The Western Kentucky Hilltoppers will be on the road at the University of Louisville to get their 2020 campaign underway. They are looking to build on a 9-4 season under second-year head coach Tyson Helton. He did a terrific job in his first season as the bench boss at Western Kentucky.
Helton turned a 3-9 Western Kentucky team into a 9-4 program in just one season. With some time to recruit and get his own guys in there, the Hilltoppers should be able to take even more strides forward in the coming years.
Western Kentucky capped off their season with a 23-20 win over Western Kentucky in the First Responder Bowl. The only problem for Western Kentucky last season is that it wasn’t a difficult schedule at all. Are they really a 9-4 team or is that a reflection of their weak schedule?
You have to give them a lot of credit for beating Army and Arkansas. Sure, Arkansas was not a good SEC team, but downing an SEC team 45-19 is nevertheless an impressive feat. Another notable opponent that Western Kentucky played in 2019 was the Louisville Cardinals.
Louisville handled their business with a 38-21 win on September 14, 2019 on the road at Western Kentucky. That was a good test for Western Kentucky early on and they failed. However, you have to admire their resilience to learn from that loss to lose just two more games the rest of the way.
Those losses came against FAU and Marshall. Their other defeat was a bad loss versus Central Arkansas in Week 1 in August. They will likely be better prepared this time around in their season opener.
The Cardinals are coming off an 8-5 campaign in the ACC. There were some moments of really good football from Louisville like a 28-21 win over 24th ranked Virginia, and 38-28 win over Mississippi State in the Music City Bowl. Surely they were inconsistent and a team hard to figure out from week to week, but they were young and it was expected.
Now comes the part where the Cards must take the next step and play more competitive football. They’re not going to compete with Clemson for top honors in the conference, but are trending in the right direction. Western Kentucky and Louisville are two programs both on the correct path. Head below for our free Western Kentucky vs. Louisville pick for September 12, 2020.
Western Kentucky Hilltoppers vs. Louisville Cardinals NCAAF Week 2 Betting Odds:
Western Kentucky vs. Louisville Prediction:
Louisville were a 2-10 team under Bobby Petrino in 2018. It was an ugly season and it cost Petrino his job. Like Western Kentucky, Louisville was able to find better results instantly under their new head coach. Scott Satterfield knew what he was doing, and took this team to a bowl and won. Note that the Cardinals had the best comeback season of any team in the Power Five conference. The next generation of Louisville quarterbacks that gets noticed by the public will likely happen in 2020.
Expect big things out of Micale Cunningham as a junior for the Cardinals. He may not be able to fill the shoes of Teddy Bridgewater and Lamar Jackson, who both came before him, but Cunningham is going to provide some exciting plays for Louisville this season. In his first season as the starter, Cunningham was on point with 22 touchdowns and just 5 interceptions. He also rushed for 482 yards and 6 scores on the ground.
Cunningham is far from a burner like Lamar, but he can sit in the pocket and sling it. Bridgewater is a better comparison to Cunningham than Lamar. The Western Kentucky defense should be a decent challenge out of the gate for the Cardinals. Their defense was formidable last season, as the Hilltoppers gave up 20.1 points and 337.8 yards per game. The 20.1 points against was good to finish in the top-25 in the FBS.
Cunningham connected for 119 yards and 2 touchdowns with no intercetions last season. They kept it simple and on the ground, with Cunningham attempting just 13 passes as an inexperienced quarterback. With a lot more experience on his resume now, expect the Cardinals to open up the playbook tonight.
Defensively Louisville was abysmal last season. They ranked 12th in the ACC and gave up more than 500 yards a game in six outings. However, the Cardinals return seven starters, and should be much more mature, especially up front on the defensive line. The Hilltoppers’ offensive line must be prepared in this one, or matching Cunningham on offense is going to be awfully difficult. WKU will rely heavily on standout running back Gaej Walker.
He ran for 1,208 yards with 8 touchdowns a season ago. That should help take some of the pressure off quarterback Tyrrell Pigrome, who will be making his first starter as the No. 1 option for a school tonight. He threw 3 touchdowns and 6 interceptions on 58.5% passing as a backup last year.
I’m expecting the Western Kentucky defense to keep them around for the first half, but look for Cunningham to be too much to handle for four quarters. Western Kentucky will have to get away from Walker at some point and rely on Pigrome making plays in the pocket. Expect the Cards to pull away in the second half to pull away and clear the Hilltoppers by 17-21 points.