Head Coach: Charlie Strong | Record: 14-12; 2 Years | Offensive Coordinator: Shawn Watson | Defensive Coordinator: Vance Bedford | Returning Starters: 15: 7 Offense, 8 Defense
Sep. 1 Murray State W 21-9
Sep. 9 FIU L 17-24
Sep. 17 at Kentucky W 24-17
Sep. 24 OPEN DATE
Oct. 1 Marshall L 13-17
Oct. 8 at North Carolina L 7-14
Oct. 15 at Cincinnati L 16-25
Oct. 21 Rutgers W 16-14
Oct. 29 Syracuse W 27-10
Nov. 5 at West Virginia W 38-35
Nov. 12 Pittsburgh L 14-21
Nov. 19 at Connecticut W 34-20
Nov. 25 at South Florida W 34-24
Dec. 27 NC State L 24-31
Sep. 2 Kentucky
Sep. 8 Missouri State
Sep. 15 North Carolina
Sep. 22 at FIU
Sep. 29 at Southern Miss
Oct. 6 OPEN DATE
Oct. 13 at Pittsburgh
Oct. 20 South Florida
Oct. 26 Cincinnati
Nov. 3 Temple
Nov. 10 at Syracuse
Nov. 17 OPEN DATE
Nov. 24 Connecticut
Nov. 29 at Rutgers
At #23 is the Louisville Cardinals, coached by former Florida defensive coordinator Charlie Strong. Louisville quietly was co-champions of the Big East last season along with West Virginia, who represented the Big East in the Orange Bowl, in what was supposed to be a rebuilding year. The Cardinals only returned ten starters, and after losing their starting quarterback to injury, started a true freshman at quarterback. They started the season off sluggish, opening at 2-4, but they turned it around and finished the year winning five of their last six games, including a 38-35 upset at West Virginia.
Last year, similar to Kansas State, most of their games were really close. All of their losses were by less than ten points and this is expected of a very young, inexperienced team (played 11 true freshmen). With a season under their belt, and a depleted Big East, this might be the year of the ‘Ville.
Last season, Louisville’s offense was pretty anemic, scoring 21.9 points a game, and finishing 103rd nationally in total yards. So why is their so much optimism for this unit? Its easy: Teddy Bridgewater.
Bridgewater was thrown into the fire as a true freshmen early in the season after the starting quarterback injured his shoulder against Kentucky. He led the Cardinals to their first win over Kentucky in four years, but then struggled immediately after, losing three straight games. However, he turned it around and led the Cardinals to a share of the Big East championship.
Bridgewater finished the year with decent stats, completing 64.5% of his passes for 2,129 passing yards and a 14-12 TD-INT ratio. He made 1st team Freshman All-America and now, after the recent exodus of teams, is one of the more experienced and arguably the best quarterback in the new Big East.
Bridgewater should have a big leap in stats in his sophomore year with added confidence and a better knowledge of the system. He looked incredibly sharp in the Spring Game completing 19-of-21 passes for 257 yards and throwing for three touchdowns to lead Louisville’s first unit to a 28-3 win in its spring game Saturday. Even more impressive, the two incomplete passes were because of drops.
Bridgewater will be complemented by a solid running back group led by former quarterback Dominique Brown. Brown rushed for 588 yards last season on 140 carries. Also watch for redshirt freshman Corvin Lamb. Lamb has been highly anticipated because of his combination of speed and power.
Sophomore receiver DeVante Parker was a touchdown magnet last season, catching six touchdown passes out of 18 overall receptions last year. He is ready to become an every-down receiver in 2012.
The talent at the skill positions won’t matter however if the offensive line doesn’t do its job. Last season they weren’t good but that is expected when playing three freshmen. With an added year of experience and time in the weight room, they should improve.
The defense, however, is where Louisville will make their noise. Head coach Charlie Strong was the defensive mastermind behind two of the more dominating defenses in recent memory at Florida. He was hired to bring that style of play to Louisville and this might be the year that he finally can.
Last year, the defense was very solid all around, and with 8 returning starters, could prove to be dominant in a league of weak offenses.
It all starts in the secondary where they return all four starters, including strong safety Hakeem Smith. Smith, along with Preston Brown, led the team in tackles at 84 last season. The Cardinals return a trio of top cornerbacks, which will allow them to play more man-to-man defense, which is Strong’s specialty. With the ability to play this style, he will be more able to bring pressure, especially on third down situations.
Louisville has all the makings of a solid team, that will look great in comparison to a weak conference. They have arguably the best quarterback and defense in the conference, along with a very manageable schedule that sets up for a hot start. Last season, they were better than expected and my only fear is that they aren’t quite ready for the big time yet. With only seniors on the team, this is still a very young team on both sides of the ball and could falter under higher expectations. Still, with so much talent, and great coaching, I just have to believe we will see them representing the Big East in the Orange Bowl this season.