Louisville football podcast: Just how likely is 10-2 in 2020?

The Big Red Louie Podcast returned to discuss all things Louisville football including Micale Cunningham, recruiting, and the overall outlook for 2020.

There’s been a ton of hype about the 2020 season for Louisville football thanks to their eight-win campaign in 2019 in Scott Satterfield’s first season on the job as several way too early rankings and expert college football have pegged the Cards to be a top 25 team.

8-4 and 9-3 have been the two popular records tossed around by fans and media members alike when they discuss the season ahead, but when the ESPN Football Power Index was released a few weeks ago, it was rather high on the Cards.

While there’s a 100-pound elephant in the room with the COVID-19 shutdowns nationwide that have effected college campuses and ultimately led to the cancellation of all spring sports and potentially could cause issues with scheduling for the 2020 season, whenever the year does kick-off, the Cards will be primed for a big year.

The ESPNI FPI projects Louisville to go 10-2 this season as both Dalton Pence and Presley Meyer have written the fast weeks, and the biggest reason for the optimism is the explosive offense we saw emerge in 2019 behind the three-headed monster of Micale Cunningham, Javian Hawkins, and Tutu Atwell.

Here’s what Seth Walder of ESPN Analytics had to say about why Louisville’s offense is so high in the rankings:

“While the changes are minor for most teams, for a few they are significant. Louisville is one of those teams and a good example to illustrate what these changes look like.”

“Last season, the Cardinals started the season with Jawon Pass at quarterback. He played a couple of games before suffering a season-ending injury. Micale Cunningham took over and played most of the rest of the season, but Evan Conley worked in some time as well. But with Cunningham, Louisville was at its best, and he’s the presumed starter heading into 2020. Our old FPI would not know the difference between the 2019 offense under each of the three quarterbacks, but the new version does. And so it’s more optimistic about the Louisville offense because it’s thinking it likely will be the one with Cunningham at the helm, rather than a mix of the three.”

“And by the way, FPI is awfully high on Louisville’s offense, pegging it as fourth-best in the country. That’s a bright spot for an ACC that is expected to be dominated by Clemson.”

On episode 34 of the Big Red Louie Podcast, I was joined by Presley Meyer and Dalton Pence to talk about what could stand in the way of Louisville reaching the projected 10-2 mark. While there were a few answers, the overwhelming majority of the discussion was spent talking about the Louisville football defense which showed signs of life in 2019 but still had major struggles in Bryan Brown’s first year.

Like the offense, the defense will return eight starters led by linebackers CJ Avery and Dorian Etheridge along with rising stars Russ Yeast, Jared Goldwire, and Chandler Jones. With a ton of recruits in the fold, the defense will finally get some of the much-needed depth relief they’ve been searching for, which should help them take another big leap.

If Louisville’s going to be able to get to 10 wins, it’s simple – the defense has to be a top 10 defense in the ACC, bottom line. Last year Louisville’s issues with tackling, getting after the quarterback, and stopping big plays caused them to struggle far too often, and while some of that was because of unfamiliarity with the system, depth, and talent limitation.

Can the Cards pull off an upset?

On the podcast, we also discussed the two games that ESPN’s FPI has projected the Cards to be underdogs in, and by a rather large margin. Louisville played both Notre Dame and Clemson about as well as you would’ve hoped for in year one, even though both games ended in lopsided fashion.

This year the Cards should be able to compete against both, and could potentially pull off a massive upset. So who would be the most likely win… Clemson or Notre Dame?

In the first game of the year, one where Scott Satterfield said they really didn’t know what they had on the field, the Cards competed hard in the first half scoring 14 points and nearly taking a lead into half time. Notre Dame loses a ton of offensive talent from a year ago, but do return star QB Ian Book. With improvement on the defense and big offensive performance, Notre Dame would be the most likely upset.

But why not Clemson? As I pointed out on the podcast, Louisville played Clemson arguably closer than anyone in the regular else outside of North Carolina but struggled in the second half to keep the far more talented Tigers off the board.

If Louisville can clean up the mistakes they made (two dropped touchdowns, a muffed punt, a botched interception) it wouldn’t be surprising to see a closer game than the Cards can compete closer to the finish in.

Recruiting update & a new name on the board at QB

As Dalton Pence has covered the last few weeks, the Louisville staff are in on a ton of big-time prospects in the class of 2021 as Scott Satterfield looks to continue the momentum from a year ago.

Thanks to winning eight games and being ahead of schedule as a program, the Cards have been in the race for a new level of players that they really weren’t able to land last season. While a few big names have chosen elsewhere, such as Travion Ford, Jantzen Dunn, most likely Corey Kriner, and others, there’s still a ton to be optimistic about.

As we discussed, Louisville holds five commitments from several players who fit the scheme perfectly and should be landing several others, including a legacy commitment and elite safety in the coming days.

The quarterback position is where the most intrigue currently lies, as Louisville will likely be bringing in at least one new player. The favorite for quite some time as Dalton wrote, has been three-star Sierra Canyon product, Chayden Peery. The pro-style quarterback and the Cards have built up quite a strong relationship and it led to Peery calling the program “a top school of mine.”

A new name emerged this week that could bring Prime Time to the Ville. Shedeur Sanders, the son of Deion Sanders, has become arguably the hottest name amongst Louisville fans and it’s not hard to see why. Reeling in Sanders would be a monumental recruiting victory for Louisville; not only the product on the field but the publicity he would bring to the Cardinals would be exponential.

Next: Louisville football depth chart preview: Pass catchers

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