Back in January, Dalton Pence and I took our first look at Louisville’s 2021 football schedule and gave your our thoughts and an estimated win percentage of each game in this 2021 Schedule Breakdown.
We are now in August and the season is about a month away. It seems the transfers have all moved on and now we know for sure what the Cards and their opponents will look like. So I’ll try to do my annual game by game breakdowns.
Monday September 6th vs Ole Miss (in Atlanta)
Lane Kiffin starts his second season at the helm so expect Ole Miss to be better this season and a preseason top 25 team. QB Matt Corral averaged 333.7 passing yards per game and threw 29 touchdowns. He rushed for 506 yards and four touchdowns. While Ole Miss will be electric offensively (Ranked 3rd in 2020), their defense (Ranked 126th in 2020) might be slightly stronger than a wet paper bag. This could be a very high scoring game and I believe Ole Miss has a stronger offense and will prevail in the end. Louisville loses 42-34. Win probability 36.8%
Saturday September 11th vs EKU
I’m assuming that playing on Sept 11th there should be some special things going on inside the stadium. Just 5 days after the season opener, this is a great “get right” game; a game where they can iron out the mistakes made in the opener and a game to get some of the younger guys some run. Louisville wins 52-10. Win probability 98.5%
Friday September 17th vs UCF
UCF puts up a lot of points and boasts a pretty solid QB in Dillon Gabriel. Gabriel passed for 3,570 yards and 32 touchdowns in 2020. According to PFF’s database, Gabriel ranked second in the Football Bowl Subdivision in deep passing yards with 1,338. So Louisville’s secondary could be on skates all game. The good news for Louisville is that UCF was horrible on defense in 2020. They finished 123rd in total defense. This game should look a lot like the Ole Miss game, but I feel Louisville has a much better shot to win this one. A turnover could be the difference. Louisville wins 41-38. Win probability 56.6%
Saturday September 25th at Florida State
The schedule trend continues as Louisville will play another team that in 2020 had a good offense and a poor defense. FSU ended 2020 ranked 107th in total defense. From that defense, FSU loses their top 2 defensive players including cornerback Asante Samuel Jr. Their offense isn’t near that of Ole Miss or UCF, but the talent is there for it to be. I keep hearing year after year that they are going to be back to the old FSU. Until I see it, I can’t pick them over Louisville. Louisville beat FSU by 32 last year and I expect both teams to be better, but the game is at FSU so it should be a closer game. Louisville wins 35-28. Win probability 42%
Saturday October 2nd at Wake Forest
Last year Jalen Mitchell ran for 168 yards on 20 attempts as the Cards won 45-21. While I don’t anticipate Wake’s D to take a huge step forward, I do expect their offense to be near the top of the ACC. This game looks like it could be a shootout so most likely it will be 9-3 at half. Just kidding… Maybe. The key to this game is getting pressure on the QB. If Louisville is to win, the Cards D-line will need to get into the backfield and Yaya Diaby has to get sacks. If Wake QB Sam Hartman is given time, he will pick apart the Louisville secondary. Expect some big plays from both offenses. Last team to score should be the winner. Louisville wins 31-30. Win probability 49%
Saturday October 9th vs Virginia
At 5-5 last season, Virginia wasn’t exactly a top 25 team, but they did beat UNC so talent is not void here. Their defense allowed 304 passing yards per game, 443 total yards, and 30 points per game in 2020. Virginia finished last in the ACC in pass defense so expect Malik to have a huge game. On offense, the Cavaliers led the ACC in fewest tackles for loss allowed and return all five starters. I like the Cards in this one only because they are the home team. Louisville wins 28-21. Win probability 54.9%
Saturday October 16th – BYE
Saturday October 23rd vs Boston College
BC was 3-0 when running for more than 100 yards and 1-4 when going under 85. They mainly rely on the passing game, but if the Cards can’t stop the run, then a win seems unlikely. Louisville ranked 80th in run defense giving up 179 yards per game in 2020. I look for that to improve immensely, but will it improve enough? However, remember last season, BC battled #1 Clemson down to the wire, but came up just short, 28-34. They also dropped 31 on Notre Dame in a loss. To me, BC is still a team on the rise and should be a tough one. The hope is the Cards are ready and rested after a bye week, but they may get caught looking ahead to the matchup against NC ST. Louisville wins 34-27. Win probability 67.6%
Saturday October 30th at NC State
I hate this matchup. State is talented and deep. QB Devin Leary can throw the ball and he will look to push it downfield as his top three targets all return. He has a 60% completion rate. They also have a solid running game with a 1-2 punch who totaled nearly 1500 yards in 2020. The Pack are solid on defense as well as their linebackers, led by Payton Wilson, who led the ACC in tackles with 108, could very well end up being the best in the ACC. This game in Raleigh is like their Super Bowl. They will be ready. I’m going to stop because talking about how good they could be is making me sick. Louisville loses 35-17. Win probability 40.6%
Saturday November 6th vs Clemson
No Trevor Lawerence, no Travis Etienne, no problem, Right? Not exactly. While you can’t exactly replace those guys, Clemson will just reload. And with those new guys they will still be a top 5 team. Not much else to say here. Clemson is good and its already chalked up as a loss on my board. I just want to see the Cards fight, play hard, and earn some respect in defeat. Louisville loses 45-14. Win probability 9.5%
Saturday November 13th vs Syracuse
All Card nation will be happy to see the Syracuse Orange roll into town as the Clemson Orange departs. The Cards shutout the Orange 30-0 last season. Syracuse averaged a measly 265 yards and 18 points per game in their 1-10 2020 season. This game on paper looks like an automatic win, but, be advised, there is just enough talent on this team that if you come unprepared, you will leave with an L. The Cards D line should have a big game as the ‘Cuse O-line doesn’t particularly block very well. They allowed 38 sacks in 11 games last season. Louisville wins 35-10. Win probability 85%
Thursday November 18th at Duke
Duke’s lone ACC win last year came against Syracuse. However, most of those players are gone. Duke will start a QB with exactly 0 college starts while asking two young tackles to protect him. Duke had 39 turnovers last year compared to Louisville’s 24 (Both just awful). Duke gave up 38 points per game and while that might improve, it won’t improve much. Louisville wins 38-17. Win probability 66.7%
Saturday November 27th vs Kentucky
I absolutely hate predicting this game. My heart says the Cards win, but unfortunately there are stats and other variables that will lead to my prediction. Mark Stoops fired offensive coordinator Eddie Gran and quarterbacks coach Darin Hinshaw in December and hired Los Angeles Rams assistant Liam Coen. The hope is to run a more balanced offense rather than only throwing the ball twice a game. The lure of a more pass happy offense was good enough to get Nebraska WR transfer Wan’Dale Robinson (who is very good). However, even if they do throw more the running game will still be their strength. Chris Rodriguez Jr. is back after ranking fifth in the SEC in rushing yards per game (87.2). The problem Louisville has faced with UK recently is the fact that UK has had one of the best offensive lines in the country. However, Drake Jackson and Landon Young are gone so they might not be as good as normal, but probably still pretty solid. On D, Uk loses 7 starters and they lack a consistent pass rush. Cornerback looks like an issue, but safety looks solid. Going to be a battle. To me, its boils down to Louisville’s D-line vs UK’s O-line. I still think UK holds the advantage, but the gap has narrowed since the 2019 matchup. Louisville loses 28-24. Win probability 57.6%
Best case Scenario : 9-3 Louisville loses to Clemson, Ole Miss and NC State.
Worst Case Scenario: 3-9 Louisville beats EKU, Syracuse, and Duke.
My Prediction: 8-4 (6-2 in ACC) I honestly believe the Cards win 7, but I can’t figure out where the 5th loss comes from. I assume either FSU, Wake, or UCF.
I know for sure that Louisville beats EKU and loses to Clemson. The remaining 10 games are all winnable and losable.
Therefore, It seems to me that Louisville will most likely win against
And lose to
- Ole Miss
- NC State
The remaining six games are all in that 50/50 range. If the Cards go 3-3 in those six, then they are looking at a bowl game. In my opinion, the key to the season is the three game stretch against FSU, Wake, and Virginia. Louisville has to win, at minimum, two of those. Lose two and a bowl game seems like a much harder task.
- Florida State
- Wake Forest
- Boston College
Last season we saw good Louisville and bad Louisville. They showed us they had the talent to play with anybody when they lost a tough battle in South Bend to #4 Notre Dame, 12-7. They played tough against a very good #17 Miami team only to have some self inflicted mistakes take away any hope of victory. The Cards lost to #21 Pitt by three, on the road, despite only passing for 107 yards. Turnovers plagued the Cards all season and cost them at least three victories. Fix the turnovers, get pressure on the QB, mix up the play calling to not be so predictable, and the Cards could easily be closer to a nine win season than most expect (in my humble opinion).
* Win probabilities are not my projections. They are from ESPN Football Power Index
As Always, GO CARDS!