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Louisville Cardinals 2017 College Football Preview, Schedule, Prediction, Depth Chart

Louisville Cardinals 2017 Preview

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The Louisville Cardinals are coming off a successful season in which they won nine games and produced a Heisman trophy winner. Now, with the guys returning, pressure is on coach Bobby Petrino to produce a college football playoff team and possible national championship.

Expectations have quickly changed for what is considered a basketball school.

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Louisville Cardinals 2017 College Football Preview, Schedule, Prediction, Depth Chart

USA TODAY Sports

Here’s the Louisville Cardinals 2017 college football preview.

Offense: Louisville will be fine offensively with Heisman winner Lamar Jackson at quarterback, a guy who threw for 30 touchdowns, rushed for 21 touchdowns and showed he can takeover a game every week. Jackson is probably the best quarterback in the country and is the main reason oddsmakers view Louisville as a national championship contender. Jackson will do a lot of the rushing as well, but a running back duo of Jeremy Smith and Malik Williams combined for nine touchdowns last year and will be asked to do more with Brandon Radcliff gone. Louisville loses its top three receivers from last year, which does pose some challenges, as Jaylen Smith and Traveon Samuel will be the top two options this year, a duo that combined for 45 catches and seven touchdowns last season. Louisville has questions along the offensive line, but there’s experience with this unit led by Ronald Rudd and Geron Christian, who will hold down the tackle spots. Either way, this offense is completely in the hands of Jackson, which is good news if you're a Cardinals fan.

Defense: Louisville returns seven starters from a defense that ranked 14th in the country last season in yards allowed per game. The unit will be led by cornerback Jaire Alexander, who has a chance to be one of the top secondary players in the country, and he’ll have to be with Shaq Wiggins transferring to Tennessee. Chucky Williams has been a consistent safety the last two seasons for the Cards and finished last year with 74 tackles, while linebacker Stacy Thomas says he’s taking on a leadership role this season after finishing second on the team with 85 tackles and two fumble recoveries. James Hearns was one of the top pass rushers in the ACC last season with eight sacks and seven quarterback hurries and his backup Jonathan Greenard showed great promise as a freshman. Louisville has an experienced defense with a handful of playmakers, so this unit should be good enough to backup the offense.

Special Teams: Mason King will return at punter after averaging 43.8 yards on 55 punts. Blanton Creque will return at kicker after making 16 of 19 field goals and 39 of 40 extra points.

Outlook: When you have the best quarterback in the country, you have a chance to win every game and that includes finding yourself in the playoff with a chance to win the national title. For Louisville, that has to be the goal. Jackson won the Heisman for a reason and showed he can put up 50 points and carry the Cards to a victory by himself. No other team in the country has a weapon like him. Winning double-digit games and the ACC would be a nice accomplishment, but Louisville has to look at this season as its best chance to win the national title.

Schedule:

Sept. 2 vs. Purdue (Lucas Oil Stadium, Indianapolis) 

Sept. 9 at North Carolina 

Sept. 16 CLEMSON 

Sept. 23 KENT STATE 

Sept. 30 MURRAY STATE 

Oct. 5 at NC State (Thu.) 

Oct. 14 BOSTON COLLEGE 

Oct. 21 at Florida State 

Oct. 28 at Wake Forest 

Nov. 4 OPEN 

Nov. 11 VIRGINIA 

Nov. 18 SYRACUSE 

Nov. 25 at Kentucky

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