Head coach: Scott Satterfield (first year)
Last year’s record: 2-10 (0-8 ACC)
Final AP ranking: Unranked
Recruiting Ranking: No. 70 (0 5-stars, 1 4-star, 14 3-stars)
First game: Sept. 2 against Notre Dame (Futures available on BetAmerica)
It’s difficult to even discuss the Louisville Cardinals’ 2018 season if you’re a fan. In Bobby Petrino’s fifth year as head coach since his return (he also coached the school from 2003 to 2006), the Cardinals went from a solid contender in the ACC to absolutely abysmal. The Cardinals defeated Indiana State and Western Kentucky in September, then went on a nine-game losing streak to close out the year. In the midst of disaster, Petrino found himself on the chopping block.
Now a new man is in town, and he’s the largest moving piece of the offseason. Scott Satterfield, the former head coach of Appalachian State, could be the perfect hire to transform the bottom-dwelling Cardinals back to the force they once were. After going 7-5 in his first season at App State, Satterfield won three consecutive bowl games with the Mountaineers and ended his tenure with a 10-2 season in 2018.
Far from the caliber of competition he witnessed in the Sun Belt conference, Satterfield will now test his coaching acumen in a Power Five conference. The 2019 season will likely still look ugly for Louisville, but anything more than a two-win record is an improvement.
Both sides of the field were bad last year and pretty much every position has been under construction in the offseason. Moving forward Louisville must figure out whether quarterback Jawon Pass (eight touchdowns, 12 interceptions) or Malik Cunningham, a dual-threat who led the team in rushing last year, will head the offense. Freshman pro-style quarterback Evan Conley could find himself competing for the starting job, as well.
If quarterback play is going to improve at all, the offensive line must do the same. New offensive coordinator Dwayne Ledford has experience both as co-offensive coordinator at Appalachian State under Satterfield and as North Carolina State’s former offensive line coach.
With better line play will come a better run game as well, and that’s one more area Louisville must fix drastically. Last year the ground game averaged just 141.5 yards per game, with sophomore running back Hassan Hall leading his position with 303 yards and three touchdowns on the year.
As for the receiving corps, Louisville will be without last year’s leading receiver Jaylen Smith. The Cardinals bring back some experience at the position with senior Seth Dawkins (13.2 yards per catch), junior Dez Fitzpatrick (422 yards, three touchdowns) and senior Devonte Peete (11.9 yards per catch).
Change will also be needed on the defensive side. The Cardinals D allowed 44.1 points and 484 yards per game last season and gave up 52 or more points in six of its last seven games. The team was also last in the nation in third-down defense, permitting the opposition to convert 51.9 percent of their tries.
Last season was a complete anomaly for a team that ranked in the top 5 in 2016—narrowly missing the College Football Playoff—and had a Heisman Trophy winner in quarterback Lamar Jackson.
It will take time and a ton of recruiting, but Satterfield and a brand-new coaching staff should send the Cardinals into recovery mode with a brighter outlook by 2020.
Louisville will kick off the season at home against Notre Dame, which will surely defeat the Cards. Eastern Kentucky is one win Louisville can count on. A game in Nashville against Western Kentucky is a toss-up, but it’s one Louisville is capable of winning. The Cards may collect just five victories, but that’s better than what they suffered through last year.
Notre Dame at Louisville, Sept. 2
A 20-point spread is a bit much, but last year Louisville got obliterated by almost every team it played—including a 77-16 trouncing by Clemson. Notre Dame is virtually guaranteed to come out on top, but Louisville does have home-field advantage, and the Cards will come out fired up, ready to prove they’re far from the team they were last year. Still, the Fighting Irish come in with too much talent and will win by three scores.
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