No. 6 Auburn (1-0) got its season off to a great start in Atlanta. If things go according to plan, these Tigers will be back in the Georgia Dome at the end of the season in the SEC Championship Game. Auburn seemed poised to put the game on cruise control with a 17-0 lead at halftime, but Louisville (0-1) made Auburn keep its foot on the gas pedal in the second half. Auburn held on for a 31-24 victory, with every second counting down the stretch.
Auburn’s defense made some plays, including an 82-yard fumble returned for a touchdown, but Louisville put together over 400 yards of offense, including 240 on the ground. Will Muschamp added some fire to the defense at first but it will have to show more consistency moving forward, especially in SEC play. Auburn’s offense struggled at times as well, showing room for improvement, which may be a little scary.
Auburn quarterback Jeremy Johnson was intercepted three times by the Louisville defense, which is a strength for the Cardinals even though this result may not show it on the scoreboard. Johnson completed just 11 of his 20 pass attempts for 140 yards. The three interceptions thrown were never anything that hurt Auburn on this day though, as Louisville could only muster three points off of the turnovers, while punting the other two times. The lesson here is Lousiville needs to find a way to cash in on those free opportunities, otherwise they could easily get burned in ACC play later on. The Cardinals also need to find a rhythm in the passing game. Lamar Jackson was just 9-of-20 for 100 yards and an interception. Reggie Bonnafon was 8-of-13 for 67 yards when given a chance to lead the offense.
Auburn got a big day on the ground from Peyton Barber, who rumbled for 109 yards on 25 carries. Ricardo Lewis and Johnson each ran for a touchdown.
Louisville will return home next weekend to host what could be a tricky Houston team. The Cougars have a new head coach in Tom Herman, and could bring some good offense to Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium next weekend. Auburn will also be home next week, hosting Jacksonville State.
Louisville head coach Bobby Petrino is starting to fill up his quarterback depth with some good quality. The Cardinals added a verbal commitment from four-star quarterback recruit Tylin Oden on Monday. Oden is now the top-rated player in Louisville’s growing Class of 2016. He announced his commitment the way all kids make their announcements these days; on Twitter.
“I would like to thank my family, friends, school, and teammates for being with me every step of the way,” Oden said in a miniaturized statement on Twitter. “I’m honored to announce that I’ve officially committed to the University of Louisville. L’s up.”
Oden, a dual-threat quarterback from Tennessee, is the seventh-ranked dual-threat quarterback in the country and the sixth-bets recruit from the state of Tennessee according to Rivals. The 6-foot-5, 175-pound recruit is Louisville’s 10th in the Class of 2016, and second four-star quarterback recruited by Petrino since his return to the program. Louisville’s Class of 2015 added Lamar Jackson from Florida.
Per The Courier-Journal, Oden chose Louisville over offers from Mississippi State and West Virginia. Louisville had been considered the favorite.
Louisville will bring back Will Gardner in the fall, as well as Reggie Bonnafon and Kyle Bolin. Former junior college and Penn State quarterback Tyler Ferguson will also be eligible to play at Louisville this season.
The reviews are coming in from Louisville’s Friday night spring scrimmage, and it seems to paint a familiar picture. The offense has players to make some good things happen. The defense should be pretty solid. The offensive line seems to be a bit of a question mark Bobby Petrino will have to either hope comes together or sees some development in the summer before the season kicks off.
Quarterback Reggie Bonnafon completed 15 of 19 passes for 238 yards and a touchdown and rushed 10 times for 37 yards and another touchdown while playing the entire first half. While reading too much into spring games can be unwise, this seemed to be a strong suggestion which direction the quarterback position is heading at Louisville. It will be Bonnafon’s job to lose according to the experts following the Cardinals.
The running game should be in for a good season as well, and Brandon Radcliff will once again be leading the charge on the ground. On Friday night the leading Louisville rusher carried the football seven times for 57 yards and three TDs. No worries in the Louisville backfield. It is the offensive line that seems to be the most questionable spot for the Cardinals.
Quarterbacks were sacked nine times in the spring scrimmage, with 23,187 fans in attendance. It should be noted only nine offensive linemen dressed for the spring scrimmage, but reinforcements are on the way through Louisville’s Class of 2015 and some junior college transfers. There will be more bodies to plug in, but how quickly Louisville finds some cohesiveness up front will ultimately determine what kind of season the Cardinals could have in the fall.
There are far fewer reasons for concern on the defensive side of the football. Louisville played very well on defense last season, and it looks as though it should be a strength of the team once again in Petrino’s second season back with the program.
“I really think we’ll have a dominant defense,” Petrino said. “That defensive front and linebacking corps is very physical and very strong. They made it real hard on our second offense.”
Louisville’s season will kick off on September 5 against Auburn in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff in Atlanta.
Georgia running back Nick Chubb ripped off a 31-yard touchdown run up the middle of the Louisville defense midway through the second quarter to give the Bulldogs of the SEC a 20-7 halftime advantage on the ACC’s Cardinals in the Belk Bowl in Charlotte, North Carolina. Georgia quarterback Hutson Mason has left the game for an undetermined amount of time due to what is simply being called an undisclosed injury.
The force was strong with Georgia wide receiver Chris Conley midway through the first quarter when he hauled in a pass from Mason for a 45-yard touchdown, covering half the distance of what turned out to be a 90-yard drive. Georgia kicked a field goal later in the second quarter to take a 10-7 lead, and Chubb later turned in his 31-yard touchdown scamper for the 17-7 lead.
Kyle Bolin started at quarterback for the Cardinals, but he was taken out for a stretch during the second quarter for Reggie Bonnafon. That did not play out well for head coach Bobby Petrino, as Bonnafon was picked off with the return setting Georgia up for a field goal and a 20-7 lead. After the Georgia field goal, Bolin returned to the field.
Petrino also called for a fake field goal from the Louisville 31-yard line, but the pass fell incomplete to give Georgia terrific field position, only to see Brice Ramsey (inserted in the game following the injury to Hutson) throw a deep pass picked off by Terell Floyd a few yards shy of the end zone.
Louisville is playing without running back Michael Dyer, who was previously ruled academically ineligible for the bowl game.
WHO: No. 13 Georgia (9-3) vs. No. 21 Louisville (9-3)
WHAT: The 13th Belk Bowl
WHERE: Bank of America Stadium, Charlotte, N.C.
WHEN: 6:30 p.m. ET Dec. 30 on ESPN
THE SKINNY: Hey, it’s another bowl game pitting a defensive coordinator against his former team! After four seasons running Georgia’s defense to varying degrees of success, Todd Grantham left Athens for Louisville and a large payday to work for Bobby Petrino. Few teams were tougher to move the ball against than Grantham’s Cardinals, who ranked eighth nationally in pass efficiency defense by holding opponents to 53.6 percent completions for 6.2 yards per attempt while intercepting a nation’s best 25 passes against only 13 touchdown passes while also placing third in rushing defense (93.67 yards per game allowed) and allowed just 2.94 yards per carry (fourth nationally). Compare that to a Georgia defense that ranks 11th in pass efficiency defense but 77th in rushing defense under first-year coordinator Jeremy Pruitt.
However, Georgia doesn’t have to defend Nick Chubb, Louisville does. Despite never carrying the ball more than 11 times until Oct. 11, Chubb ripped off a 1,200-yard season by rushing for 143, 202, 156, 170, 144, 113 and 129 yards over the back half of the season. Combine that with the efficient Hutson Mason at quarterback (20 touchdowns, four interceptions) and you have to like Georgia’s chances in the even this game becomes a shootout.
Louisville won its final three games of the regular season with three different players leading the club in passing, and either Kyle Bolin or Reggie Bonnafon could start. Whoever it is should throw lots and lots of balls to DeVante Parker.
Finally, Georgia will be without offensive coordinator Mike Bobo and offensive line coach Will Friend, who are both off to new jobs at Colorado State. This leaves tight ends coach John Lilly as the Bulldogs’ play-caller. In a game of evenly-matched teams, taking the squad with Bobby Petrino running its offense opposite a tight ends coach.
THE PICK: Louisville 31, Georgia 27