College football is on its way back, so we continue with the Today’s U Top 25 preseason rankings. We’re trotting out a new team each day. We started at No. 25 and we’ll build each day until we reach No. 1.
No. 19: LOUISVILLE CARDINALS
Last Season: 8-5 (5-3 ACC Atlantic, won 27-21 against Texas A&M in the Music City Bowl).
Last Five Seasons: 47-18 (one conference title, five bowl games).
Coach: Bobby Petrino (seventh season, 58-18).
Overview: After seasons of 9-4 and 8-5 in his first two years back at Louisville, Petrino clearly has the Cardinals on an upward trajectory. The offense has a fleet of playmakers, while the defense, with eight returning starters, is filled with talent.
Player To Watch: Toward the end of last season, QB Lamar Jackson looked like the second coming of Vince Young. Against Texas A&M in the Music City Bowl, Jackson passed for 227 yards and rushed for 226 more. And that capped his freshman year. Jackson looks like an explosive dual-threat talent who will provide some real stability.
Top Newcomer: DL Chris Williams, a junior-college transfer who originally signed with Ole Miss, looks like a major find off the edge, but he can also play on the interior. Williams, formerly of Northwest Mississippi Community College, was defensive Most Valuable Player in the junior-college national-title game.
All-Conference Potential: DL DeAngelo Brown, LB Devonte Fields, LB Keith Kelsey.
Key Question: Can Louisville cope with a rugged schedule? It looks like the Cardinals are prepared to win big. But they still must contend with rugged ACC Atlantic opponents Florida State and Clemson, along with difficult non-conference road games at Marshall and Houston.
Best Unit: Linebackers. Few programs have a better pair of linebackers than Louisville. Devonte Fields came on strong with 7.5 sacks in his final three games. Kelsey led the Cardinals in tackles with 107. If Trevor Young makes it back from a serious hip injury suffered in the Music City Bowl, that’s quite a trio.
Good Stat: The knock on Jackson was subpar passing accuracy (54.6 percent). Following up on the Music City Bowl, Jackson put on a show during Louisville’s spring game, completing 24 of 29 passes — for eight touchdowns. Yeah, it was the spring game. But how often do you see numbers like that?
Bad Stat: In its two seasons as an ACC member, Louisville is 0-4 against Florida State and Clemson — and 8-0 against the rest of the teams from the ACC Atlantic Division.
Big Game: Sept. 17, Florida State. The Cardinals have some notable non-conference upsets of Florida State in the past. But in the past two seasons, as an ACC opponent, Louisville has surrendered 42 and 41 points against the Seminoles.
Louisville has the look of a team that will achieve double-digit victories. If the Cardinals can maintain their consistency up front — where both the offensive and defensive lines must replace some key departed starters — things could really fall into place. Louisville just needs a marquee victory to make its mark.
Next: No. 18 TCU.