No. 5 Louisville gearing up for ACC finale vs. Wake Forest
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) So much for the notion that No. 5 Louisville's path would be smoother since its only loss at Clemson.
Yes, the Cardinals have blown out North Carolina State and Boston College, but only after being tested by Duke and Virginia respectively. Louisville (8-1, 6-1 Atlantic Coast Conference, No. 6 CFP) now hosts improved Wake Forest (6-3, 3-2), which looks to beat a ranked opponent a week after becoming bowl eligible for the first time since 2011.
After edging the Demon Deacons 20-19 last season on the road, Louisville expects another battle Saturday night from a team featuring familiar faces on defense.
''It's the same team we played last year,'' Louisville sophomore right tackle Lakayus McNeil said. ''We just have to make sure we step up our game. It's different from when we played them last year because we were young and didn't know exactly what to do. This year, we're going to play harder because we're smarter.''
The Cardinals' 52-7 rout of BC helped them move up a spot in the College Football Playoff rankings and they want to keep the committee's attention with another dominant effort led by Heisman Trophy favorite Lamar Jackson.
Louisville's sophomore quarterback accounted for seven touchdowns against the Eagles to raise his nation-leading TD total to 45. Wake Forest is allowing just 18.4 points per game is prepared to offer more resistance to Jackson, especially after forcing three turnovers in last week's 27-20 win over Virginia .
''We're ready for the challenge,'' Demon Deacons defensive end Duke Ejiofor said of facing Jackson. ''We're so excited to play Louisville. … No fear here.''
Some other things to watch as Wake Forest visits Louisville:
NEARING MILESTONES: Jackson's 19 rushing TDs have put him within one of matching the ACC record for QBs set by Georgia Tech's Tevin Washington in 2012. He needs two more TDs to tie the league mark of 47 set by Clemson's Deshaun Watson.
NOT DONE YET: While beating Virginia was big for the Demon Deacons, they've lost three of five and face a daunting two-game stretch that continues next week at Clemson. Wake Forest coach Dave Clawson has made that point clear this week. ''There's a lot left in the season, a lot more to play for,'' he said. ''You never want a loss to cause a second loss, and you don't want a win that you get so caught up in the moment you don't get past it. So we had to quickly refocus.''
NOWHERE TO RUN: Louisville has been downright stingy on the ground since yielding 201 yards in the loss at Clemson. The Cardinals have held their last three opponents below 100 yards rushing and are allowing an average of just 66.3 yards over the past four contests. They rank seventh nationally in run defense with an average of 106 yards per game.
DEACS' PASS RUSH: Wake Forest is among three teams tied for third in the ACC with 27 sacks. Ejiofor has eight sacks and LB Marquel Lee five, and the two are tied for 12th nationally with 13 tackles for loss each.
BATTLE FATIGUES: Louisville's latest alternate uniform will honor the Armed Forces with a black-and-white scheme featuring a Stars-and-Stripes pattern on the shoulder pads and gloves. The school will also dedicate an unoccupied chair that will remain empty in honor of POWs and MIAs.
AP Sports Writer Joedy McCreary in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, contributed to this report.
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