Key Matchup: Miami pass defense vs. Louisville passing offense

Chris Perkins

When Louisville quarterback Micale Cunningham drops back to pass to All-ACC wide receiver Tutu Atwell on Saturday night, Cunningham will be chased by Miami defensive ends Quincy Roche and Jaelan Phillips. 

Numerous matchups will decide the outcome of the ACC opener between 17th-ranked Miami and 18th-ranked Louisville, and one of the biggest is Miami’s pass defense against Louisville’s passing offense. 

Here’s a closer look at the battle. 

Miami pass defense: Roche and Phillips will likely overpower Louisville junior left tackle Adonis Boone and freshman right tackle Renato Brown. But that’s only part of the story. UM’s cornerbacks, D.J. Ivey and Al Blades, Jr., were only so-so last week. Safeties Gurvan Hall Jr., Amari Carter and Bubba Bolden were pretty good and strikers Gilbert Frierson and Keontra Smith seemed up to the task. Keep an eye on cornerback Te’Cory Couch because he might figure into the rotation. UM might be in over its head overall in this matchup.

Louisville passing offense: Atwell (70 receptions, 1,276 yards, 12 touchdowns in 2019) is flat-out scary as a slot receiver. He gives the Cardinals a dangerous weapon. Cunningham (22 TDs, 5 INTs in 2019) likes to go deep. He led the nation in yards per completion last season at 18.4. He passed for a career-best 343 yards last week along with three touchdowns and one interception. Cunningham is good but he’s not scary by himself. He needs others such as Atwell, who is the real deal, and fellow wide receivers Dez Fitzpatrick (four receptions, 110 yards, one touchdown last week) and Braden Smith (four receptions, 110 yards last week).

Edge: Louisville. Atwell, who attended Miami Northwestern, is too good to ignore, and if Cunningham has time to throw deep, watch out because the Cardinals could light up the scoreboard. Even if Roche and Phillips are disruptive Cunningham could still hit Atwell short. Miami’s best hope is a fierce pass rush led by Roche and Phillips and aided by fellow ends Cam Williams and Jahfari Harvey, and that could happen.