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    [2020] Louisville Cardinals Season Preview - Presented by the ACC Network

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    :louisville: Louisville Cardinals

    2019 Record: 6-7 (3-4 ACC)

    5th in the ACC Atlantic


    After an off 2018 season, the Cardinals made strides to reach the postseason in 2019. With the exception of a huge upset over Boston College, Louisville's season played out as expected, winning the games they needed to win and losing the games they were expected to lose. The Cardinals keep a lot of pieces from last year's squad and upgrade at a few pivotal positions, priming the Cardinals for a potentially special 2020 season.


    Notable Losses:

    FB Aboubacar Fair 5-9 252 Sr Evarts (Evarts KY) 3.5 of 3.5 [Pass Blocking]

    TE Eli Bryant 6-3 194 Sr Creek Wood (Charlotte TN) 3.0 of 3.0 [Receiving]


    Believe it or not, Louisville returns 21 of their 22 starters, including all 11 on the defensive side of the ball, from the 2019 campaign, although some of these players won't be starters this season. Their only "major" losses on the offensive side of the ball are that of Aboubacar Fair, the fullback, and Eli Bryant, the second-string tight end. Bryant did record 171 yards and a touchdown last season, but the Cardinals do have Aiden White ready to fill in for him.


    Notable Returners:

    QB Ayden Steele 6-3 194 (Sr) Evarts (Evarts KY) 3.5 of 3.5 [Hybrid]

    RB Maurice White 5-11 172 (Sr) Fulton City (Fulton KY) 3.5 of 3.5 [Speed]

    WR Devon Sewell 6-2 216 Jr Port St. Lucie (Port St. Lucie, FL) 3.5 of 3.5 [Target]

    OG Mekhi Norwood 6-2 295 (Jr) Heber Springs (Heber Springs, AR) 4.0 of 4.0 [Run Blocking]

    OT Theo Swift 6-5 321 Sr Kenwood (Clarksville, TN) 4.0 of 4.0 [Run Blocking]

    OLB Prince Matos 6-1 254 Jr Mt. Pleasant (Mt. Pleasant, TN) 3.5 of 4.5 [Blitz]

    ILB Beckett Ring 5-11 253 (So) Wynne (Wynne, AR) 3.0 of 4.0 [Will]


    Louisville's offense was definitely focused more on the run last season, and with the offensive line returning two talented veterans in Norwood and Swift, and with Steele taking the reigns under center one last time, the offense should be as potent as ever. White might not be the starter at back with the arrival of JuCo transfer DeSean Dockery, but he provides trusted depth. Defensively, 2019's MVP on this side of the ball, Prince Matos, captains a unit with a few solid and youthful additions. With 3.5 sacks and 2 interceptions last season, younger players like CB Logan Swain, DE Damian Holley, and ILB Beckett Ring can look up to Matos to make a play or inspire. 


    Potential Strengths:

    Running Game - The strength of the Cardinals' offense last season only gets better in 2020. The highly-touted DeSean Dockery is expected to be a great improvement over Maurice White. The right side of the line returns as starters with Swift and Norwood providing sound coverage, and the left side introduces us to true freshman Brady Holmes, one of the hotter OT recruits this past recruiting cycle. Ayden Steele adds an extra element to the ground game, although he won't be relied on nearly as much this year. Louisville's ground game should be one of the better one's in the conference, and the expected explosiveness of Dockery behind a talented line should be enough to give most teams trouble.


    Linebackers - We discussed the return of Prince Matos, the do-it-all man for the Cards last year, but the introduction of Beckett Ring at inside linebacker should cover for a younger and lesser-talented defensive line. Matos was relied on to strengthen a weaker pass rush (3.5 of the teams 8 sacks) and cover for when the line couldn't get to the quarterback (38 tackles and 2 interceptions). Ring provides an upgrade in coverage against tight ends, replacing teammate Antoine Patton at the position. Hudson Tompkins is the weakest of this unit, but he has shown the ability to get to the quarterback as well, rounding out what should be a solid linebacker corp for Louisville.


    Potential Weaknesses:

    Safeties - Marlon Roland and Jacory McMillan both return after last season, combining for 68 tackles and 3 interceptions (all picks from Roland). This unit wasn't particularly strong in conference last season, with opposing quarterbacks averaging 7.34 yards per attempt and 247.28 yards per game (QBs being Benjamin Schuler, Josh Beckett, Randy Roberts, Blake Fry, Dylan Bishop, Elias Milner, and Jamel Armstrong). Matos was solid in coverage last season, and Ring should help out down the middle of the field, but neither linebackers can help on longer passes. Roland and McMillan will have to step it up in coverage for Louisville to be solid against the pass.


    Youth at Pivotal Positions - Louisville might be returning most of their starters from last season, but a few new additions are younger and a bit more raw. Logan Swain is the best example of this; the redshirt freshman corner definitely has the talent to be a shutdown corner in the coming years, but with Swain not being battle tested, many high-level receivers in the division, such as Josiah McCray and Luke Cobb) should be able to feast off his inexperience. Damien Holley should inject new life into a pass rush in need of assistance on the line, but like Swain, he'll struggle against more experienced lineman. The Cards add two freshman to the left side of the offensive line, and despite the talent that Brady Holmes brings to the table, quite a few defensive ends in the conference could give him quite the challenge. It's not a knock on talent for the Cardinals, but the inexperience of a few of these players has the potential to cost them games this year.


    2020 Schedule:

    Week 2: at Illinois (Champaign, IL)

    Week 3: Georgia State (Louisville, KY)

    Week 4: at UAB (Birmingham, AL)

    Week 6: Boston College (Louisville, KY)

    Week 7: Clemson (Louisville, KY)

    Week 8: Kentucky (Louisville, KY)

    Week 9: at Florida State (Tallahassee, FL)

    Week 11: at North Carolina (Chapel Hill, NC)

    Week 12: Syracuse (Louisville, KY)

    Week 13: at North Carolina State (Raleigh, NC)

    Week 14: at Wake Forest (Winston-Salem, NC)

    Week 15: Virginia (Louisville, NC)


    What To Expect:

    The Cardinals look much improved over last season, but they're still a ways away from challenging Clemson and Florida State for the Atlantic crown. A lot of these games are winnable, however, and there is potential to tie or break their school record of 7 wins, set in 2017 by Broletariat (now in his 5th season). Illinois, Clemson, and Florida State seem unwinnable for Louisville, and the game with BC should favor the Eagles. Louisville should be expected to beat Georgia State, UAB, Kentucky, UNC, Syracuse, and Wake Forest, and they'll likely be favorites against NC State. Virginia matches up solidly against Louisville, but to say that game is out of reach would be an underestimation of what Louisville can do. I predict Louisville to finish 7-5 (4-4 ACC), rising to 4th in the Atlantic division and tying the school record for wins in a season.


    Best Case Scenario:

    Louisville's newcomers play up to expectations, tightening the pass coverage and finally adding pressure to the quarterback, resulting in a solid senior day win over Virginia and a stunning upset over the Tigers in Week 7. Florida State and Boston College are two tightly-contested battles, and Illinois' offense struggles to find opportunities, but each of those teams will pull out a victory, but Louisville will still pull out 9 wins and a 3rd-place finish in the division.


    Worst Case Scenario:

    The freshman aren't quite prepared to carry their new burden, and Dockery isn't able to live up to the hype, leading to blowouts in their three big divisional games and an upset loss in Raleigh. Evan Grant does Evan Grant things and makes the Cardinals pay for last season's victory over Georgia State, and Louisville is left severely disappointed and without a bowl game at 5-7. 

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    Awesome write-up Imposter, really well done. 


    We overachieved at 6-7 last year and I think we're a fringe top-5 ACC team this season with a bowl berth in us. Luckily we don't lose much this season (Ayden Steele can be replaced at QB and Theo Swift on the OL will be a hit), and I think we can contend next year depending on how the recruiting class goes. Dockery will be a senior behind a decent (not great) line and we'll have Logan Swain, Donte Whitfield, Prince Matos, Beckett Ring, and 2020 five-star EDGE recruit Miles Rhineheart on what should be a formidable defense.


    Ultimately we will only make it as far as Dockery can carry us, though.

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