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Louisville Football: Ranking the Toughest Games on Their Schedule

Louisville Cardinals College Football

Louisville Cardinals College Football

Now that the Lamar Jackson era is over at Louisville, Bobby Petrino and the Cardinals will have one tough challenge ahead of them. Not only will Louisville need to replace Jackson, but also its top two running backs along with its best offensive lineman and defensive coordinator. 

Louisville Cardinals head coach Bobby Petrino

The schedule isn't forgiving as the Cardinals could potentially face the top two teams in the country. Here's a look at Louisville's 2018 schedule from easiest to most difficult game.

12. Sept. 8 vs. Indiana State

After their mega-matchup against Alabama to begin the season, Louisville will play its home opener against FCS member Indiana State. The Sycamores went 0-11 last year, so this should be a cakewalk for the Cardinals.

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11. Sept. 15 vs. Western Kentucky

Usually, a game against Western Kentucky wouldn't be considered one of the easiest game on any team's schedule but the Hilltoppers finished 6-7 last season. Even with the all of the turnover on defense, the Cardinals should have enough to come out on top at home.

College Football Rankings: WKU

10. Sept. 22 at Virginia

The Cavaliers bounced back in 2017, going 6-7 after finishing 2-10 two years ago. Virginia may have a hard time duplicating that same success. The Cavaliers have several key players to replace, including quarterback Kurt Benkert and their two best defenders (Micah Kiser, Quin Blanding).

Virginia: college football picks against the spread

9. Oct. 5 vs. Georgia Tech

Georgia Tech failed to qualify for a bowl game for just the second time in the Paul Johnson era. The Yellow Jackets have been known to bounce back after a down season so 2018 may produce different results.

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8. Nov. 9 at Syracuse

Even though the Orange are coming off of a 4-8 showing, they could potentially end their four-year bowl drought in 2018. Syracuse has veteran quarterback Eric Dungey among eight returning starters on offense. Remember, the Orange upset Clemson at home last year, so they certainly could defeat the Cardinals in the Carrier Dome.

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7. Oct. 27 vs. Wake Forest

Louisville was barely able to escape Winston-Salem with a win last year. With the Demon Deacons improving, they could look to get revenge against the Cardinals. Wake Forest has 14 starters returning, and could be one of the surprise teams in the ACC.

Wake Forest: college football picks against the spread

6. Nov. 24 vs. Kentucky

Rivalry games are always a toss-up, and the battle for Governor's Cup is no different. The teams have split the last two games against each other, with Louisville winning handily (44-17) in Lexington last year.

Kentucky football schedule

5.  Nov. 17 vs. NC State

The Wolfpack has just nine total starters returning with significant losses on both sides of the ball, including All-American defensive end Bradley Chubb. But NC State has Ryan Finley back at quarterback along with the ACC's top receiving corps. The Pack are coming off a program-best nine wins under head coach Dave Doeren. Many of the faces will be new, but NC State is still a team that shouldn't be taken lightly.

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4. Oct. 13 at Boston College

The Eagles could be one of the surprise teams in the country. Running back AJ Dillion is one of the best at his position and is one of 15 total starters returning. Outside of Clemson and Florida State, Boston College could emerge as the Atlantic Division's best team.

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3. Sept. 29 vs. Florida State

While there's some transition at Tallahassee, the Seminoles should reclaim their spot among the best in the ACC. Florida State has two solid options at quarterback in Deondre Francois and James Blackman. While the Seminoles probably won't challenge Clemson in the Atlantic this year, getting back to double-digit wins is possible. 

College Football Top 25 Rankings: FSU

2.  Nov. 3 at Clemson

There's a case to be made that the Tigers are the most talented team entering the 2018 season. Clemson returns 14 starters, including the nation's best defensive line. The Tigers could go undefeated during the regular season, and no one would be surprised.

College Football Top 25 Rankings: Clemson

1.  Sept. 1 vs. Alabama (in Orlando, Fla.)

Louisville hasn't shied away from playing tough opponents to start the season, but the defending national champions present an entirely different kind of challenge. The Crimson Tide will be loaded again defensively, making this a less-than-ideal matchup for Jawon Pass' debut as the Cardinals' starting quarterback.

College Football Top 25 Rankings: Alabama

Athlon Sports Cover 2 Podcast: Games. Games. And more Games!

-- Written by Antwan Staley, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and has extensive experience covering Florida sports teams. Staley has written for Bleacher Report, the Miami Herald and the Palm Beach Post and is a reporter for Pro Player Insiders. Follow him on Twitter @antwanstaley.