What will Louisville football's record be this season? We predict every game
It’s finally football season.
After an offseason of uncertainty, Louisville football is preparing for its season opener against Western Kentucky on Saturday. Kickoff is set for 8 p.m. on the ACC Network.
Louisville is coming off an 8-5 season that led to a Music City Bowl win and Scott Satterfield being named the ACC Coach of the Year. Now, Louisville has expectations. The Cards were picked fourth in the ACC preseason poll, and with the return of preseason All-ACC honorees running back Javian Hawkins and wide receiver Tutu Atwell, along with quarterback Micale Cunningham, receiver Dez Fitzpatrick and many others, the Cardinals offense is expected to be explosive.
The defense, which finished the season averaging 439 yards allowed, returns an experienced group led by a stout linebacker corps that is motivated to prove it is better than a year ago.
But how will that all come together for the Cardinals this season? With a new schedule due to COVID-19, Louisville will play 10 ACC teams this year, but the schedule isn’t particularly daunting.
Could an ACC championship game appearance be in the works for the Cardinals? Lets break it down.
Sept. 12 vs. Western Kentucky
Western Kentucky is no slouch.
The Hilltoppers are coming off a 9-4 season and have a strong group coming back. They announced Tyrrell Pigrome as the starting quarterback for Saturday’s game. The Maryland transfer totaled 2,407 total yards in 34 games, seven of those being starts, in his four years with the Terps.
They also bring back DeAngelo Malone, one of the best defensive ends in the country. He had 10 tackles, 1.5 tackles for a loss and recorded half a sack against Louisville last year.
Here’s the thing, though — Louisville’s playmakers were too much for the Hilltoppers last year, and that will be the case again on Saturday. This could be closer than many think, but Louisville will pull away eventually.
Prediction: Louisville wins 45-21
Sept. 19 vs. Miami
I will argue that Louisville’s performance in its 52-27 loss to Miami was its worst of last season. I know a lot of people will say Kentucky — and that’s understandable — but Louisville looked a mess against Miami.
It was the first time last year we saw Satterfield’s team like that. I have a hard time thinking Louisville plays that poorly again. I also think Miami is better this season. D’Eriq King is a huge upgrade at quarterback. He dominated at Houston before transferring. He played two full seasons and threw for a combined 4,242 yards, 43 touchdowns and just eight interceptions. In those seasons, 2018 and 2017, he also ran for 1,053 yards and two touchdowns.
Now he has elite athletes and an NFL tight end in Brevin Jordan. Gregory Rousseau might be out, but Quincy Roche is one of the best ends in the conference after transferring from Temple. Louisville has a major test here, but I think it will be more prepared this year. This comes down to if Louisville can contain King.
Prediction: Miami wins 38-31
Sept. 26 at Pitt
This will be Louisville’s most difficult offensive test, in my opinion. Pitt was a top-20 defense nationally last year and will be again, most likely. Led by a stellar defensive end in Patrick Jones and All-ACC safety Paris Ford, the Panthers are no slouch on defense. Louisville’s offensive line is going to have to be on its game.
I just don’t trust Pittsburgh’s offense enough. It averaged just 21.5 points last season, and though quarterback Kenny Pickett is back for his senior year at quarterback, I don’t see much changing. I’ll take Louisville just because all it takes is one play for the Cardinals to get things going offensively, but it won’t be an easy one.
Prediction: Louisville 28-17
Oct. 9 at Georgia Tech
Georgia Tech was picked last in the ACC preseason poll. The Yellow Jackets were my last pick too. I think they'll be improved after a 3-9 season, but they are still a few years away from making a big jump. This could get out of hand early, but Louisville can’t look ahead to Notre Dame.
Prediction: Louisville wins 35-14
Oct. 17 at Notre Dame
Here’s the thing about Notre Dame — Ian Book is back, and he’s very talented. It also has some NFL players on defense, highlighted by linebacker Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, but I’m not sold on the returning skill position players.
Four games into the season maybe might be enough time to answer that question, but as of now, it's why I picked North Carolina second on my ACC ballot over Notre Dame. If you look at last year’s game, Louisville wasn’t out of that until late. Louisville was down just 21-14 at halftime and just 11 points in the fourth quarter. The Cards turned the ball over three times on fumbles, but Hawkins ran for 122 yards. I think Louisville can score enough on Notre Dame to pull this upset on the road.
Prediction: Louisville wins 31-21
Oct. 24 vs. Florida State
I’m not sure how Mike Norvell will do at Florida State, but he’s got some talent there. All-ACC wide receiver Tamorrion Terry and nose tackle Marvin Wilson lead the way. Those are NFL guys, but there are still questions.
I’m not sure James Blackmon is the answer at quarterback. The offensive line still struggles, and former running back Cam Akers isn’t walking back through those doors. Then there’s the fact that this is the third game in a gauntlet October that sees the Seminoles playing at Clemson, North Carolina and Louisville in consecutive games. I'll take Louisville, who will be back home for the first time since Sept. 19. I think this is a game where the defense is capable of establishing some momentum too.
Prediction: Louisville wins 32-20
Oct. 31 vs. Virginia Tech
I had this marked down as a loss for Louisville before Caleb Farley announced he was opting out, so I continue to go back and forth on this now. Rayshard Ashby is one of the best linebackers in the ACC, maybe the best, and Virginia Tech still has a talented corner in Jermaine Waller.
Louisville’s going to be tested here but should still be favored. I think a talented linebacker can make up for a lot of other flaws. For the sake of thinking Louisville won’t win every game it is supposed to, because nearly every team not named Clemson does that at some point, I’ll side with Virginia Tech here. But this remains the biggest tossup on the schedule to me.
Prediction: Virginia Tech wins 24-21
Nov. 7 at Virginia
Virginia is going to be down this year, but as my coworker Ben Tobin, a member of The Courier Journals Pulitzer Prize winning team (!!!) and a Virginia grad, reminded me the other day, this is still a talented defense. He’s right, but I just don’t see how they score consistently. Brennan Armstrong will be the quarterback, but is he that much better than Bryce Perkins? The running game is still a question too with Perkins gone.
Louisville limited them to 21 points last year, one of its best performances last year. I don’t see how it doesn’t happen again. While Louisville hasn’t lost back-to-back games under Satterfield yet, it will happen sometime, but not here.
Prediction: Louisville 28-14
Nov. 20 vs. Syracuse
This will look a lot like last year’s game. Syracuse has an absolute baller at safety in Andre Cisco, but the problem is that the Cardinals don’t have to put him in a position to make plays. Last year Louisville ran for 370 yards, with 233 of them coming from Hawkins. I like Dino Babers — he’s a Bowling Green guy like me — but he doesn’t have enough speed or talent on that defense right now to keep up with Louisville’s playmakers. This could get ugly, again.
Prediction: Louisville 48-21
Nov. 27 at Boston College
Boston College is in complete rebuild mode under new coach Jeff Hafley, but it returns a strong offensive line led by All-ACC players tackle Ben Pertrula and guard Zion Johnson and has a few talented tight ends. Last year’s game, a 41-39 win for Louisville, was a shootout in part because Louisville had to focus on taking away AJ Dillon. I’m not sold on the Eagles putting up that many points again without Dillon.
Prediction: Louisville 41-28
Dec. 5 at Wake Forest
Without Sage Surratt and Jamie Newman, people are down on Wake Forest, and I understand why, but there’s still talent on the offense that scored 59 points on Louisville. Still, with Louisville in a groove and potentially playing for an ACC championship game appearance, I think Satterfield has his team focused for this one.
Prediction: Louisville 41-17
Final record: Louisville 9-2
Louisville has a very favorable schedule. It avoided Clemson and North Carolina in the regular season, so it's in a good position to make an ACC championship game appearance. Whether that happens or not depends on how North Carolina ends its season with two games against Miami and Notre Dame.
I could really see North Carolina going 9-1 if the defense builds off a strong year averaging 23.7 points allowed last season. An ACC championship game appearance (even with a loss) is the type of follow-up season that could carry Satterfield’s program in recruiting for years to come.