The question remains, can the Cards make the college football playoffs? Well, their goal is to win a national championship and let’s face it, if that isn’t every teams goal, then why are you playing?
Last year Louisville was so close to making the playoffs but fell flat on their face in the last 2 games of the regular season. You can blame the O-line, dropped passes, fumbles, effort, coaching or whatever you want but the fact remains that everyone needs to get better. No one has taken that to heart more than Lamar Jackson.
It’s hard to believe that the reigning Heisman trophy winner thinks he needs to get better but that’s exactly what he said. And by all accounts, he has been working extremely hard. Lamar has been working on taking snaps from under center, working on going through his progressions quicker and improving his accuracy. When you look at his smile you see confidence and competitiveness. When he turns around you see the Heisman trophy in his back pocket. According to Lamar, he doesn’t care about stuffing another one in his pocket, he wants a national championship. Lamar doesn’t need to improve his stats from last year, but rather make a few better decisions. Keep in mind he is coming off his first season as a starter and he is only going to be a junior this year. That combination usually produces a more mature and confident player. And that my friends, should scare every one of you. Yes, Lamar will be better this year. Maybe not statistically but as a quarterback, a leader and a teammate – and that’s just scary.
Lamar can’t do it all by himself, he needs protection. That’s something he didn’t get very much of last year, especially the last 2 games and the bowl game. In those 3 games Lamar was sacked 22 times. He was sacked 47 times (second most sacks in the nation) on the season. That number is way too high and it has to come down. The 2017-18 O-line can not resemble Swiss cheese if there is to be any chance of making the CFB Playoffs. While there will be at least one true freshman starting on the o-line this year, I don’t see anyway it can be worse than last year. That line from last year was not great but still held up well enough for Lamar to win multiple post season awards. Geron Christian has 26 straight starts and Lukayus McNeil has 21 career starts at multiple positions on the line. Those 2 will be the anchors of the line and with the mix newcomers and new offensive line coach, Mike Summers, we should see major improvements.
Louisville lost James Quick and Jamari Staples but don’t you worry one bit. The Cards are deep at receiver and loaded with talent. While 16 of the 32 receiving touchdowns are gone, you won’t see a drop in those numbers. Jaylen Smith is the top returner and is the rock of the receiving corp. The 2 names you need to remember are Seth Dawkins and Dez Fitzpatrick. Dawkins will be a star this year. I’ve said it before and I stick by my prediction that Seth will have at least 1 game this year where he puts up stats that equal his season totals from last year, 11 receptions for 191 yards and 1 TD. Fitzpatrick is an excellent route runner and can make highlight catches. Dez, a redshirt freshman, is the future but can contribute now. Devante Peete is another guy I look to step up this year. Peete, the 2016 special teams captain, is 6’6″ and has the perfect physique and skill set to excel at receiver. During the week before the Heisman ceremony, I read somewhere that estimated Lamar would have had about 700 more passing yards if it were not for dropped passes. I don’t know how they figured that out or if it’s even true but I do know there were too many drops last season. While it’s normal for receivers to drop a few passes, this receiving corp will definitely cut down on the drops from last season. My guess is that you will see Jaylen Smith and Seth Dawkins line up out wide while Traveon Samuel will line up in the slot, to start the season. I think this receiving corp is 7 or 8 deep and it will be better than last years receiving corp.
College Football Playoffs
The perfect scenario is set up for Louisville to win the ACC and usually the ACC has a spot in the playoffs. Florida State seems to be the team to beat according to all the preseason predictions and rankings. If that is true then Louisville will have an opportunity write its own ending to this season. Thus the upside to playing in the Atlantic division of the ACC. The good news is that you get to play Florida State and Clemson every year. The bad news is that you get to play Florida State and Clemson every year. Florida State opens the season playing Alabama. If Florida State wins they could easily be the top ranked team in the country when Louisville comes to town on October 21st. Louisville doesn’t have to beat Florida State as long as they don’t get curb stomped by 43 and take care of the rest of their schedule. That’s easy to say, but they must finally get over that Clemson hurdle that they’ve stumbled over the last 3 years, they must not take an up and coming N.C. State or UNC team for granted and they need to be sharp when they play Virginia. I think a one loss Louisville team could make it to the college football playoffs. However, a lot also depends on how other teams and conferences fair this season. That being said, the road to the playoffs lies in front of them. Quite simply, take care of business and it’s yours. I predicted a 10-2 season but I would not be shocked to see this team, a team that seems to be more like brothers rather than teammates, run the table.
As Always, GO CARDS!