LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- After the release of the 2013 Louisville football schedule, many Cards fans were left wondering where the big-time match-ups have gone. The late night West Virginia thrillers will be gone; no underdog match-ups to a program with the prestige level of Miami and the conference opponents don’t provide the high powered offense or BCS potential to draw much attention from the rest of the nation. The big bluegrass rivalry game against Kentucky doesn’t even happen until the third week of the season.
So, other than the excitement that comes nationwide with the beginning of the college football season, what do Louisville fans have to look forward to with this lackluster schedule?
Well, if you do tune in to Cardinal football games in 2013, memories of the high octane offense from the Bobby Petrino era may come to mind. It hasn’t been since those Brohm and Bush days that Louisville players have had so much preseason recognition.
Teddy Bridgewater is a Heisman trophy favorite and seems to keep being added to national award watch lists. One of his favorite targets, DeVante Parker, is also on a few. Even the defensive side of the ball touts multiple players receiving national attention. A nice step in the right direction as the Louisville defense has always been a question mark.
I think we can all agree that if Louisville shows up to every game with the intensity and focus that was displayed in last season’s 33-23 Sugar Bowl victory over the Florida Gators, there won’t be a regular season opponent that can keep the Cards victory margin under three touchdowns.
The Louisville football team is expected to start the season in the top 10 of many polls. As a result, they will be favored in every game they play this season.
But, the great thing about sports is that they don’t play the game on paper.
With that being said, we are going to break down all 12 regular season games and predict the fate of the 2013 cardinals ball club.
Sunday, September 1 vs Ohio Bobcats
This game presents the Cards with the perfect platform to begin their season right. They play the mid-afternoon Labor Day game, at home, broadcasted on ESPN against a very beatable opponent. However, very beatable does not mean easy. The Bobcats return their starting Quarterback, leading rusher and leading receiver from 2012. The Ohio defense ranked 83rd in the NCAA in points allowed last season which may open the door for Teddy Bridgewater to pad his stats right off the bat. The Cardinals need to make a bit of a statement in this one to begin their BCS campaign right.
Prediction: L’ville- 42 Ohio- 17
Saturday, September 7 vs Eastern Kentucky Colonels
In week 2, UofL faces what many people have deemed a tune-up game before the next week’s big match-up. EKU lost its starting quarterback, leading rusher and leading pass catcher to graduation which may lead to a lopsided victory for the Cardinals and another high score posted by the Louisville offense. Yet, it is likely that Charlie Strong will rest his horses early in this one.
Prediction: L’Ville- 39 EKU- 6
Saturday, September 14 @ Kentucky Wildcats
There is definitely a buzz that is beginning to surround the UK program and its new coach, Mark Stoops. However, that excitement is more geared toward the future than the present. Stoops is happy to welcome one of the nation’s best recruiting classes in 2014, but those kids will be playing the 2013 season in a high school jersey. The fact that it is a home game and a rivalry will keep it close early for the Cats but in the end, the Cardinals will retain the Governor’s Cup.
Prediction: L’Ville- 49 UK- 20
Saturday, September 21 vs Florida International Panthers
The Panthers possess an important weapon in their QB, Jake Medlock. The Louisville defense has a history of having problems with scrambling quarterbacks. Medlock is just that, rushing for 141 yards in one game last season. He is also able to throw with accuracy, tossing 13 TDs last year with just 2 interceptions. But the Cards were able to keep Medlock in check last year holding him to just 5 yards rushing and only 10 completions. Medlock will also be without his leading pass catcher from 2012. Rain is a great equalizer and kept this one close last year. If the weather cooperates, look for the Cardinals to make this one ugly.
Prediction: L’Ville- 56 FIU- 14
Saturday, October 5 @ Temple Owls
Temple’s Matt Brown killed Louisville last year by way of his kick returns and Montel Harris rushed for over 100 yards. Fortunately for the Cards, both playmakers have moved on to training camps at the next level and won’t be there to pester the defense this season. It was close in the beginning but Teddy Bridgewater showed his accuracy and the cards went on to rout the Owls. Look for an even more one-sided affair in this game.
Prediction: L’Ville- 52 Temple- 13
Thursday, October 10 vs Rutgers Scarlet Knights
The Cardinals return to a familiar stage, a Thursday night ESPN game against Rutgers. Rutgers returns many key playmakers from last season and will be looking to avenge their 3 point loss to the Cards that ended their regular season in 2012. Home field advantage will be a definite factor in predicting this one. The teams were neck-and-neck last year while in Piscataway. As long as Teddy isn’t hobbling around the field with a cast on his foot and hand, look for the Cards to win by a slightly larger margin than they did last season.
Prediction: L’Ville- 33 Rutgers- 25
Friday, October 18 vs Central Florida Knights
Central Florida’s losses last season came to Ohio St, Missouri and Tulsa. The Knights are a good team with a lot of offensive fire power. Returning most offensive weapons, UCF looks to improve an offensive unit that ranked in the top 25 nationally in points per game. Look for this one to be a shootout.
Prediction: L’Ville- 52 UCF- 38
Saturday, October 26 @ South Florida Bulls
This will be one of the two biggest chances for the Cards to drop one. Going to South Florida has always been a task for UofL. The Bulls will be prepared for this one, having faced Michigan St, Miami (Fl) and Cincinnati already in the year, the Cards will fall into line with the level of competition that the Bulls will have come accustom to playing. USF will be coming off of a bye week and all eyes will be on the big target on Louisville’s back. But BJ Daniels and Demetris Murray have finally graduated so the Cards will be facing a little less experience with whomever new Coach Willie Tagart replaces them with.
Prediction: L’Ville- 33 USF- 24
Friday, November 8 @ Connecticut Huskies
Another away matchup that could be a potential slip-up game for Louisville. We all remember the triple overtime thriller last season that resulted in a Cardinal loss. With a banged up and sometimes unable to play Teddy Bridgewater, the cards didn’t take advantage of opportunities and couldn’t make the push necessary for the victory on that cold November day. Although the Huskies return enough playmakers to contend for this victory, Louisville returns enough players with a good memory to want to avenge last year’s heartbreaking loss.
Prediction: L’Ville- 30 UConn- 23
Saturday, November 16 vs Houston Cougars
The two former Conference USA schools will face off for the first time since 2004. Houston touts a great passing offense with a less than stellar defense. Houston returns a very good QB and all three of his favorite targets from 2012. If the Louisville defense is able to limit the big play that Houston’s air raid offense is becoming known for, they can propel themselves to another double digit win season.
Prediction: L’Ville- 49 Houston-42
Saturday, November 23 vs Memphis Tigers
Memphis returns its two headed rushing attack in Hayes and Steib. The two matched each other in nearly every rushing category which could pose a threat to the Louisville defense. The Tigers will always have a fresh set of legs to run with as the Quarterback is known to scramble for a few yards too. Louisville is adding depth on the line as well as at the linebacker positions to thwart just such an attack from Memphis.
Prediction: L’Ville- 35 Memphis- 14
Thursday, December 5 @ Cincinnati Bearcats
My biggest fear is that Louisville will go into the last game of the season undefeated and lose, wrecking their National title hopes. That is what is being set up here. Hopefully without the upset, though. But let’s put the emotions to the side for a second. Cincinnati will be looking to replace last season’s leading rusher and leading receivers. Muchie Legaux will be back but he threw 3 interceptions to the Cards D last year, not a team known for picking the ball off.
Prediction: L’Ville- 38 Cinci- 30
As you probably have noticed, I have the Cardinals finishing the regular season a perfect 12-0. I couldn’t help myself. As a BCS opponent and a Louisville fan, I would love the opportunity to make an argument that the undefeated team out of the newborn American Athletic Conference deserves a shot at the title. Let’s be honest, the SEC has one spot reserved for a team of theirs in the National Championship game. Everyone else in the country is gunning for spot #2. Wouldn’t it be something if the Cardinals edge out the USCs, Ohio States and Oregons of the Nation for that coveted spot in the National title game?
I recognize the possibility that Louisville may drop on of the close games to an opponent they may have overlooked. I also recognize the possibility that the Cards could go undefeated and still not make it to the BCS National Championship game. My heart has been broken before by the Cardinals and I’m sure it will be again.
But that’s the beauty of the preseason, imaginations can run wild, optimism is in the air and before the first kickoff of the year, everyone’s favorite team has the possibility of hosting the crystal ball at season’s end.