Folks, you’re never going to believe this, but the Notre Dame Fighting Irish football team has yet another night game against a ranked team coming up on Saturday.
After a dramatic collapse of a loss at home to now 4th-ranked Ohio State two weeks ago, and a dramatic last-minute victory over now 19th-ranked Duke on the road last weekend, the Irish continue a brutal stretch of football before their bye week, taking on the 25th-ranked Louisville Cardinals on the road at 7:30pm ET. They will also then, following that one, come back home for just a simple and easy matchup vs. #9 USC before they finally get a week off, 8 games into the season. I’m exhausted just thinking about all that, especially considering the emotional roller coaster of last Saturday night.
Louisville is a super interesting opponent this year, considering they didn’t have a ton of buzz in the off-season simply due to the fact they were going to be in the first season under their new head coach, former Purdue head honcho Jeff Brohm. Brohm and his staff immediately started assembling a team with transfer portal talent and some solid players still on the roster from the Scott Satterfield administration, and although they haven’t had to play much competition yet this season, Brohm and his Cards are 5-0 and just won a squeaker at NC State.
So, what should we know about this Louisville team heading into a game most of us thought would maybe be a trap game at worst heading into the season, but that’s turned into a solid challenge in its own right?
To answer that question, I figured I needed to talk to an expert, and thus called on a good friend of the One Foot Down Opponent Q&A Program, John Powell of Card Chronicle (SB Nation’s Louisville site), who goes by the name CardinalStrong in his writing and social media-ing.
John, per usual, was an absolute trooper answering the wide array of questions I threw at him from my own mind and from you loyal OFD Twitter followers. He’s given us some excellent insight and humor into Brohm’s start, QB Jack Plummer once again facing ND with yet another team, Louisville’s scary skill talent, his reaction to how people pronounce “Louisville,” an overview of going to a Louisville Bats game, and more!
With that all said, let’s not waste any more time listening to me ramble — let’s dive into what John had to say so we can be prepared for yet another potential dramatic night game for our Irish.
1. Alright, we’re 5 games into the Jeff Brohm era at Louisville — with 5 wins! How are Cards fans feeling about him so far, and what’s he doing differently than Scott Satterfield? What’s the ceiling for Louisville under Brohm’s leadership?
CardinalStrong (Card Chronicle): As you may imagine I’ve had a variation of this question nearly every week, which is to be expected when you bring in a new staff, a new scheme, etc. I say that just to point out that my response hasn’t changed much from week to week, in that fans were extremely excited about bringing Brohm into the mix for a few notable reasons.
First, he is a local legend, born and raised in Louisville, played for Louisville, previously coached as an assistant at Louisville, and has always remained involved in the community and program even while away. His brother played at Louisville…his OTHER brother played at Louisville….his Dad played at Louisville. The connection for him and his family is more than just a typical alum.
The well-known story at this point is that he and his wife never sold their house in Louisville, even as he coached across the area at WKU and Purdue. When he decided to come back it was welcoming back a member of the Louisville family who you knew cared about the program, its reputation, and wouldn’t be satisfied with average.
That feeds into my second point, where this isn’t just a feel good story about welcoming back a nice guy who just happens to coach, fans are excited because he’s actually a really good coach as well. Yes he can put up points, yes he can play an exciting style of football, but more importantly he wins games, and gets his players playing above their level. He took a bad Purdue team to a bowl in year one at West Lafayette and took them to the freakin’ Big Ten Championship last season. The guy knows what he’s doing.
The ceiling….tough to say but I think ACC Championships are absolutely in play, and every few years they can maybe make a run at an expanded playoff spot. Let’s just say I feel MUCH better about the direction of the program now than I did a year ago under previous staff.
2. This will be the third consecutive year, for three different teams, that QB Jack Plummer has faced the Fighting Irish. How has he been so far for Louisville this season, and what school on the 2024 Irish schedule can ND fans expect to see Plummer starting for next year?
CardinalStrong (Card Chronicle): I pointed that out to someone this summer because it was such an odd stat…..but I willingly choose to ignore the outcomes of those games and just use it as “experience building.” You know how they say it’s really hard to beat a team three times in a season? Lets hope the logic holds true for beating a player three times in a career.
As far as Plummer’s performance thus far, it’s had some highs (Boston College) and some lows (first half GT, second half IU, etc.) where he just looks like he’s pressing too much, aiming the ball, trying too hard….every other cliché you can think up. Brohm has talked about him wanting to win so badly he gets in his own head at times and I do worry about that on Saturday. When he settles down and makes the reads, I think he’s a legit Top 15 QB in the country, but his consistency is what pulls him down week over week.
I do think his eligibility has officially expired after this year but we had Malik Cunningham at QB for at least eight seasons so I’m sure he can find a COVID loophole or something. Maybe head back out west to Stanford….up north to NIU? I know now, he can find pleasure, search the world for treasure and learn science technology……in the NAVY!
3. Along with Plummer, a nice chunk of the Cardinals’ two-deep is populated by transfer players who’ve found a home in Louisville — especially on offense. Who are the key names to know on that side of the ball who’ve come to Louisville by way of the Portal, and how impactful have they been in the ramp-up of Brohm’s first season at the helm?
CardinalStrong (Card Chronicle): While Brohm didn’t go full Deion, he is also ‘not hard to find’ and ‘made it personal’-ly his mission to add some depth where the Cards just didn’t have enough talent in some key positions. One of those was obviously QB, but also at wideout, and on the other side of the ball in the secondary.
Three of the top four leading receivers this season are new to the program, led by transfer Jamari Thrash, who had a quiet game against NC State, but has put up 70+ yards and a touchdown every other game this year. He’s a weapon in space and has great speed.
Another transfer to keep an eye out for is Kevin Coleman, a small but shifty receiver who always seems to show up when the Cards need a big play. Speaking of big plays, Louisville has 12 plays over 40 yards, and 5 plays over 70 yards….both good enough to land them first in the country as of today, and Thrash, along with running back Jawhar Jordan are the main targets in those big hitters.
In the secondary, transfers Devin Neal and Storm Duck have played well, but the standout has been transfer Cam’Ron Kelly. He’s a really solid tackler and good in coverage as well, grabbing a couple interceptions on the season so far. That doesn’t include Jarvis Brownlee who came over from Florida State last year and has been a big piece of that group as well.
My gut says Brohm is going to lean more on transfers than most moving forward, and supplement with recruiting each year. Even given the options, I agree with that approach, and I think that’s the way it has to be to stay competitive at this level for a school without the national recognition of a blueblood.
4. On the other side of the ball, what are the key strengths and weaknesses of Mark Hagen and Ron English’s defense, and which guys would you consider the dudes most likely to give the Irish some trouble?
CardinalStrong (Card Chronicle): Didn’t mean to step on this question with my last answer but the secondary has been impressive. There have been a few quarters where they have fallen asleep at the wheel but they had a 10 quarter stretch earlier this season where they gave up zero points. I mean, even me and 10 OFD readers could likely stumble onto a point or three, right (no chance, by the way)?
When teams hit on them it’s usually a longer play instead of a long sustained drive, which is reflected in their Top 20 ranking of 55.2% completion percentage allowed. Also, if you can hang around a 1:1 or better ratio of passing TDs to INTs you’ve got a good secondary and Cards are 7:5 on the season.
Up front where the dirt is thicker and the shirts are tighter the Cards have a couple guys who could create pressure on Hartman in Ashton Gillotte and Stephen Herron. Don’t sleep on the inside pressure as well from Dez Tell. If they can get home, big IF, I like the odds of springing the upset. The Cards run a 4-2-5 front so if the lineman don’t get home you should have time to make reads, just harder to do with seven guys in coverage.
Most QB pressures this season pic.twitter.com/mi7iOWLRJw— PFF College (@PFF_College) October 4, 2023
5. Which players on this Notre Dame team scare you, or at least have you concerned for this matchup?
CardinalStrong (Card Chronicle): I know Hartman is better than what we saw last year, but tough to erase that memory from my brain where he walked another Top 10 team into Cardinal Stadium and just looked downright bad. For those who may have missed it, happy to share the clip:
I think he can be really good if given time, and flashing those 4th and 16 legs makes me a bit nervous with his mobility when needed.
The other concern of course is Estime, who just seems to be a weapon who can hurt you all over the place. If this turns into a shootout, even though I like the Cards offense, not sure they can keep up against a rugged Notre Dame D (that’s what she said).
6. FAN QUESTION:
What do Louisville fans think of when they hear Notre Dame football?— NDFanatics (@FanaticsNd) October 2, 2023
CardinalStrong (Card Chronicle): Let me peel back the curtain for a second so you can see me turning the cranks and speaking into the megaphone (are people too young for that reference now?). My fandom from a young age has been the hometown Louisville Cardinals, but I am also a Purdue grad.
Soooo….the constant hype train for Notre Dame is annoying, yes, but I can appreciate the tradition as a fan of the sport. If they lost every game I wouldn’t shed a single tear, but teams only become “the villain” if they’re good enough to handle the pressure. If they stink every year the sport loses some luster, I can admit that.
I’ll also say even the biggest hater would have a tough time discrediting this 2023 Notre Dame schedule, so I respect them playing some major programs instead of stacking up mid-tier P5 wins.
7. FAN QUESTION:
Does it bother you when people mispronounce your school/city name? What should be the punishment?— poz (@push_to_poz) October 2, 2023
CardinalStrong (Card Chronicle): Doesn’t bother me so much as it is a tell that “you ain’t from around here, are ya.”It’s a common issue, so much so that the city has signs, t-shirts, billboards, you name it, highlighting the different pronunciations.
If you ask a local it’s always either Loo-uh-vul, or Lul-vul. Never add the “e” sound in the middle or say “Lewis-ville”. If you mess up, we’re a pretty forgiving people, but maybe your forced to eat KFC for a week straight or something (FYI: KFC isn’t in the Top 10 of best chicken in the city).
Follow up for after you answered the first question, how do you pronounce Notre Dame?— poz (@push_to_poz) October 2, 2023
CardinalStrong (Card Chronicle): Is this a thing? I feel like I’ve been watching college sports nearly my whole life and everyone pronounces it about the same, right?
If I’m off base I’ll accept the boos and jeers, but down in these parts it’s “Note-er Day-m”. Only if I have severe back problems or if I’m hunched over in pain do I call it “Notra Dom”.
8. FAN QUESTION:
2 questions:— Joe Hughes (@JoeHughes7012) October 2, 2023
1. What would you say to people who claim that the school is located in the city’s “ghetto”?
2. How’s the feel for the Louisville Bats stadium? Would love to take in a game/weekend in Louisville
CardinalStrong (Card Chronicle): I would say….go outside some more. See the world. While Cardinal Stadium is not chilling in the shadows of a Norman Rockwell painting the surrounding neighborhood is simply part of a large city. While I wouldn’t classify the location as “downtown” it’s on the outskirts of that area that’s more industrial than suburban or residential.
My biggest complaint would be the lack of spots to eat/hang out close by the day or night before the game. On gameday, feel free to swing by ‘The Alley’ for drinks and live coverage of other games or stop in a Cardinal tailgate. We’re pretty welcoming around here, and it’s a good bet most folks have some high end brown water to share.
As far as the Louisville Bats go, I think every person has a special place in their heart for the hometown minor league squad, but in this instance my bias may also align with reality. The park itself is a bit older now, opening in 2000, but it’s a great facility with plenty of food options, nice sightlines all over the park, and the thing no other park can claim….it’s a 5 minute drive to the Louisville Slugger Museum and factory where you can see tons of baseball history and memorabilia and watch them make the actual bats used in the pro game.
Word to the wise, if you go on the tour and get a mini-bat souvenir you CANNOT. TAKE. IT. IN. YOUR. CARRYON. LUGGAGE. For some reason the TSA feels like a mini-bat could be used as a weapon…whouda-thunk? There are more bats at the Louisville TSA checkpoint than Transylvania. You’ve been warned.
9. ”FAN” QUESTION:
Is it meta for me to ask a question?— John (@CardinaIStrong) October 1, 2023
CardinalStrong (Card Chronicle): In my own hypothetical question I wonder which defensive play Notre Dame fans would rather never discuss again the rest of their lives….Rudy offsides, or 10 men on the field?*
*Pat Rick Note: let’s have our readers help with that one — it’s time for a mid-Q&A poll, baybee!!!!!
Which defensive play would you rather never discuss again the rest of your life — Rudy offsides, or 10 men on the field?
This poll is closed
10 men on the field
10. Alright let’s get down to it: who wins this game, what’s the final score, and how do you think it happens?
CardinalStrong (Card Chronicle): This is really tricky for me. Everything in my football brain says this is a 7-10pt Notre Dame victory, they just have more “dudes” than Louisville does right now. In my head I compare matchups and I think Notre Dame has a slight edge on their offense-defense matchup, and the Cards offense-defense is probably a tossup but maybe leaning more towards ND. I just can’t get past three things…
- The Jeff Brohm Factor: He knocks off a team he shouldn’t nearly every year, getting his team up for a big game, and his arsenal of trick plays and speed often create a more level playing field than what we see on paper.
- This is likely going to be one of the most electric atmospheres Louisville has had in quite some time. The 7:30 kick allows plenty of time for the sellout crowd to get amped up and create a frustrating environment for the Irish. Its not the Big House or Beaver Stadium but it can get loud.
- The emotional rollercoaster of this ND team coming off back to back weeks of game deciding final drives and eyes peeking at a Top 10 matchup next week against a good USC team, and a rival.
My gut says this is another nip and tuck battle for three plus quarters and even with all the factors above……Estime finally breaks a big one to make it a two score game late. A valiant effort comes up a bit short. ND 30-21
Okey dokey then, I want to toss another major shout-out to John for all his great, knowledgeable answers and really giving us a fantastic look inside the Louisville program and fan base and what this matchup might entail this weekend.
Furthermore, please make sure you go follow him and the Card Chronicle site on Twitter, as both are fantastic follows with great insight and very funny commentary on not only Louisville sports but also just college football in general. I promise you, you won’t regret it.
That’s gonna be it for us on this one, so per usual I’ll just say: GO IRISH, BEAT CARDINALS!!!