Louisville is trying to prove that it belongs in the conversation among elite FBS teams, and a good start to the ACC slate should help. The 16th-ranked Cardinals will try to brush off an inconsistent performance in the opener and take advantage of a team still trying to figure itself out when they visit North Carolina in the ACC opener for both teams on Saturday.
Reigning Heisman Trophy winner Lamar Jackson accumulated 485 yards of total offense for Louisville in a 35-28 win over Purdue in Week 1, allowing it to overcome three turnovers and 16 penalties totaling 110 yards. “The penalties are what was killing us,” Jackson told reporters. “It let Purdue stay in the game a lot longer. We are supposed to take the game in our hands but it happens. We can’t let it happen next week.” The Tar Heels dropped a 35-30 decision to California at home in its opener and are still unsettled at quarterback, with coach Larry Fedora declining to name either Chazz Surratt or Brandon Harris the starter against the Cardinals. “You can’t do it all on one game,” Fedora told reporters on Monday. “You just, you can’t. There’s too many things, there’s too many variables. But we’ll see. We’ll continue to battle it out there (in practice) and we’re going to put the guy on the field that we think can help us win the football game.”
TV: Noon ET, ESPN. LINE: Louisville -10
ABOUT NORTH CAROLINA (0-1): The Tar Heels started Harris, a graduate transfer from LSU, over Surratt, a freshman, in the opener but ended up giving Surratt more chances to throw the ball. The freshman responded by completing 18-of-28 passes for 161 yards and a touchdown without an interception while Harris was picked off twice in 16 pass attempts and did not throw for a TD. North Carolina could also stand to tighten some things up on the defensive end after allowing California to roll up 469 total yards and pass for four touchdowns.
ABOUT LOUISVILLE (1-0): The Cardinals will need to focus on the Tar Heels and forget about a showdown looming next week against reigning National Champion Clemson, and using this week to clean up some of the mistakes would benefit the team moving forward. Louisville lost 22 fumbles in 2016 and was not any better after an offseason of work while losing three against Purdue. Jackson, who was not the preseason first-team All-American pick at quarterback despite winning the Heisman last season, helped his team overcome the turnovers by passing for 378 yards and two scores and rushing for 107 yards on 21 carries.
1. Louisville WR Jaylen Smith recorded 117 yards on eight catches in Week 1.
2. The Tar Heels have won 13 of their last 16 ACC regular-season games.
3. The Cardinals are 22-5 in September under head coach Bobby Petrino.
PREDICTION: Louisville 45, North Carolina 28