--By Mike Gilpatrick
--File photo by Seth Spalding
Many people are down on the Louisville Cardinals Football team in 2018. Because of a new quarterback, and their third defensive coordinator in the past three years; many media outlets aren’t expecting much from Petrino and Co.
Despite this, Louisville is in a dangerous position. No one’s expecting Louisville to compete, or even contend for the ACC Atlantic title.
The Cardinals were picked to finish fifth in the Atlantic Division. Clemson, to no one’s surprise, received the most amount of votes to win the division, and the conference. Florida State, NC State, and Boston College were all projected ahead of Louisville in the division.
It would be a miracle if Louisville won the division. Clemson returns the strongest team in the conference, and has a lot of depth at the quarterback position. Trevor Lawrence is a stud under center, and will compete with Kelly Bryant for the starting position. They lost a lot of receivers, but are known for pumping wideouts out. They also have a stellar defense.
The game is also in Death Valley. And Louisville has a first-year starting quarterback.
Behind the Tigers, Louisville could compete with Florida State. The Cardinals have beaten the Tigers the past two seasons, and FSU has a new coach, and returns QB Deondre Francois from an early season-ending injury last year. While Francois has been said to be healthy, it’ll be interesting to see if there is any rust during his return.
Louisville more than likely has a 45% chance of beating the ‘Noles. If they beat them, and the Cardinals don’t lose to a surprise ACC opponent, then they could finish second, and in a higher bowl game.
One of the many reasons Louisville hasn’t been projected to win against NC State and Boston College is because of last year. The Cards lost to the Wolfpack 39-25 in Raleigh, and to the Eagles 45-42 on a late defensive collapse.
The two games will be decided on whether Brian VanGorder’s defense is significantly better than Peter Sirmon’s. Ryan Finley is one of the better QBs in the ACC, and the Wolfpack return his top three receivers, and three starters on the offensive line. Additionally, AJ Dillon is a stellar running back for BC, and the Eagles have a big line with experience.
If Louisville takes advantage of the new starts on the line, and Boston College’s questions at quarterback, then the Cardinals could beat both teams.
One advantage Louisville has in 2018 as opposed to 2017, is an experienced offensive line. All of the starters saw action at some point last season. Lukayas McNeil and Mekhi Becton are huge, and should lock down the right side. Kenny Thomas and Linwood Foy bring a lot of experience on the left. And Cole Bentley was a stud last year.
The line should give Jawon Pass time to throw, or roll out of the pocket. Jaylen Smith should be ready by the start of the season, giving Pass a great No. 1 target. Dez Fitzpatrick is also lining up for another stellar season.
If they mesh early, then Louisville could finish second in the ACC Atlantic. Or, if last year’s woes magnify without Lamar Jackson, the Cardinals could finish sixth.
More than likely, Louisville would finish third in the Atlantic. Clemson will probably win the division, and Florida State will come second.
Projected Standings: 1. Clemson 2. FSU 3. Louisville 4. NC State 5. Boston College 6. Wake Forest 7. Syracuse