Wake Forest and Louisville are both looking for their first win in Atlantic Coast Conference play this season.
They enter Saturday’s matchup a combined 0-7 in league play. Louisville (2-5, 0-4 ACC) had last week off to regroup after its fourth straight loss, and players and coaches and should be refreshed as they try to get out of the division basement.
The Cardinals want to look forward, not back.
“Everything that’s happened, happened and you can’t change it,” Cardinals senior receiver Jaylen Smith said. “But we can build on it.”
Louisville coach Bobby Petrino has stressed positivity throughout the season and believes the bye came at the right moment for his team. Besides getting healthy, he said the extra week allowed the Cardinals to address execution issues on both sides of the ball.
The Cardinals’ hope that work translates into that elusive ACC win and avoid their first five-game losing streak in a decade. They also would love to avenge last year’s loss to Wake Forest (3-4, 0-3), which has dropped its past two.
Two weeks after getting shellacked 63-3 by No. 2 Clemson, the Demon Deacons led at Florida State 10-0 before yielding 38 unanswered points in a 38-17 loss . They visit Louisville ranked last in the ACC defensively in yardage (498.4) and points (37.0).
Wake Forest has an opportunity to rebound against the ACC’s worst offense (326.1). But coach Dave Clawson said doing so requires his team getting out of its own way.
“We’re not playing real well right now,” he said. “We need to get better. We need to make sure we cut down on our mistakes, the amount of big plays we’re giving up, our red zone offense.
“As much as you prepare for an opponent, the challenge within a season is getting your own football team better regardless of who you play.”
Some other things to watch as Wake Forest visits Louisville:
STILL THE QB
Despite pulling Jawon Pass again late in a 38-20 loss at Boston College, Petrino said the sophomore would start against the Demon Deacons. He completed 17 of 31 passes for 170 yards and ran for a touchdown against the Eagles, but threw an interception and was sacked five times. This week’s priorities included improving his decision-making and protection by an offensive line that has allowed a league-high 24 sacks.
BIG PLAYS, BIG TROUBLE
It’s been a season-long struggle for Wake Forest’s defense. No team in the FBS has allowed more 50-yard plays than the Demon Deacons, who have given up 16 of them. Wake Forest has allowed 42 plays of 20-plus yards, 25 plays of 30 or more yards and 16 of at least 40 yards — all worsts in the ACC.
Something has to give for Louisville, which is minus-9 in turnovers and tied for 123rd nationally at minus-1.29 per contest. Cardinal opponents have scored 73 points off takeaways.
The most explosive player on the field in last year’s matchup wasn’t Louisville’s 2016 Heisman Trophy winner Lamar Jackson — it was Wake Forest receiver Greg Dortch. He set a program record by scoring four touchdowns before leaving with a season-ending abdominal injury, but hasn’t missed a beat in his return this year, earning midseason AP All-America honors while leading the ACC with 154.4 all-purpose yards per game and ranking second in the league in both average receptions (7.4) and yards receiving average (88).
Source: The Associated Press