Louisville football going to expose some so-called experts

One thing I’m sure about is the Louisville Cardinals football team is better than a fifth place finisher in the Atlantic Division of the Atlantic Coast Conference

Editor’s Note: Card Game is pleased to welcome veteran sportswriter Ed Peak, who has covered UofL sports in some fashion since 1973, first as a student reporter, as a correspondent for the Courier-Journal, a freelancer for the Associated Press and the old United Press International, as well as Louisville ScoreCard, Fox Sports and CBS radio.

By Ed Peak

I love this time of year. College football is just around the corner and Major League Baseball is in the home stretch. I also love all those opinions about college football teams. Preseason polls, predictions by the so-called experts. We are less than three weeks away from the start of the season and everyone has an opinion about their team.

The preseason college football magazines have been on the newsstands since mid May. I agree with the pundits on a couple of things. The defending national champion Alabama Crimson Tide should be ranked number one, Georgia No. 2 and Clemson third. Everybody else, I’m not so sure about.

This will be a fun team to watch, but young and probably a year away from being really good.

One thing I’m sure about is the Louisville Cardinals are better than a fifth place finisher in the Atlantic Division of the Atlantic Coast Conference. Street & Smith has them fifth. Athlon Sports has them pegged sixth. Lindy’s Sports has them 38th overall.

There is every reason to think they could finish second or third in the ACC’s Atlantic Division. Clemson is the favorite and should be.The Cardinals have a difficult schedule this season opening with Alabama in the Camping World Kickoff. Difficult to win with a first time sophomore quarterback. The next two games are winnable at home, Indiana State and Western Kentucky.

The first road game is not easy, at Virginia. But I think the Cards take care of the Cavaliers. The next two home games are very pivotal, Florida State and Georgia Tech. By this time quarterback Jawon “Puma” Pass should be established. I think Louisville wins both.

Another pivotal game follows at Boston College. Louisville should have beat the Eagles last season. That was one of the most hurtful losses a year ago. The Cards will be ready this time and win. Wake Forest comes to Cardinal Stadium the following week and Louisville just didn’t play well against the Demon Deacons a year ago. Louisville plays well and gets a W.

That gets us to Saturday, November 3rd at Clemson. Louisville rolls into Death Valley on a seven game winning streak (7-1). But the Tigers, with one of the best defensive front fours in college football, prevail.

The Cards win at Syracuse, beat North Carolina State and Kentucky at home finishing 10-2. Optimistic? Yes. Impossible. No. I think an appearance in the Belk Bowl in Charlotte, North Carolina is possible and a ranking in the Associated Press and USA Today Coaches Poll by the end of the season.
One thing that does bother me is I haven’t seen this Cardinals team in person. I like to see a team before making opinions. I did see the spring game. But I don’t know how much you can take from that.

With all the speed the Cards have I think they are improved. A new defensive coordinator in Brian VanGorder will make a difference. The defense is a year older and has talent in Dorian Etheridge, Jonathan Greenard, Khane Pass, G.G. Robinson and Russ Yeast. Others that could have an impact are C.J. Avery, Henry Famurewa, London Iakopo, Dee Smith and Cornelius Sturgill.

The offense will have to rally around Pass, the key returning player after backing up Lamar Jackson. The Cards have good receivers in Dez Fitzpatrick, Jaylen Smith, who says he will be ready for the opener after an emergency appendectomy. Seth Dawkins will figure in the mix as well.The running backs should be solid with Dae Williams, Colin Wilson and Tobias Little.

The offensive line should be improved with experienced veteran starters returning in seniors Lukayus McNeil and Kenny Thomas. Sophomore Mekhi Becton (6-3, 360) gives the Cards some bulk while Robbie Bell and Cole Bentley have started games.

Louisville should have one of the strongest kicking games in college football with juniors Branton Creque as a field goal and PAT specialist and punter Mason King. Creque, a Lou Groza Award candidate, has made 97 of 99 extra point kicks and 33 of 39 field goals in two seasons. King averaged 43.9 yards per punt last season and had 10 points of 50 yards or more and placed 10 kicks inside the 20-yard line.

This will be a fun team to watch, but young and probably a year away from being really good.