BTP: A lot has been made going into this game about the respective schedules for both Louisville and NC State so far. Do you see that giving any one school a particular advantage, or do you feel that really doesn't make any difference?
MR: To be perfectly honest, I don't think it matters all that much in the grand scheme of things. If it is a factor and all, then I think it will only be a factor early on. Maybe NC State won't be used to size and speed that is faster and larger than Old Dominion or South Alabama, but if that's the case, they'll adjust quickly.
Louisville fans heard a lot about the "battle tested" argument in the days leading up to the Clemson game (the Tigers had only played Wofford and Appalachian State), and U of L wound up losing that game. That's probably why you haven't heard as much of that talk from Cardinal fans as you might have expected.
BTP: Don't know if you've seen the weather forecast, but they're calling for some crazy rainfall here in North Carolina this weekend. If the game conditions are waterlogged, how do you see that affecting Louisville's offense, and in particular Lamar Jackson?
MR: The simple answer is "oh, you have a running quarterback, that should help you guys," but I don't think it's quite as straightforward as that. Jackson does have a great deal pure speed, but his biggest asset is his elusiveness. If he's unable to cut the way he's used to, then I think it'll take away from his effectiveness a great deal.
Louisville has really struggled to run the ball effectively inside the tackles so far this season, despite being pretty deep and talented at the running back position. If there is a great deal of rain on Saturday, I don't see it being much of, if any, advantage for the Cardinals, especially when you toss in the fact that their quarterback is a true freshman who will be playing in his first true road game.
BTP: What concerns you most about NC State, and what do you think the biggest advantage is for the Cardinals?
MR: The two things that concern me most are how well they run the ball and that their Achilles heel may be in an area of the game where Louisville can't take advantage.
All season long, the U of L defense has had issues against the run, especially on first down. Teams have been able to put themselves in 2nd and comfortable situations, which has kept Todd Grantham from being able to dial up the types of blitzes that he likes to utilize. If Matt Dayes and company are able to keep doing what they've been doing, then the Cardinal defense could again be spending the afternoon on its heels.
I also don't like that the Wolfpack's biggest (apparent) weakness is defending the run, because rushing offense has probably been the most disappointing aspect of Louisville's team in 2015. Brandon Radcliff has not been able to get loose at all, and an inexperienced offensive line that has been especially weak in the middle shoulders most of the blame. The Cards did shake things up on the O-line a bit last weekend for the first time, and I'd expect to see those guys in the front five again on Saturday. How much it helps against an opponent not named Samford, well, I suppose we're about to find out.
BTP: Does Louisville have any major injury concerns heading into the game Saturday?
MR: Star wide receiver James Quick returned to the field last Saturday for the first time since he left the Auburn game with an ankle injury, but did not start. Unless he suffered some setback this week, I'd expect him to be back in the starting lineup on Saturday. Another projected starter at wide receiver, UAB transfer Jamari Staples, has not played at all this season and will not play against NC State. Running back Jeremy Smith suffered a shoulder injury against Samford, but is expected to be available.
This staff is extremely tight-lipped about injuries, so if there are any notable players who won't be suiting up for the game, we're probably not going to know until Saturday morning.
BTP: Let's get a prediction on the game.
MR: I would be very surprised if either side blows the other out of the water. I'm going to say NC State, 24-23. And then I cry a lot.
Many thanks to Mike for taking the time to give us some great responses. Make sure to give CardChronicle a follow during the game @CardChronicle.
Also, stay tuned later today for a special interview about tomorrow's game!