The Cardinals ended the season on a down note last year, dropping their final 3 games, including a 29-9 loss to LSU in the Citrus Bowl. They were sloppy enough--losing 22 fumbles. They have only 4 starters back on offense and must rebuild the offensive line and play in what is arguably the toughest division in college football--the ACC Atlantic with FSU and Clemson.
So what are the Cardinals doing in the pre-season Top 10?
Well, let's start with the guy on the sidelines. Bobby Petrino might not be the most popular coach in the room, but the man knows his Xs and Os. He also knows how to build and how to win. [membership level="0"] The rest of this article is available to subscribers only - to become a subscriber click here.[/membership] [membership]
And then let's move to QB, where Lamar Jackson returns. All Jackson did last season was win the Heisman Trophy. Yes, he made some big mistakes, yes he looked like an inexperienced sophomore, trying to do everything. But he is a year older and his skills have not diminished. With an offensive line that had a lot of holes, Jackson rushed for 21 TDs and threw for another 30.
Add running backs like senior Reggie Bonnafon, who also has played QB and WR, and highly touted freshman RB Colin Wilson and an assortment of WR who can fly past anyone and you have an offense which should easily match the 7.2 yards per play it posted last season.
The defense, led by CB Jaire Alexander, is talented and aggressive and good enough to cover up some mistakes made on offense.
But there still is the issue of scheduling. Clemson comes to Louisville in September. The Cardinals must travel to FSU in October. If Louisville can come out of those games with a 7-1 record, going 11-1 looks very possible and that puts them in the Top 10 at the very least, with maybe a repeat Heisman winner in the making, as well.[/membership]