Five keys for Notre Dame against Louisville: No funny business, be the bully

Carter Karels
South Bend Tribune

NO FUNNY BUSINESS

Forget that Louisville went 2-10 last season. This Cardinals squad should look rejuvenated in the early stages of Monday’s game. Never have the Cardinals opened the season at home against a ranked opponent. Fans are even planning a blackout in Cardinal Stadium for the debut of new head coach Scott Satterfield. Notre Dame can’t fool around and allow this game to be close in the second half. The longer the Cardinals remain within striking distance, the tougher they will be to put away. As long as the Irish don’t shoot themselves in the foot with turnovers, penalties and missed opportunities, they should quiet the crowd early.

BE THE BULLY

The Cardinals feature one of the smallest defensive starting lineups among Power Five schools. Only one player — nose tackle G.G. Robinson (6-4, 295) — weighs more than 255 pounds. At 6-5, 295 pounds, right tackle Robert Hainsey is Notre Dame’s lightest starting offensive linemen. The Irish should have no trouble pushing the Cardinals 3-4 defense backward. That should pave the way for running back Jafar Armstrong. His name would be called early and often if Notre Dame obtains a sizable lead.

LINEBACKER SUCCESS

Notre Dame linebackers Drew White (mike), Asmar Bilal (buck) and Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah (rover) earned the nod as starters. However, the Irish plan to incorporate a linebacker-by-committee. Linebackers Shayne Simon, Bo Bauer, Jack Lamb and Jordan Genmark Heath could see the field depending on certain situations. Satterfield features a run-heavy offense that might shift to pass-heavy if the Cardinals fall behind. The Irish will need their linebackers — no matter the grouping — to handle both approaches.

HANDLE BECTON

No UL player brings more to the table than Mekhi Becton. The 6-foot-7, 369-pound behemoth of a left tackle looks like a future NFL Draft pick to Irish head coach Brian Kelly. Depending on where Julian Okwara and Khalid Kareem align, Becton will alternate his responsibilities between both standout defensive ends. Senior right tackle Tyler Haycraft will, meanwhile, make his first career start. Handling Haycraft should not be an issue, but ND’s defensive end facing Becton will need to bring his A-game.

IMPROVING SPECIAL TEAMS

Junior place-kicker Jonathan Doerer and true freshman punter Jay Bramblett quelled looming concerns with strong preseasons. The starting special teams duo could silence doubters further with solid performances under the lights. Doerer cast doubts after struggling with kickoffs the past two seasons and producing a right-to-left curve on his field goal attempts during spring football. Bramblett’s early-enrolled spring semester did not bode well for him either. How Doerer and Bramblett perform in their enhanced roles under pressure remains unknown. Both showing promise would heighten the ceiling of the Irish and mitigate their risk of losing to the Cardinals.

Asmar Bilal (22) performs a drill during Notre Dame football practice on Aug. 17.
Notre Dame’s Jay Bramblett (19) walks off the field after the Blue-Gold Game on April 13.

NOTRE DAME (0-0) @ LOUISVILLE (0-0)

At Cardinal Stadium (65,000), Louisville, Ky.

Kickoff: 8 p.m. EDT

TV: ESPN

Series history: Louisville leads 1-0

Betting line: Notre Dame by 18