Music City Bowl, Mississippi State vs. Louisville: Scouting the Cardinals
Mississippi State stretched its bowl streak to 10 consecutive years when it won the Egg Bowl.
Sunday, the Bulldogs learned their opponent and destination. The Bulldogs, (6-6, 3-5 SEC) will face Louisville (7-5, 5-3 in ACC)in the Music City Bowl.
It will mark the Bulldogs 23rd postseason appearance for a program that went to only 6 bowl games before the 1991 season.
Here are 5 things you need to know about Louisville.
How did they get here?
Louisville’s season was defined by a convincing win or loss, more often than not. Louisville lost 5 games — each by double digits, and their final losses were by at least 25 points.
They won 7 games, including 4 by double digits, and their best victory was a 62-59 thriller at then-No. 19 Wake Forest, which was undefeated.
The Kentucky loss was puzzling in that the Cardinals had won their previous 2 games and had to be motivated after losing by 46 the year before.
Quarterback Micale Cunningham has been solid
The Cardinals are led by the sophomore who has taken the majority of the snaps. Cunningham has thrown for 1,786 yards and 20 touchdowns to only 5 interceptions. He’s been solid on the ground as well, rushing for 566 yards and 6 touchdowns.
No, he’s not Lamar Jackson, but Louisville still leans on its mobile QB to make plays.
Cunningham’s best games came in ACC action against Florida State and Boston College. Against the Seminoles, he was 16-27 for 286 yards and 2 touchdowns. The following week, Cunningham was 13-for-18 and 1 touchdown, throwing for 288 yards.
Freshman Evan Conley has seen action in reserve duty, throwing for 613 yards and 4 touchdowns. Like Cunningham, Conley is a threat to run, rushing for 88 yards in a backup role.
What about the Louisville offense?
It has been a balanced attack from head coach Scott Satterfield’s unit, rushing for 2,569 yards and throwing for 2,736 yards.
On the ground, it has been the Javian Hawkins show, leading the Cardinals with 1,420 yards on 241 carries. The redshirt freshman has scored 8 touchdowns and averages 118.3 yards a game. That’s good enough for 5.9 yards a carry.
Hassan Hall has been solid in a backup role, rushing for 497 yards and 5 touchdowns on the season. At 4.7 yards per carry, Hall has been a nice addition to the offense in his 2nd year in the program.
Sophomore Chatarius “Tutu” Atwell leads the wide receiver unit, hauling in 61 passes for 1,129 yards and 12 touchdowns. Atwell is averaging 94.1 yards a game and 18.5 yards a catch.
Redshirt junior Dez Fitzpatrick has caught 6 touchdown passes, grabbing 33 passes for 598 yards on the season. He’s averaging 18.1 yards a catch.
What about the Louisville defense?
The Cardinals are not a defensive juggernaut by any stretch. Currently only 107th in total defense, the unit has given up 406 points this season, as opponents are averaging 33.8 points per game.
If MSU running back Kylin Hill is looking to have a career day, it could come against the Cardinals. Louisville currently has the 115th-worst rushing defense in the country, with opponents averaging 5.48 yards a carry and 210.8 yards a game on the ground.
One bright spot is the Cards do get off the field on 3rd down. They rank 54th nationally, allowing opponents to convert just 37.9% on 3rd down.
Grenada, Miss., product C.J. Avery leads the Cards with 84 tackles. Rodjay Burns joins his fellow linebacker with 76 tackles, 16 of which came against Wake Forest.
What are Louisville’s biggest weaknesses?
Louisville struggles on the road, having only won 2 games away from Cardinal Stadium. It won by 3 in the shootout at Wake Forest and whipped an NC State team that finished 4-8.
Without question, the MSU offense has to be excited about facing a defense that is one of the worst in the country in several categories. Louisville gave up 406 points — most in the ACC and 110th nationally.
Noted previously, the MSU running game could have a record day.
The MSU defense has struggled as well. The good news for the Cardinals, it should have success early against an injury-riddled MSU secondary for Cunningham to exploit.
I’ll be frank, this could be a 38-31 type game and should make for an entertaining bowl game in the Music City.