College Football Preview: The 2015 Louisville Cardinals
Louisville Cardinals Preview
2014 Record: 9-4 (2nd in ACC) Lost Belk Bowl to Georgia 37-14
Odds to Win National Championship: +16500 See the Latest Odds
Overview: The Louisville Cardinals didn’t miss a beat with Charlie Strong leaving for Texas, as Bobby Petrino led the program to nine victories and a bowl appearance. Louisville has now appeared in five straight bowl games and looks to take another step forward in its second season in the ACC. One thing’s for sure, and that’s Louisville is starting to become far more than just a basketball school.
Offense: Louisville’s offense enters the season with a ton of question marks, and they start at the quarterback position. After giving many guys a chance at QB last season, the Cards have yet to decide on a full-time starter betwee Will Gardner, Reggie Bonnafon or Kyle Bolin. I would think Bonnafon gets the nod due to his playmaking ability and upside, but he’s still a guy who completed just 50.8 percent of his passes. It also doesn’t help that DeVante Parker, Eli Rogers and Gerald Christian are gone. James Quick really needs to fulfil the role of a No. 1 receiver, and it wouldn’t hurt if transfers Jamari Staples and Ja’Quay Savage hit the ground running. The only sure thing is at running back, as Brandon Radcliff averaged more than five yards per carry and scored 12 touchdowns. Other than that, Louisville's offense is up in the air even with a bright offensive-minded coach leading the way.
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Defense: Louisville’s defense that ranked sixth in the country last season returns only four starters. The good news is that Sheldon Rankins is a solid building block after leading the team with 13.5 tackles for loss. It also doesn’t hurt that Devonte Fields decided to transfer from TCU and is a top-10 defensive player when he has his head screwed on straight. Keith Kelsey and James Burgess were two of the Cardinals top-three tacklers last season and will help keep the linebacker position strong behind what could be a solid defensive line. The main issues with this unit begin and end with an extremely young and unproven secondary. Cornelius Sturghill will be thrown into the fire at cornerback, while Shaq Wiggins and Josh Harvey-Clemons will make their debuts for the Cardinals after being dismissed from Georgia. Louisville’s secondary will either make or break its defense.
Special Teams: Joshua Appleby returns at punter after averaging 42.3 yards on six attempts. John Wallace returns at kicker after making 78.9 percent of his kicks on 19 attempts.
Overall: The Louisville Cardinals have a lot of questions on both sides of the ball and no time to ease into a schedule now that they’re playing in the ACC. This could be a bumpy ride for Lousiville, especially if it doesn’t find a reliable starting quarterback. Louisville still has enough to sneak into a bowl spot but pushing close to double-digit wins again would be a stretch.