Opponent: Louisville Cardinals
Date: Saturday September, 27th
Location: Papa Johns Stadium
Head Coach: Bobby Petrino (1st year)
Series: Louisville 1-0 (24-13 at Orange Bowl)
2013 Record: 12-1
This game marks the beginning of a new era. Dave Clawson’s first game in ACC play. Wake’s first game against the new Atlantic Division rival Louisville. And of course, the rematch of the majestic Orange Bowl run will marinate in the minds of fans. This time, Wake fans hope Bobby Petrino & Co don’t rev their engines off into the sunset (motorcycle pun intended).
Last season, under new Texas head coach Charlie Strong, the Cardinals employed an aerial throwing attack and a stout defense. Led by Vikings rookie quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, Louisville ranked 26th in the nation with 35.2 points per game. Their defense held opponents to 12.2 points per game, second in the country. Their only defeat was at the hands of UCF 38-35. While the Cardinals blew their BCS chances after leading 28-7 in the third quarter, the (unranked at the time) Knights finished the season ranked #10. In the Champs Sports Bowl, Louisville dismantled Miami 36-9 sending a message to ACC foes.
Despite the loss of Bridgewater, the Louisville offense is still oozing with talent. There are several players vying to be the starting quarterback, but sophomore Will Gardner is currently a leg and a half up on the competition. The 6-5, strong-armed sophomore is only 8-12 for 112 yards and 2 TDs in his career but posted video game-like numbers in the spring game: 32-37 for 547 yds and 4 TDs.
The Cardinals have a plethora of big-play threats surrounding their new QB. Senior Dominique Brown, who rushed for 825 yards and eight TDs, will shoulder the load in the backfield. Additionally, the smaller Michael Dyer (yes, the Offensive MVP for the 2011 BCS National Championship) will receive touches as an elusive, swing-for-the-fences back.
On the outside, five of Louisville’s top six pass-catchers return-all of whom are seniors. The size and big-play ability of 6-3 DeVante Parker, who caught 55 passes for 885 yds and 12 TDs last season, will be the biggest concern for the Demon Deacon secondary. Parker turned down a first-to-second round grade to return and enters the season as one of the most dynamic players in the ACC and as a legitimate All-America candidate. Alongside Parker is the shifty Eli Rogers, a QB’s best friend due to his soft hands and his ability to move the chains. After waiting in the wings as a freshman, watch out for a break-out season from former blue-chip recruit James Quick.
The offensive line is among the most experienced in the FBS. With three full-time starters returning, including a member of both the First and Second Team All-AAC, the quarterback and running backs will have ample time to find a passing lane or a crease.
There are plenty of things that Bobby Petrino falls short on: morals, honesty, loyalty, etc. But Petrino has proven time and again that he is an outstanding football coach. While he has never stayed more than four years at a program, he is 83-30 as an FBS head coach. He has coached in two BCS games, in comparison to just one season with less than eight wins.
Expect Petrino’s Cardinals 2.0 to play a dynamic offense and an aggressive-and often mistake-prone-defense. He will find innovative ways to get the ball in the hands of his playmakers. And the final scores will be closer to Rick Pitino’s Cardinals than Charlie Strong’s. Just don't expect much full-court press.
Part two will be up tomorrow, where the 2014 Louisville defense and special teams is dissected and a way-too-early prediction is given.