Last Updated: 2017-09-08
If Week 1 is any indication, Lamar Jackson is the Alpha and Omega for the Louisville Cardinals’ offense. Unfortunately for the Cardinals, Jackson won’t be able to do it all if they expect to win the ACC. During their season-opening win over the Purdue Boilermakers he made all of the big plays. The Cardinals also lost three fumbles in the 35-28 victory over the Boilermakers last Saturday.
The Cardinals gained 524 total yards. Well, Jackson accounted for 485 yards. Naturally, he dominated in the passing game, completing 30-of-46 passes for 378 yards and two touchdowns. Jackson also ran for 107 yards. The rest of the team rushed for 41 yards. Former quarterback and current offensive weapon Reggie Bonnafon gained 33 yards on six carries. Meanwhile, Jeremy Smith only gained eight yards on five carries. Clearly, the Cardinals must be better in Week 2 against the North Carolina Tar Heels.
Coming into Saturday’s tilt with the Tar Heels, the Cardinals are 9.5 favorites. They also lost their last two games away from home by an average of 32.5 points to 9.7 points per game. Meaning, the potential point spread is almost as much as the Cardinals have averaged.
Furthermore, the Cardinals must take care of the ball better if they want to pull off the road victory. You may think the three turnovers were part of first game jitters. Unfortunately, the Cardinals averaged 2.5 turnovers last season. In addition, so many of the turnovers are careless plays with the ball. For example, Jackson fumbled the ball attempting to make a handoff as the Cardinals were nearing the goal line on their first offensive possession of the season. It brought back the horrors to end last season. In the last four games, the Cardinals have committed 11 turnovers.
Keep in mind, the Tar Heels forced two turnovers during their 35-30 loss to the California Bears in Week 1. They will also play with an extra edge, hoping not to fall to (0-2) at home. Both turnovers came in the passing game, so Jackson must be wary of any crucial mistakes down field.
The good news is Louisville’s offensive line fared much better against the Boilermakers. They didn’t allow a sack in the season-opener, so that’s already an improvement from the end of last season when the offensive line didn’t block anybody. Meanwhile, the Tar Heels only recorded one sack against the Bears. Therefore, the Cardinals should be able to keep Jackson upright in the pocket.
Once again, the passing game should be the weapon of choice for the Louisville offense. The Tar Heels only gave up three yards per carry and we aren’t sure how adept the Cardinals are at the ground attack. Moreover, the Cardinals have plenty of talent on the perimeter at wide receiver.
Junior Jaylen Smith is a mismatch for most defensive backs. Due to his size and speed, Smith has an ability to high point the ball as well as any receiver in the country. He led the Cardinals with eight receptions for 117 yards in Week 1. Meanwhile, freshman Dez Fitzpatrick had a brilliant debut with four receptions for 95 yards and one touchdown. He has already forged a connection with the Heisman Trophy winning quarterback. Overall, Jackson has tremendous size at wide receiver. They also have one of the quickest possession receivers with Traveon Samuel in the slot. In fact, Samuel may earn some rushing attempts in the ACC opener.
At some point, they need to find teammates to help Jackson move the ball. Otherwise, Jackson will be more than a dual-threat in 2017.
Key Note: This is Jackson’s first time facing the Tar Heels in three seasons with the Cardinals. In all, Jackson has 17 career interceptions. Seven of those interceptions have come in true road games.