#32 Louisville Football 2020 Preview

Louisville Cardinals
Overall Rank: #32
#5 ACC
 Louisville Logo
It was a quick turnaround in year one for head coach Scott Satterfield and the Louisville Cardinals. They won eight games, including a Music City Bowl win over Mississippi State. You could see the signs of improvement within the program right away in game one as the Louisville gave a highly competitive effort against Notre Dame on Labor Day night in a 35-17 loss. The Cardinals got better as the season went along and they did end up beating ACC Coastal Division champion Virginia 28-21 back on October 26th for another signature win for Coach Satterfield and his staff.
2019 Record: 8-5, 5-3
2019 Bowl: Music City Bowl vs. Mississippi State (W 38-28)
Coach: Scott Satterfield (8-5 at Louisville, 59-29 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: Dwayne Ledford
Defensive Coordinator: Bryan Brown and Cort Dennison
Returning Leaders:
Rushing: Javian Hawkins, RB, 1,525 yards
Passing: Micale Cunningham, QB, 2,061 yards
Receiving: Chatarius Atwell WR, 1,272 yards
Tackles: C.J. Avery, ILB, 93
Sacks: Monty Montgomery, ILB, 5.0
Interceptions: Seven players with 1
Other Key Returnees: RB Hassan Hall, QB Evan Conley, WR Dez Fitzpatrick, LB Rodjay Burns, LB Dorian Etheridge, S Russ Yeast, LB Yassir Abdullah, OL Cole Bentley, OL Robbie Bell, OL Adonis Boone, DT Jared Goldwire
Key Losses: OL Mekhi Becton, WR Seth Dawkins, P Mason King, DL GG Robinson, OL Taylor Haycraft, DB Khane Pass, DL Amonte Caban
Micale Cunningham is back at quarterback and he will set the tone for an offense that has the potential to be very explosive. Cunningham is coming off a pretty good 2019 season where he threw for 2,061 yards, 22 touchdowns, and five interceptions. Javian Hawkins provides a big-time threat in the running game as he rushed for 1,525 yards, nine touchdowns, and averaged 5.8 yards per carry in 2019. Tutu Atwell and Dez Fitzpatrick give Cunningham a pair of very explosive threats in the passing game that will stress opposing defenses to the limit. Pass protection will be a key storyline to watch as the Cardinals allowed three sacks per game which ranked 117th in the nation last season.  The interior of the offensive line is back but there will be the issue of replacing Mekhi Becton who was drafted in the first round of the 2020 NFL Draft by the New York Jets.
There is still work to be done on this side of the football as Louisville allowed 33.4 points and 439.9 yards per game to opposing offenses last season. Size is an issue along the defensive front and the Cardinals are still going to need to continue to build up depth in future years recruiting wise. Jared Goldwire had 22 tackles. including four tackles for loss. and he will need to have a big senior season in order for Louisville to make some strides on defense. Linebacker will be the strength of the defense as C.J. Avery is back along with Dorian Etheridge and Rodjay Burns. Avery is the leading returning tackler from 2019 with 93 and should have be able to surpass 100 tackles in 2020. Etheridge had 70 tackles last season including eight tackles for loss, five pass breakups and three quarterback hits. Forcing more turnovers will also be a key to success for the Cardinals defense this season as they were -0.08 in turnover margin which ranked 70th in the nation, which is not good enough if you want to contend with Clemson.
The Bottom Line:
The schedule makers didn’t do Louisville any favors as they open the season at home against NC State on September 3rd followed by a trip to Clemson. It will be crucial for the Cardinals to hold serve at home against the Wolfpack in order to ensure a split of the first two games. Murray State and Western Kentucky will come to Cardinal Stadium to wrap up the month of September so look for a 3-1 start to the season. Trips to Syracuse, Boston College, Virginia, and Notre Dame will be tough. Home games against Florida State, Virginia Tech, and Kentucky will be interesting challenges as well for Louisville during the second half of the season. Bottom line, there is enough talent on offense alone to lock down bowl eligibility in 2020. If the defense can take a step forward and show enough progress, then an eight-win regular season should happen in year two for Coach Satterfield.
Projected Bowl: Gator Bowl
2019 Team Stats:
Rushing Offense: 212.8 (24th in nation, 3rd in conference)
Passing Offense: 234.5 (65, 9)
Total Offense: 447.3 (24, 4)
Scoring Offense: 33.1 (30, 2)
Rushing Defense: 205.8 (112, 13)
Pass Defense: 234.2 (79, 9)
Total Defense: 439.9 (102, 12)
Scoring Defense: 33.4 (109, 14)
Turnover Margin: -0.08 (70, 7)
Sacks: 2.08 (69, 12)
Sacks Allowed: 3.00 (117, 11)