Just more fuel to the hype trail for this upcoming College Football Season.
If you haven’t heard, these Cards are pretty good. Of course, every single poll has them in the top 25, with some polls placing the Cards in the top 20. This was the best AP Preseason poll since 2013, and the Cards haven’t been ranked in the AP preseason poll since then.
Of course, number 19 does not sound as good as being in the top 10, but make no mistake, number 19 could still play in a little bowl game on New Year’s Eve (ask Oklahoma). This number will likely change, and you could see the Cards jump up BIG after week three, in which the Cards play the Florida State Seminoles at Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium. And let’s not forget Clemson, who started outside the top 10 and lost to Alabama in the BCS National Championship game.
I guess what I’m trying to say is that it’s too early to really be able to gauge a team’s skill before actual game play takes place. There are a few variables, such as freshmen, red-shirts returning, graduation, injuries, changes to a coaching staff, as well as team cohesion that could affect the way a team plays. Last year was a prime example of that.
After losing the first three games, albeit close losses, two of which were against ranked teams, there were a lot of people that jumped off the bandwagon prematurely. There were even a few fans that turned to the dumpster fire which is Kentucky Football, which started out 3-0 (against all unranked teams). But you have to look at the variables of graduates and freshmen, and remember WE LOST OUR OFFENSIVE LINE! Which is one of the most important parts of an entire team. Unless you have Cam Newton or Michael Vick, if you don’t have an offensive line you’ will have a bad time.
Fast forward to this season. The Cards are one of the teams returning the most starters in the NCAA, which will help in the long run. The offense should be even better, and did start to improve as last season dragged on. Plus now, the depth chart is deeper than before. That will be music to Lamar Jackson’s ears, who carried the whole team in the 7-2 finish (might I add that he did not know the playbook!).
The reason that the AP ranked the Cards so high is the finish that the Cards obtained. The Cards went 7-2, including a huge comeback against the Kentucky Wildcats in "East Louisville", and then managed to defeat SEC powerhouse Texas A&M in Nashville in the Music City Bowl (which many could have sworn was at Floyd and Central). That finish is thanks to Jackson, who adapted and solidified his role as starting quarterback, arguably one of the best in the nation.
Almost no one saw Jackson's coming, and the Cards developed some depth at the position with passer Kyle Bolin and four-star dual-threat QB Jawon Pass. Let’s also not forget former QB Reggie Bonnafon, who has developed as an interesting player, while shifting to a slot WR and RB last season.
Speaking of Bonnafon, he probably should be the Most Interesting Man in College Football (excluding Jim Harbaugh), due to the fact that he helped keep the defense guessing, especially when he lined up right next to Jackson, making it almost impossible to know who would get the snap.
Of course, playing in the ACC will be a tough challenge, especially the dogfight in the Atlantic between Clemson (2nd) and Florida State (4th) which the Cards hope to crash, the Coastal is also represented, as North Carolina is ranked 22nd in the AP poll. However, it’s not an impossible feat, as the Cards narrowly lost to Clemson in week three, who was ranked 11th overall at the time. The Cards also led Florida State at the half, before the experience of the Seminoles took over and triumphed in the second half in Tallahassee.
Don't forget group-of-five powerhouse Houston, who upset Louisville in week two last year, due to the Cleveland Browns impersonation that the O-line was doing, causing Kyle Bolin to hit the ground faster than Prince Fielder sliding into third. The Cougars are 15th, after a great finish to the season capped off by a win over Florida State in the Peach Bowl. Louisville will also play the Cougars in Houston late this season, in what could prove to be an extremely interesting match-up . As for my predictions for this season, I still think that the Cards have enough firepower to get into the top ten, and potentially the top five, in 2016. If the Cards win against the top two in the Atlantic, then start plugging Louisville into playoff conversations. If Louisville then beats Houston on the road, start thinking about selling your soul for tickets to the CFB Playoff, because Louisville could pull an Oklahoma and crash the New Year’s Eve Party. Sure, it may not be as good as being in the top-10, but number 19 will definitely add to the hype train, which will get rolling the more and more the more this team plays.