Louisville Season Win Total Prediction
Nobody in Louisville expects Lamar Jackson to channel Teddy Bridgewater overnight. If the sophomore quarterback keeps growing, though, the Cardinals’ 2016 campaign could be one to remember.
Enthusiasm is high for Bobby Petrino’s program entering the fall, as evidenced by oddsmakers’ preliminary figures. Online sports book Bovada.lv projects the squad for nine wins, which would surpass last year’s total of eight. That group captured six of its final seven games, including a 27-21 conquest of Texas A&M in the Music City Bowl.
With a whopping 16 starters returning to the fold, Louisville promises to ooze success in the ACC’s Atlantic Division. Provided Jackson leaps forward, well, Clemson and Florida State may want to request backup. The Florida native absolutely electrified the Nashville crowd in that triumph vs. the Aggies, amassing 453 total yards and four touchdowns. Amazingly, such all-around wizardry unfolded in only his 12th Division I performance. Jackson didn’t really distance himself from Kyle Bolin and Reggie Bonnafon until early December. What a whirlwind said month produced, however, as he ended with 1,840 yards through the air and another 960 on the ground.
Jackson’s dual-threat nature obviously puts him a cut above the bulk of ACC signal-callers. Still, Petrino probably prefers to reduce those totes a tad. Besides, three quality ball carriers – Brandon Radcliff, Jeremy Smith and L.J. Scott – are back in place, galloping behind an older, wiser offensive line. Kenny Thomas, Geron Christian and the rest of the gang struggled to control the trenches with regularity a season ago. Yet so many of those individuals were newbies on campus.
On the outside, Jackson will adore Jamari Staples and James Quick. Staples comes off a year in which he averaged 17.2 yards per reception, and that big-play ability undoubtedly gives elite rivals like the Seminoles (Sept. 17) and Tigers (Oct. 1) something about which to worry. Quick’s skills suggest a slot role down the road, but in the here and now, he also boasts enough wiggle to beat press coverage and take the top off a secondary.
Flipping to defensive matters, linebackers Keith Kelsey and Devonte Fields clearly run the show. They combined for 169 tackles and 13.5 sacks in 2015. The two standouts simply won’t stop at plunging into the opposing backfield, either – they rip at that pigskin until it clatters to the earth. Louisville’s entire unit conveys that ravenous attitude, having just snagged 17 interceptions and forced nine fumbles.
There’s minor concern at tackle, where DeAngelo Brown has the task of filling the NFL-bound Sheldon Rankins’ shoes. As long as Kyle Shortridge and Drew Bailey can set the edge, though, the front four’s generally fine. The Cardinals exude similar steadiness on the back end. Corners Trumaine Washington and Shaq Wiggins need to limit the chunk gains, but their overall grasp of the position remains strong.
Petrino’s crew draws Clemson and FSU before the midway point. Our bold prediction: Louisville knocks off one of the two conference giants, raising the stakes heading into a Nov. 17 clash against Houston. Don’t disregard the possibility of double-digit victories in advance of the inevitable bowl berth.
FRIDAY COLLEGE FOOTBALL FREE PICK: LOUISVILLE CARDINALS OVER 9 WINS (EVEN)