Last year my predictions were a little off. I don’t think anyone saw a 2 win season. Las Vegas set last years projected win total at 6.5. This year Vegas may believe Louisville still has a hangover from the poor season. They set this year’s win total at 3.5.
While there is still a lot that needs to be proven on the field, the new coaching staff and players are saying all the things to make the fans feel pretty good about this season and the direction of the program.
I believe this team could win anywhere from 2-6 games. 6 only if everything goes absolutely perfect. In the end, 4 wins is what I honestly believe it will be. But I don’t really care what the win total ends up being. What I want to see is a better team in November than I see in September. And I really want to see more effort in September that I saw in November of last year. If we see those things, then we can all feel confident that the program is headed into the right direction and the win total seems irrelevant.
Even though I feel the win total may be irrelevant, I’m still going to try to give you my annual game by game predictions. And with Petrino gone, I don’t have to try and figure out where that traditional 1 head scratching loss will come from.
Monday, September 2nd vs Notre Dame
This game was supposed to be the opening of the new expansion to the then Papa Johns Cardinal Stadium and the start of the Jawon Pass era. It was also thought to be a top 15 matchup. Well, a lot has changed since this game was scheduled back in 2014. Currently, Notre Dame is a top 10 team coming off a 12-1 season and a playoff appearance. Louisville is coming into this game from the complete opposite direction. Notre Dame’s defense ranked 30th in 2018 but lost some key pieces. Don’t get too excited because they are still going to be pretty good, especially the defensive ends. The hopefully improved Louisville offensive line will get a tough test keeping Jawon on his feet and giving him time to throw. The Notre Dame offense could be their best in a while. Not great considering they scored 31.4 points per game last season. Definitely not a cupcake opener. Notre Dame is currently a 20.5 favorite. Louisville loses 31- 17. Win probability 11.9%
Saturday, September 7th vs EKU
In just 5 days after a tough opener, Louisville comes out hungry against a team they should beat every year. I count this one as a victory, however, this won’t be a complete pushover. EKU finished last season winning four in a row and are 25th in Lindy’s Sports Preseason Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) Top 25. They also return 18 starters. I think this is a great game to get some confidence back for the defense and Jawon Pass. Louisville wins 42-10. Win probability 97.6%
Saturday, September 14th vs WKU
The days off winning in Jeff Brohm’s high powered offense (23-5) are gone from WKU but so are the 2 losing seasons (9-16) under Mike Sanford, who was fired after last season. Enter Tyson Helton, who was Brohm’s Offensive coordinator for 2 years before leaving to coach with his brother at USC. Helton is now the head man at WKU and inherits a pretty good roster. They return the majority of last years team. Although they were 3-9, they played mainly freshman and sophomore’s at key positions including quarterback, running back, both O and D lines and the secondary. Yes, the team that came into Cardinal Stadium last season and almost pulled out a victory. If you remember, Louisville only scored 3 points in the first half and WKU had a 17-13 lead with about 6 minutes left in the 4th quarter. Western missed a game tying field goal in the final seconds of the game to secure a 20-17 victory. This game was very concerning because WKU controlled the ball for 35:24 and converted 9 of 17 on third-down. I watched the WKU offensive line push the Louisville D line back 5 yards on every snap. It was the first sign to me that it was going to be a long season. If Louisville is going beat WKU in Nashville they are going to have to play better than last year. I feel very confident they will. Louisville wins 28-21. Win probability 66.8%
Saturday, September 21st at Florida State
After blowing the game late against FSU last year, Louisville will travel to Tallahassee to take on a new look Seminole team. FSU is a team that is loaded with talent year in and year out but lately have underperformed compared to their level of talent. Willie Taggart came in last year to try to get them going but posted a 5-7 record and they missed a bowl after 36 straight years of bowl appearances. Taggart decided to make some changes so enter Kendal Briles, son of former Baylor head coach Art Briles, as the new offensive coordinator. FSU is sure to have a much better offense and they return eight of their top 10 tacklers on defense. The good news is that FSU ranked last in the ACC in pass defense and were mediocre against the run. While I believe the Louisville receivers could have a good day, I’m not sure it’s enough to beat the Seminoles at home. Louisville loses 31-13. Win probability 13.1%
Saturday, September 28th – Open Date
Saturday, October 5th vs Boston College
After a week of rest, the 2-2 Cardinals will host a BC team that struggled down the stretch last season. They do have AJ Dillon, one of the nation’s most effective power runners with over 2,600 yards and 24 touchdowns in his two years but the O line could be a problem for them after losing 3 starters. They also lost three of their top four pass catchers as well. On defense, the Eagles lost both ends and another from the line. Hamp Cheevers and his seven interceptions in 2018 left early for the NFL. I think BC is a team headed in the wrong direction after a few good years. This game could be a tough battle but ultimately, I believe Louisville is better and will prevail. Louisville wins 35-24. Win probability 61.6%
Saturday, October 12th at Wake Forest
The Deacons start their post Greg Dortch (Jets) and Matt Colburn (Rams) era and that’s pretty much all they lose besides another top receiver. They return a 1000 yard rusher and under offensive coordinator Warren Ruggiero, Wake has become one of the most up-tempo offenses in the country. Last year on defense, they ranked 117th in sack rate but were pretty solid stopping the run. Hopefully that means Jawon will have time to throw. The problem I see for Louisville, besides playing on the road, is that Satterfield wants to run the ball. This could be a tough down to the wire close game that could end in a loss despite playing well. Louisville loses 24-21. Win probability 33.4%
Saturday, October 19th vs Clemson
The best thing about this game is that it’s a home game. Clemson is good and it doesn’t matter who they lost because they have talent at all levels. I don’t think Louisville has much of chance here but what I want to see is them being more competitive (even it’s just for a half) than the 77-16 showing last year. Losing to the nations top team is not a season killer but I just need to see more effort and I’ll be happy. Louisville loses 42-14. Win probability 3.4%
Saturday, October 26th vs Virginia
Virginia is the one team in the ACC that has consistently gotten better over the last few years and it continues this year. Virginia is the favorite to win the Costal division of the conference. The Cavalier defense has eight returning starters and a very solid secondary. They ranked 20th in total defense last season – that’s 10 spots higher than Notre Dame and only 4 spots below Alabama. Virginia finished tenth in the ACC in total scoring offense, they controlled the clock and didn’t turn it over much. They also led the conference in third down conversions. I think this is a low scoring close game and I wouldn’t be shocked if an improved Louisville team pulls off the upset but I’m not quite ready to predict it just yet. Check back with me on October 25th. Louisville loses 23-17. Win probability 38.5%
Saturday, November 2nd – Open Date
Saturday, November 9th at Miami
Miami should have a pretty solid team this season. They are favored in 11 of their 12 games. As you would expect, they will have a solid defense – Miami ranked first in the country in havoc rate (total combined tackles for a loss, passes defensed and forced fumbles, divided by total plays). The questions comes on offense. Miami finished 104th in offense but returns 8 starters and added a few transfers to try and bolster the offense. You might remember Ohio State transfer Tate Martell chose to go to Miami over Louisville. Well, By most accounts, Tate has been just average and Coach Manny Diaz said the quarterback race among Tate Martell, N’Kosi Perry and Jarren Williams is extremely close entering the summer. Most reports say Perry is the leader. Miami is loaded at receiver too. It will be tough sledding for Louisville against that defense and hopefully Miami doesn’t figure out their offense. I just don’t see a victory in Coral Gabels. Louisville loses 35-20. Win probability 18%.
Saturday, November 16th at N.C. State
If this was a home game I would feel good about Louisville’s chances to win – But it’s not. NC State lost a great quarterback to the NFL, a great O line coach to a conference rival and their Offensive coordinator to App St. but they should still be a top 30 team. They have great receivers and have had three different 1,000-yard running backs in the past three years. The Wolfpack ranked No. 108 in the country in pass defense so I’m thinking this game could be a shootout. Louisville loses 42-38. Win probability 26%
Saturday, November 23rd vs Syracuse
Under coach Dino Babers, Syracuse has been playing really good football. Syracuse finished 11th in the country in scoring offense at 40.2 points per game. The biggest question is if Syracuse can continue this pace after losing QB Eric Dungey and transitioning to the pocket-passing DeVito. The Cuse defense isn’t terrible and has a strong D Line. I think this Syracuse team is good and will upset Clemson. But then I think they get beat in an instant classic at Cardinal Stadium. Louisville wins 45-42. Win probability 44.7%
Saturday, November 30th at Kentucky
I will never predict a loss to UK no matter where the game is played. My hope is that Louisville is a much improved team at this point of the season. Right now, it looks like UK is the better team but I’m thinking they are a 5 or 6 win team. Here is my annual prediction for this game – “It’s UK. (15 TD’s, a safety and a 2pt conv. when Stoops asks Bobby to take a knee in the 4th quarter) Louisville wins 108-0.” Well obviously Bobby is gone but I still hope for the same. I’ll predict that every year the game is played. Honestly though, I think it’s going to be a close game and as usual, the team that wins the rushing battle wins the war. Win Probability 23.2%
** Win probabilities are projections from ESPN.com, not from me.
To recap, I believe Louisville definitely beats EKU, WKU and Boston College. I predict an upset of Syracuse and I think the Wake Forest game is a 50/50 game. UK and N.C. State are winnable games if the team improves like I believe they can but I’m not real confident with both being road games. Virginia and FSU do not seem like wins but there is an outside chance. I think Clemson, Miami and Notre Dame are the only 3 definite losses.
Louisville will start the season at 3-2. If they can pull off a road win at Wake and go 4-2, them all bets are off. NO telling which way the season will go from there. They could win a couple more or lose out and go 4-8. Either way, it’s going to be an interesting season.
So I’m saying bet the over on the 3.5 Las Vegas win total. I feel pretty good Louisville wins four games and is very close in 2 others.
As Always, GO CARDS!