LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — No. 15 Louisville stands second in the Atlantic Coast Conference, just above a Virginia Tech squad trying to get there.
This scenario exceeds preseason expectations, at least by this point, and Saturday’s winner moves another step closer toward a berth in the conference championship in Charlotte, North Carolina. The Cardinals (7-1, 4-1, No. 13 CFP ) look to follow up their 23-0 shutout of then-No. 20 Duke by improving to 5-0 at home; the Hokies (4-4, 3-1) have won consecutive games and seek their first road victory in four tries.
After bouncing back from a letdown at Pittsburgh, Louisville doesn’t want to squander a chance to bolster its position in the standings.
“I think that really alerted our guys that we’ve got to do this each and every week and how important the ‘one-game season’ mantra is,” first-year Cardinals coach Jeff Brohm said. “I think they know that on any given week you can get beat if you don’t play well.
“Our guys are more than willing to adjust and play hard and realize that every week there’s a lot riding on each and every game.”
Virginia Tech is showing the same urgency with three wins in four games, including consecutive double-digit wins over Wake Forest (30-13) and Syracuse (38-10). The Hokies will have had nine days off since registering season highs of 318 yards rushing and 528 overall against the Orange.
Louisville was picked to finish eighth and Virginia Tech 11th before the season started. Nonetheless, second-year Hokies coach Brent Pry insists his team isn’t getting ahead of itself.
“We don’t think about that,” Pry said this week of title-game talk. “I’d be disappointed if somebody was. I mean, we work really hard on focusing on the next opponent. These guys understand and know that that’s part of the key to our success, to us improving. Anytime you look ahead, (you) get your butt beat.”
GIVING NO GROUND
The ACC’s 2-3 defenses will be on display. The Cardinals limited Duke to 202 yards for their first shutout of a ranked opponent in school history and second overall this season. They’ve held their last four foes below 300 yards for the first time since 2013-14. Louisville also ranks ninth in Football Bowl Subdivision run defense, allowing just 91.4 yards per contest after holding Duke to just 51.
Virginia Tech has posted 15 sacks the past two games, including eight last week against Syracuse, and is tied for fourth in the FBS with 30. The Hokies’ pressure snuffed the Orange on all nine tries on third down. Louisville is allowing 303.4 yards per outing, just ahead of the Hokies (316.0).
THE JORDAN FACTOR
Louisville running back Jawhar Jordan racked up his ninth 100-yard rushing performance last week with a career-high 163 and two touchdowns on 21 carries. All have come in the past 13 games. Jordan shares the ACC lead with 10 TDs rushing and is the top runner with 824 yards (12th in FBS). He needs 176 yards to become the school’s 23rd runner to reach 1,000 in a season.
The Hokies have allowed a total of 35 rushing yards in their past two games, including zero yards by Syracuse.
KEEP AN EYE ON KYRON
Mobile Hokies quarterback Kyron Drones has thrown for 1,237 yards and seven touchdowns with just one interception, and that came 151 attempts ago on his 15th pass of the game. His streak without a pick broke Sean Glennon’s Hokies record of 149 in 2007. The Hokies have turned the ball over just four times in the last five games and eight times overall. Drones has also rushed for 400 yards with four scores.
ACCOUNT FOR GILLOTTE
Edge rushing has suited Louisville junior Ashton Gillotte, who has become of the nation’s top pass rushers. His two sacks against Duke gave him 8.5 overall, good for sixth in FBS. Gillotte also has 10 tackles for loss among 27 stops and two forced fumbles.
The Hokies lead the Cardinals 6-2 and won the previous meeting 42-35 three years ago. This is just the second matchup in ACC play, and Louisville seeks its first win since 1992 at its former Cardinal Stadium home.
AP Sports Writer Hank Kurz Jr. in Virginia contributed to this report.
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