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Virginia Football Opponent Preview: Louisville Cardinals

UVA will look to make it two in a row against the Cardinals on the road in Louisville

NCAA Football: Louisville at Pittsburgh Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

At the midpoint of the season the Virginia Cavaliers will wrap up their two game road with a trip to take on the Louisville Cardinals. The Cardinals will be coming off a two game road trip of their own having played at Florida State and Wake Forest in the previous weeks. Both will look to continue what are likely good starts to the 2021 season with strong first games in October.

2020 Recap

Record: 4-7 (3-7)
Postseason: None

In the second season under head coach Scott Satterfield, the Cardinals took a mighty step back. Not much can likely be gleaned from the season given the awkwardness of the COVID 2020 season, but a 4-7 season was not expected after receiving votes in the rankings for the preseason and getting as high as No. 16 in the Coaches Poll by week 2.

The offense was paced by dynamic, dual threat QB Malik Cunningham who passed for 2,617 yards and 20 touchdowns while also rushing for 609 yards and 7 more touchdown. Cunningham had some dynamic playmakers on his side of the ball as well with RB Javian Hawkins, whose 102.8 yard per game was 4th best in the ACC, Dez Fitzpatrick, who had the 5th highest yard per game average in the ACC, and TutTu Atwell, whose 7 TD receptions tied him for 4th in the ACC.

On the defensive side of the ball, the Cardinals improved to 75th in ESPN’s SP+, which was a drastic improvement from the previous years. In total, they had the 5th best scoring average in the conference. They were lead by 2nd team All-ACC CB, Kei’trel Clark, who had 36 tackles and one fumble recover and interception.

2021 Outlook

Key Returners: QB Malik Cunningham, RB Jalen Mitchell, WR Jordan Watkins, CB KeiTrei Clark
Key Departures: WR Tutu Atwell, RB Javian Hawkins, WR Dez Fitzpatrick
Key New Faces: DL Jacques Turner, S Benjamin Perry

Without a doubt one of the top returning offensive playmakers in the country is Malik Cunningham. He was able to rely on three headed monster of Hawkins-Fitzpatrick-Atwell last season, but all three of them are gone. Cunningham could be poised for a Lamar Jackson like season carrying this offense if the experienced offensive line can give him enough time to make plays. If the new starting WRs and RBs can replace even a slight amount of the output from last year, the Cardinals could have another strong offensive performance.

While the Cardinals could be one of the top 5 teams in the ACC this season, their schedule does them no favors. Being in the Atlantic Divisions, they obviously will have to play Clemson, Florida State, and NC State, and they’ll get Duke and UVA as their cross-division opponents. In the out of conference slate, they’ll either turn heads or the season could crumble. They’ll play their typical end of season game against Kentucky, but start the season with Ole Miss in Atlanta, Eastern Kentucky, then finish up the three week stretch hosting UCF in a Friday night game.

Series History

Last meeting: November 14, 2020 in Charlottesville. UVA wins 31-17
Historical Record vs Louisville: 4-5

Though the two teams played a home and home in 1988 and 1989, this series rivalry didn’t truly kick off until the Cardinals joined the ACC in 2014. Since then, the two have played every year as the cross-division rivals of the other with Louisville holding a 4-3 advantage thanks in large part to a three game winning streak from 2015 to 2017. Since 2017, the two have traded wins with the home team coming away victorious each year and only once since 2014 has a visiting team won (2016, thanks Lamar).

Both teams will be looking to start October off with a win and the Hoos will look to start a winning streak against the Cardinals of their own.