Thanks to a win over Florida in the Sugar Bowl, Louisville entered the offseason with momentum for its final season in the Big East/American Athletic Conference.
The Cardinals return a Heisman Trophy candidate in quarterback Teddy Bridgewater and one of the nation’s best receiving corps. The offensive line is a question mark, as center Mario Benavides and left tackle Alex Kupper must be replaced.
The defense returns nine starters and should be one of the best in the American Athletic Conference in 2013.
If Louisville can run the table and finish 12-0, it should have a chance to claim a top-five finish. However, even if the Cardinals have a perfect record, it may not be enough to earn a spot in the national title game.
The 2013 college football season is still over 100 days away, but it’s never too early to start talking predictions and expectations for each team going into 2013.
Athlon Sports’ college football top 25 countdown for 2013 is officially underway. To provide some insight into the selections and rankings for 2013, Athlon’s editors will be debating some of the hottest topics from the preseason throughout May.
Louisville ranks as Athlon's No. 10 team in the 2013 Top 25 countdown.
Will the Louisville Cardinals Go Undefeated in 2013?
David Fox (@DavidFox615)
Louisville has one of the softest schedules for a team contending for a major conference title and a top-10 ranking. With a group of veterans -- many of whom are multi-year starters -- the Cardinals also have the players for an undefeated run. At the same time, I wonder if we’ve overreacted to Louisville’s rousing bowl win over Florida. Think of what everyone though of West Virginia at this time last year, when the bowl rout of Clemson was fresh in our minds. Now, the Cardinals may not be as clearly flawed as 2012 West Virginia was. Louisville should be a legitimate run-pass team, and its defense should be able to win games. That said, Louisville found away to lose to Syracuse by 19 and to Connecticut at home in triple overtime in back-to-back weeks. This team isn’t immune from slipping up in shocking ways, and if Louisville loses Teddy Bridgewater, the Cardinals’ undefeated hopes are gone. It’s certainly possible, but I’d take the over on zero losses.
Braden Gall (@BradenGall)
It's pretty hard to see Louisville finishing anything worse than 11-1 in the 2013 regular season. Road games at Kentucky, USF, UConn and, most importantly, Cincinnati in the season finale provide the biggest hurdles away from Papa John's Stadium. Rutgers, Ohio, UCF and Houston are the most challenging home games this season. Meaning Louisville should be favored in every game it plays this year. The Cards are well coached, young talent is developing into upperclassmen and Teddy Bridgewater is a potential superstar at quarterback — so an unbeaten season is well within reach. An 11- or 12-win season would put Louisville squarely in the BCS National Championship game hunt, but to land in the title game, however, the Cardinals will likely have to be perfect. And in a league known for bizarre upsets and unforeseen twists, one loss somewhere — Rutgers, USF, Cincinnati — is my prediction.
Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)
There’s no question Louisville has one of the most favorable – if not the easiest – path to an unbeaten season in 2013. The Cardinals non-conference schedule consists of Ohio, Eastern Kentucky, Kentucky and FIU, and the American Athletic Conference is unlikely to have another team in most preseason top 25 polls. Kentucky and Ohio aren’t guaranteed victories, but the Cardinals will win both contests to claim a 4-0 start in non-conference play.
Despite the favorable schedule, I think Louisville will lose one game this season. The most likely chance for a loss is the Dec. 5 showdown against Cincinnati. The Bearcats return 13 starters, including the conference’s best offensive line, an emerging quarterback in Brendon Kay and a defense that returns six starters, including first-team all-conference linebacker Greg Blair.
In 2011, Louisville lost at home to FIU and Marshall. In 2012, the Cardinals were handled by Syracuse 45-26 on the road and lost 23-20 to Connecticut. The last two years have provided a head-scratching loss for Louisville, which isn’t a complete surprise considering Charlie Strong is still building this program. The path is favorable for an unbeaten season, but I think Louisville stumbles once during the regular season.
The Cardinals won't be sneaking up on anyone this season, not after their impressive victory over Florida in the Sugar Bowl in January and not with potential Heisman Trophy contender Teddy Bridgewater at quarterback. And an undefeated regular season would certainly do nothing but buoy Bridgewater's candidacy to win said stiff-armed trophy. However, Louisville, and Bridgewater for that matter, will go into this season with a bull's-eye squarely on their backs as their conference foes would like nothing more than to spoil their first, and only, season in the new American Athletic Conference.
Rutgers and UCF will likely be the first teams to test Louisville, but the Cardinals get both of these teams at home. Fittingly, the Cardinals' toughest game could also end up being the only thing standing between them and an undefeated regular season. It's entirely possible that the Thursday, Dec. 5 date in Cincinnati could have conference title and BCS Championship Game implications, especially if Louisville is 11-0 at that point. Do you think Nippert Stadium would be rocking for that one? Don't get me wrong, Louisville is without question a top-25-caliber team led by Bridgewater and Charlie Strong, one of nation's top coaches. However, I just don't think an undefeated regular season is in the (ahem) cards this fall.
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