For the first time in 2017, the Louisville Cardinals will play a live opponent. The preseason practices have concluded, the scrimmages are over. Now, it’s time for business.
And business is booming. Louisville returns the best player in College Football, Lamar Jackson, who is hungry to win a national championship. The team behind him is comprised of familiar faces along with newcomers. It’s a solid team, yet one that’s underrated. Much of the national media had forgotten Jackson, and Louisville's spectacular season, basing their predictions on the last three games, where the Cardinals went 0-3, allowing 22 sacks, losing a game against Arch-rival Kentucky, and getting owned by a Leonard Fournette-less LSU.
But having rested up, this team looks to put all of that behind them. They face a 2017 schedule with a national champion, two teams out for revenge, and a whole lot of winnable games. The Cards could very well go 12-0. They could also go 7-5.
All of that is dependent on how well this year’s offensive line performs. Jackson can scramble, but the Cards want to pass with him, impossible if he doesn’t have time to throw. But after getting four-star recruit Cole Bentley, along with Mike Summers, the lines coach under the first Petrino administration, this line should hold up.
This season begins Saturday, in Indianapolis against Purdue, and ends in November in Lexington. I’ve listed out just a summary of each of the games below.
Week 1: vs. Purdue Boilermakers Saturday, September 2nd, 7:30, FOX Lucas Oil Stadium, Indianapolis, IN. My prediction:Louisville 45Purdue 14
Week one is an interesting matchup, featuring a homecoming of sorts for Purdue Head Coach Jeff Brohm. Brohm was the quarterback for Louisville from 1989-1993, and became a star with the Cards. After a stint with Western Kentucky, Brohm was hired to help bring Purdue back to relevancy. The Boilermakers had the 21st passing offense in 2016, returning Big Ten’s passing leader, David Blough and many rushing weapons. But Louisville has experience, and will take advantage of Purdue’s mediocre offensive line.
Week 2: at North Carolina Tar Heels Saturday, September 9th, Noon, ABC/ESPN/ESPN2 Kenan Memorial Stadium, Chapel Hill, NC My Prediction: Louisville 38, North Carolina 14
North Carolina is a totally different team from last year. They’ve lost 85% of their scoring. Many offensive pieces have left, including QB Mitch Trubisky. The Tar Heels have more questions than a final exam. They’ll probably make a bowl game, but won’t compete in the Coastal Division. Louisville should win this game handedly.
Week 3: vs. Clemson Tigers Saturday, September 16th, 3:30, ABC or ESPN Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium, Louisville, KY My prediction: Louisville 42 Clemson 38
This game will be a big one. Much like Florida State last year, there are many storylines that the national media wants to chomp at: Heisman vs. National Champion. Rival vs. Rival. A game that had been decided by less than a touchdown since 2014. A rematch of one of the best games in 2016. The national media will have all eyes on Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium for Week 3, maybe featuring ESPN’s College Gameday. It will be a close game, and Louisville is fortunate to play Clemson early this season. For starters, The Tigers have a different lineup; they’ve lost players such as Mike Williams, Ben Boulware, and standout Deshaun Watson. All three will be hard to replace. Take this into consideration with the urge for revenge for Louisville, and it’s the perfect storm that will witness Louisville coming out victorious.
Week 4: vs. Kent State Golden Flashes Saturday, September 23rd, TBA, TBA Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium, Louisville, KY My prediction: Louisville 65 Kent State 14
This game should have been during week one or two. Kent State has gotten better, but they also must play Clemson and Marshall. Paul Haynes, head coach of the Flashes, has yet to win more than four in a season. It’s a mismatch. It’s also unclear whether QB Nick Holley will be as explosive as last year after injuring his knee in week 11.
Week 5: vs. Murray State Racers Saturday, September 30th, TBA, TBA Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium, Louisville, KY My prediction: Louisville 68 Murray State 10
This is perhaps Louisville’s easiest game. FCS teams appear on schedules for one reason, and it isn’t for competition (except for North Dakota State University).
Week 6: At NC State Wolfpack Thursday, October 5th, 8:00, ESPN Carter-Finley Stadium, Raleigh, NC My prediction: Louisville 35 NC State 28
Every indication points to a trap game. NC State has a starting quarterback in place, an improved offensive line, and one of the top defensive lines in the nation. The Wolfpack is a sleeper pick in the Atlantic. NC State is hyping this game up. They’ve named this matchup a blackout game. They have sleek new alternates just for Louisville. It will be a tough game. Rushing will be hard. If Louisville is to win, the offensive line MUST hold up. The only area that NC State is lacking in is their secondary. If Louisville can create separation with receivers, and Jackson has time to pass, this will be a win. If not, Louisville’s high-profile bowl aspirations will be lost.
Week 7: vs Boston College Golden Eagles Saturday, October 14th, TBA, TBA Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium, Louisville, KY My prediction: Louisville 45 Boston College 10
Boston College ended 2016 on a high note. The Eagles defeated Maryland in the Quick Lane Bowl. OC Scot Loeffler played some up-tempo plays with QB Patrick Towles, a name that all Louisville fans will recognize. The problem is, however, that Towles graduated, and left a hole at QB. They also possess a lacking secondary. Many think the cap of the Eagles are as a mid-level ACC team. Last year was 52-7 Louisville. I see no reason for much change.
Week 8: at Florida State Seminoles Saturday, October 21st, TBA, TBA Doak Campbell Stadium, Tallahassee, FL My prediction: Florida State 38 Louisville 35
This is going to be a close one. Louisville obliterated the Seminoles week three last year, in a game that no one expected, but don’t expect the same to happen again. For starters, Florida State brings back nearly everyone on defense that ranked in the top 25, and had already gotten a look at Lamar Jackson a year ago. Jimbo Fisher also won’t make the same mistakes he made last year. Doak Campbell Stadium is also a tough place to play, as Louisville figured out two years ago in the second half. Could the Cards beat FSU? Theoretically, but it’ll be tough.
Week 9: at Wake Forest Demon Deacons Saturday, October 28th, TBA, TBA BB&T Field, Winston-Salem, NC My prediction: Louisville 38 Wake Forest 21
Health is the key to Wake Forest. The Demon Deacons only had seven senior players participate in more than 100 plays last season. This is also a young team, and injuries could prove costly for them. The Demon Deacons also ended as one of the best to create turnovers, but are with a new defensive coordinator, and without four of the top tacklers. Their offense is almost non-existent, ranking 118th in scoring.
Week 11: vs. Virginia Cavaliers Saturday, November 11th, TBA, TBA Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium, Louisville, KY My prediction: Louisville 52 Virginia 14
When you ask people about Virginia athletics, the only thing that comes to mind is basketball. Their football team is atrocious. Head Coach Bronco Mendenhall is building the team, but this will take time. Louisville won a stressful game last year, due to a ton of dropped passes in the first quarter. But without James Quick or Jamari Staples this season, that should not happen.
Week 12: vs. Syracuse Orange Saturday, November 18th, TBA, TBA, Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium, Louisville, KY My prediction: Louisville 56, Syracuse 24
The Orange have one of the toughest schedules in the nation. They play LSU, NC State, Clemson, Miami, and Florida State, all before Louisville. This team will be tired. Head Coach Dino Babers runs a fast offense, but after handedly overcoming it last year, Louisville will have a similar preparation for it. This game would be closer earlier in the season. It’s going to be a long season for the Orange.
Week 13: at Kentucky Wildcats Saturday, November 25th, TBA, TBA Kroger Field, Lexington, KY My prediction: Louisville 42 Kentucky 38
This was one prediction I missed last season. The Wildcats have gotten better, and should make another bowl game in 2017. But Last season was the first time that Bobby Petrino lost to Kentucky. The Cards will be out for revenge, in front of a sellout crowd in the town to the East.
This year should be a good one for Louisville fans. It’s an easier season, and the Cards should end as 11-1. They could get into the ACC Championship game if 1. They beat Clemson, and 2. Clemson beats Florida State.
If this happens, then it will be interesting to see which team wins the Atlantic. If it’s Louisville, the Cards may very well head to the Playoff.
Based on these predictions, however, I believe the Cards will finish 2nd in the Atlantic, and play in the Orange Bowl, against Michigan.