If you are a regular reader of Nunnsense then you probably have read at some point where I have said that I expect the 2021 Louisville football team to look more like the 2019 team than the 2020 team. Most of you that have read that assume I meant the offense will be just as high powered at the 2019 offense and the defense will be just good enough to keep the offense in position to get the W.
That’s not exactly what I mean. Let me clarify. I mean the 2021 team will be playing a large number of games that appear to be 50/50 games and the Cards will win the majority of those games like they did in 2019. In 2020, the Cards did not win those close games. Therefore the 2021 team will look more like the 2019 team.
While the offense was the side of the ball that helped secure the majority of the 2019 wins, I fully believe the defense will be the dominant side of the ball in 2021.
I’m not saying the offense isn’t going to be good. I’m just saying let’s temper our expectations of a high powered offense from game 1. The offense most likely will improve as the season goes along.
Here’s why… Let’s start with the offensive line. The Cards bring in a new O-line coach who plans to play about eight deep. The former coach played six deep. Part of that is because of talent but part of that is philosophy. I like the idea of rotating people in and out to keep them fresh but I believe continuity could take some time. So it’s my belief the O-line will get better as the year progresses.
Next, the receivers. The top 2 wide receivers from last season, Dez (43 receptions) and Tutu (46 receptions) are now playing on Sundays. The projected starters, Braden Smith (27 receptions), Justin Marshall (7 receptions) and Jordan Watkins (8 receptions) combined last season for 1 less reception than Dez. I’m not saying they can’t step up and fill those rolls admirably but it’s going to take time and repetitions to build timing with Malik. Malik was very comfortable with Dez and we all know Tutu was the first place Malik always looked. The hope is that there will be a few big explosive plays over the top that go to the speedster, Tyler Harrell. But Tyler has exactly 2 receptions at Louisville since 2018. He might need some time to perfect his route running to be most effective. He could be a weapon but it could take some time to develop that deep threat.
Running back is another story. For every game that Javian entered last year, he was the feature back. That is undebatable. This season there are 3 or 4 guys to carry the load. We could see a different leading rusher every game. Coach satterfield will rotate guys in and feed the hot hand. It’s quite possible that it takes a quarter or so to see who the hot hand is so the offense could get off to a slow start while trying to establish the run.
Tight end is basically the only certainty. Marshon Ford is the man. He is as steady and solid as they come. I know he is listed as a halfback on the depth chart but with 25 receptions, 12.4 yard average per rec. and 6 touchdowns, you can label him however you want. I would also credit him with making the block that enabled Javian or Malik to score on about 5 or 6 of their combined 14 rushing touchdowns. Expect Marshon to be solid from game 1. But be cautious because if Marshon is the leading receiver in the majority of the games then the offense is not going as expected.
The 2019 offense was perceived to be a high powered offense. It was in fact a very good offense putting up 33.1 points per game. That ranked 30th in the country. While that is pretty good, it seemed and felt so much better than it actually was because it came on the heels of the 2018 season where the Cards put up a measly 19.8 points per game, ranking 122nd out of 130.
The 2020 team finished with 29.5 ppg ranking 55th in the country.
So what should we expect from the 2021 Louisville offense? Well, as Louisville fans, we all expect enough points to win. But what exactly is that? I believe with the much improved Louisville defense, 28 points per game should be adequate to secure enough wins to be bowl eligible. Looking at the schedule, I see several games with high powered offenses and poor defenses that could/should be shootouts. So at the end of the season I believe Louisville will average 32 to 34 points per game. Don’t expect a big play, quick strike offense but you can expect an efficient steady offense.
As Always, GO CARDS!