2012 College Football Team Previews and Odds: Louisville Cardinals
Sunday, August 19, 2012
by Frank Martin
The Louisville Cardinals was the biggest surprise in the Big East a year ago, going 5-2 in the Big East - tying Cincinnati and West Virginia for first - and enters this season as just about everybody’s favorite to take the conference.
There are several reasons the Cardinals are the favorites this year. The first is the upheaval throughout the Big East. Last year this time, the conference was ready to welcome TCU to the fold and seemed as if it was ready to stabilize itself. Now, TCU is with the Big 12. So is West Virginia. Pitt and Syracuse will leave after this season, and neither of them is preparing for a huge campaign. Temple is on board. Meanwhile, Connecticut, Rutgers, USF and Cincinnati are trying to gather momentum. In other words, in lieu of a big-time favorite, Louisville is it.
Head coach Charlie Strong made his reputation on defense, but in two seasons he’s built a dynamic offense driven by young and athletic playmakers. Start with Teddy Bridgewater, recognized as one of the nation’s best true freshman quarterbacks after completing 64.5 percent of his throws for 14 touchdowns and also running for four more scores.
On defense, nine starters are back. Because the Cardinals return three starters on the line from last year’s bowl game, they are in pretty good shape here. U of L limited opponents to 3.0 yards per carry last year and registered a respectable 33 sacks, so it was a good season up front.
At linebacker, UL will definitely miss last year’s leading tackler, middle man Dexter Heyman, who made 90 stops, including 16 behind the line. Preston Brown played on the outside last season but has shifted to middle linebacker to replace Heyman.
Louisville should have one of the better secondaries in the Big East with the return of cornerbacks Adrian Bushell and Andrew Johnson, and safeties Hakeem Smith and Calvin Pryor. Louisville intercepted only 10 passes last season, seven by the secondary.
It’s not a stretch to project 10 victories for this team, considering the way Bridgewater and his young receivers finished last season. Louisville’s two most difficult non-league games will be played at home (Kentucky, North Carolina). Plus, Temple has replaced West Virginia in the Big East.
Top returners: Mario Benevides, C, Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Michaelee Harris, WR, Alex Kupper, OT, John Miller, OG, DeVante Parker, WR, Andrell Smith, WR, Jake Smith, OG, Daniel Brown, LB, Preston Brown, LB, B.J. Dubose, DE, Brandon Dunn, DT, Andrew Johnson, CB, Deiontrez Mount, DE, Roy Philon, DT, Calvin Pryor, S, Hakeem Smith, S
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