alone rains, all bets are off. You wasted your weekend coming to this game and I refuse to be held responsible.