The team is now 0-3 in ACC action (2-3 overall) with the toughest stretch of its schedule yet to be played. Fortunately, the Cardinals will have a bye next week before getting to that point but must first travel to Virginia on Saturday. The Cavaliers (2-3, 0-2 ACC) are also without a conference win with losses to Syracuse (22-20) and Duke (38-17).
Getting the crossover win over Coastal Division foe UVA won't do much for U of L in the bigger picture of its Atlantic Division standings. Still, it would be a much-needed conference victory and halt a skid with Pitt and Wake Forest on the other side of the open week.
Here’s what to know about the Louisville-Virginia game:
If backup QB Brock Domann has to play ...
There’s a chance Cardinals starting quarterback Malik Cunningham won’t be able to play Saturday. The redshirt senior experienced concussion-like symptoms against Boston College and has been considered day-to-day. If unable to go, backup quarterback Brock Domann will get the start against Virginia.
Domann, who earned the backup job during fall camp, made his season debut in South Florida and went 5-for-8 passing for 73 yards. A week later the Colorado native's numbers were far worse, only completing an 18-yard pass on his first throw then missing on the next seven, the last of which was an interception with one second on the clock.
“I know his stats, don't look good, but you go back and watch the film, he did what he needed to do from his position,” U of L coach Scott Satterfield said. “They (Boston College) were man to man. They were all over our guys and we did not get free. We did get the one call. … It's hard on Brock if a guy's not getting open on where to throw the football. I thought he played well. We got to do things that can make it easier on him.”
Cardinals offensive lineman Caleb Chandler said potentially blocking for Domann won’t be the same as blocking for Cunningham with the same level of confidence in both quarterbacks. Domann is not the same threat with his legs as Cunningham, who is climbing some of the school's rushing and QB rushing leaderboards.
Louisville vs Virginia football:Kickoff, TV channel, stream, spread
“Brock has shown us from his time being here, from spring ball and fall camp that he can get the job done,” Chandler said. “I know they're probably two different styles of play of quarterbacks, probably won't expect Brock to run as much as Malik, but I trust Brock's arm just as much as I trust Malik because Brock has shown me that he can get it done.”
Who’s going to step up?
Whether it’s Cunningham or Domann, U of L still needs playmakers around the quarterback, which will require other players on the offense to have to step up. Those options become more limited with running backs Jalen Mitchell, Tiyon Evans and Trevion Cooley all questionable for Saturday’s contest. Satterfield said Mitchell, who’s been out since the UCF game on Sept. 9, is “really close to being available,” while Evans and Cooley are day-to-day.
Apart from Dee Wiggins, who is out for the year, Louisville still has a healthy group of receivers, all of whom can be play-makers for the squad. Tyler Hudson (22 catches, 312 yards) and Ahmari Huggins-Bruce (17 catches, 265 yards) are the Cardinals’ leading receivers so far this season with freshman Chris Bell becoming more of an option in the passing game. When asked about which players can and should step up, Cardinals offensive coordinator Lance Taylor — who will be taking on increased duties on offense as Satterfield takes a more hands-on approach with the defense — didn’t specifically point out anyone but said it would need to be a group effort.
“Last week wasn't good enough,” he said. “We continue to improve offensively. ... That's really the challenge offensively is whether it's o-line, whether it's receiver, whether it's tight ends, whether it's running backs, whoever's in the game, whoever's number is called, go make a play. Find a way to elevate our game.”
Virginia’s new offense
The Cavaliers went from having one of the top passing offenses in the country last year to having one of the worst in the conference near the midpoint of the 2022 campaign. The team appears to still be adjusting to a new system under first-year head coach Tony Elliott and offensive coordinator Des Kitchings, who has an extensive background in coaching running backs.
According to ESPN reporter David Hale, UVA quarterback Brennan Armstrong’s QBR dropped from 75.4 in 2021 to 41.2 through five games for a 45.4% decrease. The fifth-year senior ranks 10th among ACC quarterbacks with 210 yards per game with only four touchdowns thrown. Last year, he threw five touchdown passes during the second game of the season, a 42-14 win over Illinois.
How topsy-turvy is the ACC's QB production so far?
5 QB spots have seen a 19%+ improvement from last year by QBR & 5 have seen a decline of 21%+
In real numbers, 10 of 14 teams are +/- 10 QBR points(units?) from last year. pic.twitter.com/J4SbuINxOj
— 💫🅰️♈️🆔 (@ADavidHaleJoint) October 3, 2022
“Sometimes when you’ve got a quarterback that's been in a groove and been in a system for so long, you change the system, it may take a little time for him to get going,” Louisville defensive coordinator Bryan Brown said of Armstrong. “I just see sometimes the timing is off a little bit from him and the receivers, but he's still a really good quarterback. When he gets out of their pocket, he steps up in those gaps and (is) making some throws down the field. He's using his legs a little bit more now. I mean, he's the second leading rusher. They still have a really good core group of guys on the offensive side.”
According to Vegas Insider, Louisville is a three-point favorite over Virginia on the road.
Virginia 31, Louisville 28
Louisville has become notorious for playing close games but struggling to make the necessary plays to come out on the winning side of most of them. Virginia will be at home on the heels of back-to-back conference losses while still having a talented quarterback and group of receivers.
Cunningham’s uncertain status also plays a part, considering he’s what makes Louisville’s offense go. If he’s unable to play, the Cardinals will be in trouble and must find that production elsewhere. The answer of who that might be remains to be seen.
Reach Louisville football, women's basketball and baseball beat writer Alexis Cubit at email@example.com and follow her on Twitter at @Alexis_Cubit.
This article originally appeared on Louisville Courier Journal: Louisville football vs. Virginia: Betting line, 3 things to know