Repeat after me: Football. Game. This. Week. And it provides to be a look at what this team can do. Game one is Thursday, September 1st, 2016 at 7:00 p.m., against a program in its infancy still from Conference USA, the Charlotte 49ers.
A New Program When I said that the program is still in its infancy, I mean it. Charlotte only began its football program in 2013, and gained FBS status just this past season, where it went 2-10, giving the ‘Niners a stunning .182 winning percentage. It’s also safe to assume that the team will change greatly over the next couple years, as the team is comprised of a whopping 32 red-shirt juniors and seniors, not including those not red-shirted. It would also be safe to assume that they are the least popular football team in the state of North Carolina, as they are overshadowed by Duke, N.C. State, Wake Forest, and the favorites from the coast, North Carolina.
Unbalanced Match-up As for the game, it looks like Charlotte is severely over-matched. Louisville is no. 19 in the AP poll, and looks to bring the pressure on defense, as Charlotte’s offensive line struggled in 2015, the year that Louisville had one of the best rush defenses in the ACC, bringing back nine starters for the 2016 campaign. The two starters on defense the Cards did lose, however, happened to be the two biggest stars on defense, Sheldon Rankins and James Burgess, who both went into the 2016 NFL Draft. The Cardinals will look to DeAngelo Brown to fill in for Rankins, and Stacy Thomas and Keith Kelsey to receive a larger role in order to fill in for Burgess.
On the other side of the ball, all eyes look to quarterback Lamar Jackson, who passed for 227 and rushed for almost as many in the Music City Bowl this past December. Look for him to have a great season debut, as the 88th ranked on defense Charlotte will have its hands full with the dual-threat Jackson, whom is poised to have over 300 yards in the game on both sides of the ball. Of course, the only way that Jackson will not have that many is if newcomer Jawon Pass replaces him, trying to get some live game action, while Jackson gets rested in preparation for the week two match-up at Syracuse. It’s not often that a backup QB would come into a game, but this will be the game that Bobby Petrino may choose to help break-in his freshman quarterback.
Heavy Favorites Vegas has the Cards listed as a 40 point favorite, with ESPN’s FPI giving Louisville a 99% chance of winning. With odds like this, it is safe to assume that the crowd at Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium will go home happy, and Louisville will be 1-0. Unfortunately, this game will not put Louisville any higher in the rankings, with Charlotte’s record being winless in C-USA play last year, including a 58-10 loss to the Kentucky Wildcats last season.
In Closing This will be an easy win for the Cards. I would call it a test, but I don’t think I can. This game is more like a warm-up game, or another Spring Game, just one to add to the hype for the first ACC game of the season at Syracuse on September 9th. As for a score, I will predict a 58-10 victory, slightly different from the predictions I gave a few weeks ago.