LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Louisville hopes to begin putting its worst season since 1997 in the rear-view mirror with a strong performance as first-year coach Scott Satterfield and his Cardinals open the season at home against ninth-ranked Notre Dame on Monday night. Louisville went 2-10 in 2018, leading to the end of coach Bobby Petrino's tenure, and Satterfield arrives from Appalachian State where he was 51-24 over six seasons with 40 wins in the past four.
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"This is a great opportunity for our guys to get out and showcase what they've been working hard to do," Satterfield told reporters. "We as coaches are anxious to get out there and see where we're at with everybody." The Fighting Irish should give the Cardinals a major test on both sides of the ball with plenty of talent back from a team that made the College Football Playoff before losing to eventual national champion Clemson 30-3 in the semifinals. Senior quarterback Ian Book burst on the scene after taking the starting job in the fourth game last season for Notre Dame, completing 68.2 percent of his passes with 19 touchdown passes, seven interceptions and four rushing scores as the Irish averaged 37.2 points in their last nine regular-season contests. Irish coach Brian Kelly told reporters at a recent press conference the key to the season will be how well his team runs the ball and defends the run, with many of the key departures from those two positions.
ABOUT NOTRE DAME (2018: 12-1)
Junior Tony Jones Jr. will get some time at running back, but sophomore Jafar Armstrong appears to be in line to get the first shot to take on a big role in the rushing attack for the Irish. "Jafar really just loves the game," Book told the Indianapolis Star. "He wants to go out there, have fun and totally dominate his opponent. That's just his attitude. That's how he comes every day to play football." Seniors Chase Claypool (50 catches, 639 yards in 2018) and Chris Finke (49, 571) are Book's top targets while the defense is keyed by senior lineman Julian Okwara (eight sacks) and junior safety Alohi Gilman (94 tackles, two interceptions).
ABOUT LOUISVILLE (2018: 2-10)
Junior Jawon Pass, who completed 54 percent of his passes with eight TDs and 12 interceptions last year, will get the start at quarterback in the opener. "There are times when he looks unbelievable, like really, really good," Satterfield told reporters of Pass. "He's a big, tall and strong quarterback. When he stands in there and really follows through he looks how you are supposed to look. There are times when his footwork is off and the ball sails on him, but he's gotten a lot better than that." Sophomore Hassan Hall (303 rushing yards) returns in the running game and junior Dez Fitzpatrick (31 catches, 422 yards) is the top receiver back.
1. Notre Dame TE Cole Kmet (15 catches,162 yards in 2018) is out indefinitely with a fractured clavicle.
2. Louisville QB Malik Cunningham, who led the team in rushing last year (497 yards), was slowed by a knee injury in preseason but could play.
3. The Cardinals won the only previous meeting in 2014, edging the Irish 31-28 in South Bend, Ind.
PREDICTION: Notre Dame 31, Louisville 14