After an 11-2 season, which featured a 33-23 win over Florida in the Sugar Bowl, expectations are high in Louisville. The Cardinals rank as a top-10 team in Athlon's projected final top 25 for 2013.
Louisville returns 14 starters, including one of the nation’s top Heisman candidates in quarterback Teddy Bridgewater. Coach Charlie Strong also turned down coaching offers in the SEC to stay at Louisville, and the program will move to the ACC after the 2013 season.
With a favorable schedule and plenty of talent returning, Louisville will be in the mix to play for the national championship. The Cardinals are the heavy favorite to win the remodeled American Athletic Conference, but road games against Kentucky, Cincinnati and South Florida won’t be easy.
What will Louisville's record at the end of the 2013 regular season? Athlon’s panel of experts debates:
Louisville's 2013 Game-by-Game Predictions
9/7 Eastern Kentucky
9/14 at Kentucky
10/5 at Temple
10/26 at USF
11/8 at Connecticut
12/5 at Cincinnati
Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)
Louisville has one of the most favorable schedules in the nation, but there are a few potential landmines for Charlie Strong’s team. The Cardinals will open with an Ohio team capable of pulling an upset. There’s a trip to Lexington to take on rival Kentucky on Sept. 14, which is a huge game for bragging rights in the Bluegrass State. New Wildcats’ coach Mark Stoops certainly has that date circled, as Kentucky looks to make a statement under its new regime. The other game that is a potential loss for Louisville is the season finale at Cincinnati. The Cardinals have a loaded roster, which includes a Heisman candidate in quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, and nine starters from a defense that ranked 23rd nationally in yards allowed. Louisville had two head-scratching losses last year, but this team is in better position from a depth and talent standpoint in 2013. Finishing with an unbeaten record is never easy. Whether it’s at Cincinnati or Kentucky, I think the Cardinals drop one game but still claim an American Athletic title.
Braden Gall (@BradenGall)
Teddy Bridgewater is a special player but this team simply isn't deep or talented enough to be a national championship caliber team just yet. Charlie Strong is a highly respected leader for many reasons but this team got inexplicably hammered by Syracuse on the road and lost at home to UConn — let me repeat that, Louisville lost at home to Connecticut — in 2012. This team is building towards national title contention in the near future but it needs a few more recruiting classes to get there and it will be as a member of the ACC. This defense will be salty against a very mediocre schedule, but the margin for error is razor thin in 2013 and it will slip-up at least once.
After an impressive win in the Sugar Bowl over Florida, Louisville appears to have all the pieces in place to remain in the national title discussion this season, provided the Cardinals go undefeated in the regular season. The "new" American Athletic Conference doesn't figure to be as rugged as the former Big East, at least on paper, with Pittsburgh and Syracuse gone to the ACC and Houston, Memphis, SMU and UCF coming on board.
The Cardinals will follow the lead of Teddy Bridgewater, their dual-threat quarterback who could emerge as a legitimate Heisman Trophy candidate should he lead his team to a perfect regular season. The non-conference slate isn't that challenging, especially with in-state rival Kentucky rebuilding under Mark Stoops. Barring a slip up on the road or at home against say Rutgers or UCF, Louisville's national title hopes will most likely come down to the final game in Cincinnati. With no top-25 teams on the schedule and coming from what was the Big East, the only way Charlie Strong's team has any shot at playing in Pasadena, Calif., in January is if his Cardinals run the table.
David Fox (@DavidFox615)
The preseason consensus is that Louisville is the most likely team to go undefeated during the regular season. That means Louisville almost certainly will not go undefeated. I like so many things about Louisville from the way Charlie Strong has rebuilt the program to the gutty play of Teddy Bridgewater at the end of last season. But this is a team that had its flaws. Run defense was a problem at times as the Cards lost to Connecticut and Syracuse last season. Everyone points to the Sugar Bowl from last season, but Louisville needed to win six one-score games and two of those were over FIU and winless Southern Miss. Louisville’s going to win the AAC and should win most of their games with ease. But perfection is pretty tough.
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