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Louisville Football: 2022 Cardinals Season Preview and Prediction

Malik Cunningham, Louisville Cardinals Football

Malik Cunningham and the Cardinals are ranked No. 44 in Athlon Sports' Top 131 for the 2022 college football season

Don't be surprised if Louisville head coach Scott Satterfield starts the 2022 season on some of those ubiquitous Hot Seat lists.

After earning the ACC Coach of the Year award in 2019, Satterfield has suffered consecutive losing seasons. The Cards have lost three straight rivalry games to Kentucky by a combined 109 points. Recruiting sagged with a class that ranked outside the top 50. Staff turnover has been persistent. The Cards failed to sell out any games last season.

Speculation raged after last season that Satterfield would not return for Year 4. Less than a week after athletic director Vince Tyra announced that Satterfield would be back in 2022, Tyra resigned. So the head coach is working for a skeptical fan base without the protection of the AD and president who hired him.

Satterfield has promised to upgrade his offense with a solid collection of returning players. He has promised that Louisville will focus on throwing fewer shorter passes. He modernized the school's recruiting unit and went to work in the transfer portal. But the coach realizes he needs to deliver a winning season.

Related: Athlon Sports' College Football Top 25 for 2022

Previewing Louisville's Offense for 2022

When Malik Cunningham started at Louisville, his friend Lamar Jackson was finishing his final season as the Cards' quarterback. Cunningham returns for his fourth season as the team's starter following a season in which he fixed his turnover issues by throwing 19 touchdown passes with only six interceptions while displaying electrifying running ability. But as much as Satterfield likes that rushing dimension, he told Cunningham in spring ball to stay in the pocket and let more passing plays develop. The Cards cannot afford a serious injury to Cunningham, who played hurt part of last season.

Jalen Mitchell emerged as the Cards' top running back, rolling for 722 yards, with only a single 100-yard game. Tiyon Evans transferred from Tennessee, where he averaged 6.5 yards per carry while gaining 525 yards.

Marshon Ford gives the Cards a solid hybrid weapon as a tight end/H-back. A former walk-on, Ford led Louisville in receiving with 49 catches for 550 yards.

Satterfield must rework the receiving group after the Cardinals' top two wideouts departed via the transfer portal and receivers coach Gunter Brewer left for Maryland.

Louisville replaced its transfers with a pair of transfers. Tyler Hudson, the ASUN player of the year at Central Arkansas, had 27 touchdown catches in three seasons there. The other addition was Dee Wiggins, who made 62 catches over four seasons at Miami (Fla.).

Nic Cardwell will be the Cards' third offensive line coach in three seasons after Jack Bicknell Jr. left for North Carolina in the middle of spring practice. Four starters return, led by the powerful right side tandem of guard Adonis Boone and tackle Renato Brown. The group was solid in 2021, as the Cards led the ACC in 5.45 yards per rushing attempt.

Previewing Louisville's Defense for 2022

Bryan Brown returns for his fourth season as the team's defensive coordinator, focused on improving a unit that allowed more than 2,000 yards rushing and 3,100 yards passing.

YaYa Diaby overcomes his lack of bulk with excellent first-step quickness and a relentless motor to deliver on one edge. Ashton Gillotte, the Cards' other defensive end, showed exceptional athleticism and push, although he was slowed by injuries at times. Arizona State transfer Jermayne Lole committed to Louisville after spring practice and should emerge as an impact addition in the trenches for Brown.

Linebacker remains the strength of his unit. Yasir Abdullah is a three-year starter who was named second-team All-ACC because of his speed and ability to get to the quarterback. Monty Montgomery had 17 tackles in the first three games last season before he exited with a torn ACL. At 6'1", 190 pounds, Marvin Dallas has to rely on his speed to succeed. A former four-star recruit, MoMo Sanogo transferred from Ole Miss, where he was a part-time starter.

Veterans abound in the secondary, but Satterfield and Brown added six players from the portal to strengthen this group. Kei'Trel Clark is the Cards' top cover corner and has posted four interceptions and 76 tackles in two seasons since he transferred from Liberty. Senior Chandler Jones is a solid tackler who broke up seven passes last season. Kenderick Duncan fit seamlessly at safety, contributing 76 tackles after transferring from Georgia Southern. Jalen Alexander transferred from Duke, where he finished sixth in tackles. Safety M.J. Griffin (Temple), cornerback Jarvis Brownlee Jr. (Florida State) and cornerback Jayden Williams (USC) will push for playing time.

Related: ACC Predictions for 2022

Previewing Louisville's Specialists for 2022

Kicker James Turner's accuracy slipped from 87 percent to 64 percent as he missed eight of 22 field goal attempts. Mark Vassett should hold the punting job after averaging nearly 42 yards per kick. Hudson returned punts at Central Arkansas, while Jawhar Jordan burned Air Force with a 100-yard kickoff return in the First Responder Bowl.

Final Analysis

The Cards open by playing their first two and four of their first six games on the road. They'll need a fast start because the schedule is back-loaded with this closing stretch: at Clemson (where U of L has never won), NC State and at Kentucky (which has dominated Satterfield). There's enough veteran talent on the first team for the Cards to get to six wins, but Cunningham must remain healthy and excel for Louisville to achieve more than that.

National Ranking: 44

Podcast: ACC 2022 Complete Preview + Predictions + QB Debate