Football season is rapidly approaching and it’s time for everyone to set their expectations. When it comes to Louisville football, for most people, expectations have generally been very high with Louisville falling just short of those expectations. I would say that Louisville has pretty much finished the last 4 seasons right on the realistic expectations set by Las Vegas. Louisville has won either 8 or 9 games each of the last 4 seasons under Petrino (34 wins). In his previous tenure (2003- 2006), Louisville had 41 victories including an 11-1 season and a 12-1 season, but that wasn’t against ACC competition.
This season is shaping up to be a season with very low expectations. Louisville just lost both their Heisman winning quarterback and their defensive All-American as they were both selected in the first round of the 2018 NFL draft. They also lost 7 starters on defense, including their 2 leading tacklers. Louisville is entering the season with their 3rd defensive coordinator in 3 years. They also have a very daunting schedule where they will open the season against the 2017 national champions, Alabama, and will play the 2016 national champions, Clemson, in the middle of three road games in four, going to Boston College, Clemson and Syracuse, with only six days to get ready for the Orange after the battle in Death Valley.
Las Vegas has set the win total for Louisville at 7 while a few other national publications have predicted Louisville to finish the regular season with a 6-6 record. Needless to say, some of the “experts” are lazy and just look at what Louisville has returning and not looking at the potential of the talent on this team when making their predictions.
Locally, there have been some rumblings that Petrino’s seat may be getting a little warm. While I don’t totally agree, I can see where his 1-11 record versus ranked teams and his 1-3 bowl record could be reason for concern. He also just finished a season where he had the best college football player on his team and they could only win 8 games – and he sent said player out with his best career victory being a Music City Bowl game.
I understand, as a fan, that this can be frustrating.
But we all know that Petrino is widely regarded as an offensive genius and that he can coach. With expectations being what they are, I expect Petrino to make a statement this year that he is still a great coach and that his team is being slightly overlooked. I don’t expect Louisville to be in the college football playoffs but I do expect them to win 8 games.
While 8 wins isn’t a huge difference from the 7 Vegas predicted, it’s not about the number of wins but rather how Louisville gets those victories.
Petrino will make a statement by lighting up the scoreboard with a return to his signature style of play. Louisville will do something they haven’t done in a while – and that’s running the ball with a running back. The Petrino power run game will make a reemergence with Dae Williams and Colin Wilson leading the way behind a very good offensive line. A Petrino offense will use a power running game as well as utilizing the tight end in the passing game. And his “feed the studs” philosophy means that they will be throwing the ball deep to the “Big 3” receivers (Smith, Fitzpatrick and Dawkins).
Nobody expects Petrino to beat Alabama or Clemson. But he does need to keep it close. Louisville is a 28 point underdog to ‘Bama but I believe Petrino can keep it within 14. He also can make a statement by giving Clemson a game. A victory in either game sure would be a huge statement, but not necessary.
And he most certainly can’t have one of those head scratching losses that we have seen over the last couple of years.
All the excuses for a disappointing 6 or 7 win season are already built-in for Petrino but he has enough talent on this team to coach ’em up for a 8 or 9 win season. Petrino isn’t the caliber of coach that gets a contract extension for 7 wins. Now it’s time to go make a statement!
As Always, GO CARDS!