#26 Louisville Football 2014 Preview

Louisville Cardinals

Overall Rank: #26
#4 ACC

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Louisville’s first and last year in the AAC went pretty well. They went 7-1, but lost to UCF who went to the Fiesta Bowl while Louisville was stuck in the Russell Athletic Bowl. They did beat up on Miami (FL) in the bowl so they do have some momentum heading into their new conference. The Cardinals enter the ACC with pretty high expectations, but it remains to be seen if the tougher competition week in and week out will catch up with Louisville.

2013 Record: 12-1, 7-1
2013 Bowl: Russell Athletic Bowl vs. Miami (FL) (W 36-9)
Coach: Bobby Petrino (41-9 at Louisville, 83-30 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: Garrick McGee
Defensive Coordinator: Todd Grantham

Returning Leaders:
Rushing: Dominique Brown, RB, 825 yards
Passing: Will Gardner, QB, 112 yards
Receiving: DeVante Parker, WR, 885 yards
Tackles: James Burgess, LB, 71
Sacks: Lorenzo Mauldin, DE, 9.5
Interceptions: Charles Gaines, CB, 5

Other Key Returnees: RB Michael Dyer, WR Eli Rogers, TE Gerald Christian, OL John Miller, OL Jamon Brown, CB Terell Floyd, S Jermaine Reve, P Ryan Johnson, K John Wallace

Key Losses: QB Teddy Bridgewater, RB Senorise Perry, WR Damian Copeland, LB Preston Brown, S Calvin Pryor, S Hakeem Smith, DL Marcus Smith, DL Roy Philon, DL Brandon Dunn

Coach Bobby Petrino returns to Louisville after being the program’s head coach from 2003 to 2006. Since his departure, he was in the NFL, Arkansas and Western Kentucky. Coach Petrino is a great offensive mind and that is where this team will shine. Of course quarterback Teddy Bridgewater will be missed, but there are high hopes for Will Gardner. The 6-5 sophomore threw a few passes in 2013 and his 12 pass attempts are the most on the team, so that is it as far as experience goes at quarterback. If Gardner can work with his talented group of receivers, the passing offense will be good. DeVante Parker caught 55 passes for 885 yards and 12 scores. He is a superb playmaker and always a threat to take a pass to the end zone. Receivers like Eli Rogers, Michaelee Harris and James Quick, as well as tight end Gerald Christian, are all very promising pass catchers. If the passing game needs any time to adjust to life without Bridgewater, Dominique Brown and Michael Dyer can carry the load. Brown rushed for 825 yards and eight touchdowns while splitting time with the now departed Senorise Perry.

The biggest concern for Louisville is in the secondary. Cornerbacks Charles Gaines and Terrell Floyd are back, yet they need some help from a couple of very inexperienced safeties. The linebackers will benefit from the return of Keith Brown. Meanwhile, James Burgess, the team’s top returning tackler, will man one of the inside linebacker spots and Lorenzo Mauldin is moving to the outside linebacker position after totaling 9.5 sacks as an end in 2013. That leaves far less experience on the line. Sheldon Rankins did tally 3.0 sacks in limited action last season, but replacing Marcus Smith and his 14.5 sacks is not going to be that easy.

The Bottom Line:
With Louisville joining Florida State and Clemson in the ACC Atlantic division, the schedule is much tougher than usual. The Cardinals also play Miami from the Coastal division and take a trip to Notre Dame. Those are not easy games for a new quarterback and Louisville will struggle on the road against teams like Syracuse and Boston College too. With a few breaks, Coach Petrino could have a very memorable return to Louisville. More likely, this will be a program that pulls off an upset or two, but cannot do enough to reach the ACC title game.

Projected Bowl: Belk Bowl

2013 Team Stats:
Rushing Offense: 146.8 (86th in nation, 4th in conference)
Passing Offense: 314.0 (16, 2)
Total Offense: 460.8 (28, 2)
Scoring Offense: 35.2 (25, 1)
Rushing Defense: 80.7 (1, 1)
Pass Defense: 170.8 (5, 1)
Total Defense: 251.5 (1, 1)
Scoring Defense: 12.2 (2, 1)
Turnover Margin: 1.31 (2, 2)
Sacks: 3.31 (1, 1)
Sacks Allowed: 2.00 (60, 3)

Madness 2015 NFL Draft Rankings:
#81 DaVante Parker
#105 Michael Dyer


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