The Daily Journal recently caught up with Jody Demling of 247Sports' Cardinal Authority to find his keys to the Ole Miss-Louisville matchup.
What are the expectations for UL in Year 3 under Scott Satterfield following a pair of very different seasons? Is this team better than it was a year ago?
If you really look at the first two years of the Scott Satterfield era at Louisville, they are very similar. But the first year, Louisville won a few close games and didn’t turn the ball over as much as they did last season. They lost those close games last season. In year three, Louisville will be better on defense and the offense has potential with Cunningham but will need to find some receivers to be consistent weapons.
Where is Malik Cunningham at in his development? Do people around the program feel this is the year he takes his biggest step forward?
Those around the program think Cunningham is primed for a huge season. He had the turnover issues - 12 INTs and 3 fumbles - last year but still put up career best numbers in rushing and passing. When he’s not rushed in the pocket and can set his feet, Cunningham is very accurate and throws a great ball. He has worked hard in the offseason on his leadership abilities and the turnovers.
How would you expect Louisville's offense to look against Ole Miss' suspect defense?
Louisville has a lot of holes to replace on the offense in the skill positions - Javian Hawkins at RB, Dez Fitzpatrick and Tutu Atwell at wide receiver. But with Cunningham - his arm and his feet - a backfield that has four or five solid options and five guys on the line that started a game last season, the offense has a shot to be surprising to some. Satterfield will have a good scheme and I would imagine they will try to run the ball a lot against Ole Miss’ defense.
How does Louisville's defense matchup with Ole Miss' high-powered offense?
Bryan Brown’s defense has improved dramatically in two years and this year should be even better. Louisville was terrible during the 2018 season and in Brown’s first year had a lot of holes. But the staff has concentrated on defense in recruiting and several transfers will help out. Louisville’s defense will be solid and a spot that was not very good last year - safety - will be much improved and that will help against Ole Miss.
What is this Louisville team's biggest strength? Weakness?
I would say the biggest strength is the depth on the offensive line with so many guys back - a total of five guys who started a game and a total of 80 games experience - and the experience on the defensive side of the ball with a total of 13 different players who have started a game for the Cardinals and three transfers that were all-conference in the league they came from. So the experience is there. The weakness? I believe it will be finding someone to make consistent big catches for the offense. They relied on Tutu Atwell and Dez Fitzpatrick so much - someone has to step up.
Who is the X-factor in this game for the Cardinals on each side of the ball?
On offense, I would say that will be Marshon Ford. He’s listed as a tight end but plays more of an H-back type of position - lining up in the backfield a lot - and is expected this season to line up some as a wide receiver. I believe he’ll end up being the leader in catches for Louisville. On defense, I’ll go with Chandler Jones. He’s been a solid cornerback in the past but word is he’s improved a ton and he will also play some safety as needed this season.
What is the biggest key to this game, in your eyes, that will determine its outcome?
Turnovers. Louisville gave the ball away so much last season and it cost them several games. It’s been a major focus of the offseason for Scott Satterfield and his staff and in order to have a shot against Ole Miss the team will have to cut down on the turnovers.