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Playin’ Nice: Card Chronicle

We discuss the Citrus Bowl matchup with Card Chronicle contributor Mark Ennis.

1. Well, most expected Lamar Jackson to break out this year, but not quite to the tune of 4,800 total yards, 51 touchdowns and a Heisman Trophy. What's been the most impressive thing to you about him?

The most impressive thing about Lamar Jackson from last year to this was his embracing of the mental part of being a QB and a close second would be his embracing the little things about being a better quarterback like footwork. A year ago he played almost entirely on instinct and raw athleticism to the point that he admitted over the summer that as a freshman he sometimes didn't know the play or perhaps even down and distance. This year he was much more in command of the offense and it helped him to become a far better passer. Perhaps the best indicator of his progress was in his deep ball where he went from being a spotty passer at best to being a downright dangerous deep ball passer.

2. Who are the other players to know on this offense?

Louisville is blessed with some quality across the board. It's one of the reasons Jackson himself took off this year. Brandon Radcliffe is a tough runner between the tackles who always showed some breakaway ability late in the season. Jaylen Smith and James Quick are the most dangerous of the receivers and the most consistent over the entire season. From Clemson onward, tight end Cole Hikutini really emerged as a safety valve for Jackson and a dangerous receiving weapon.

3. The Cardinals gave up 39 sacks this season -- how much of that is just a natural extension of Jackson trying to make plays, and how much of that is struggles from the offensive line?

Usually a sack total is a decent mixture of a quarterback holding on the ball too long and an offensive line struggling. Louisville's sack total, however, is not that. Jackson has been decisive as a passer. The offensive line has just been plain old bad. Particularly the interior of the line has both been overpowered physically and been utterly confused for large stretches of games. The challenge for us on the outside has been trying to figure out who is to blame for the pure confusion. Players or coaches? It's hard to say.

4. Co-offensive coordinator Lonnie Galloway is suspended for this game as part of the hilarious WakeyLeaks scandal. How much of a disadvantage does that put Louisville at for ready this game?

Let's be real here. This is Bobby Petrino's offense with Petrino doing the game planning and Petrino calling the plays. I'm not saying Galloway isn't an integral part of the staff but he's not the one who sets the agenda. That's Petrino. Additionally they've had weeks to get ready for him not being on the sidelines so the impact of Galloway not being there will be negligible.

5. Louisville's defense ranks 15th in S&P+ and is respectable in the raw stat categories as well. What's worked for that side of the ball?

Louisville has been blessed with fairly close to an ideal front seven for Grantham's style of 3-4 defense. DeAngelo Brown is a very stout, active nose tackle. Devonte Fields is a great pass rusher, and Stacy Thomas and Keith Kelsey are excellent inside linebackers. The struggle has really been in health at strong safety with Josh Harvey Clemons and at the corner position opposite Jaire Alexander. An additional struggle for Louisville in this one is that James Hearns, the team's leader in sacks, will not play a outside linebacker opposite Fields will not play. Redshirt freshman Jonathan Greenard will start in his place. He played well at times but isn't quite the edge rushing threat that Hearns is.

6. Care to offer a prediction or guess on how you see this matchup playing out?

Louisville just did not look good the last month of the season. And I can't shake that. I think LSU is going to play inspired to sort of ratify the choice of Orgeron as permanent head coach and will beat Louisville something like 28-24.