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2021 Louisville Cardinals: Not There Yet
Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

2021 Louisville Cardinals: Not There Yet

The Cardinals have 14 returning starters back off of a 4-7 team in 2020 but they lost 3 key skill position that have to be replaced. QB Malik Cunningham is back and that is a plus. He threw for 2,617 yards and 20 touchdowns last season but also was intercepted 12 times. He is a dual-threat quarterback and should be a big asset in 2021 and the offense should be ok. Defensively, Louisville continues to make strides and has improved each of Def. Coordinator Bryan Brown’s three years. They need some things to go their way to move up in the standings.

Offense: They are solid at QB with Cunningham and have a couple of talented running backs in Jalen Mitchell and Hassan Hall. All 5 starters return on the offensive line and that is always a plus. The problem area is at receiver as there is very little experience. The Cardinals need more consistency on this side of the ball and the experience is there to make it happen

Defense: The strength of the defense seems to be the linebacker position which is always a good place to start. C.J. Avery, the leading tackler the past two seasons, decided to come back for a fifth year and he will be joined with three other capable teammates. The secondary looks capable and CB Tre Clark might be the best player on the entire defense. The defensive front needs to make improvement and NT Jared Goldwire leaves a huge void in the middle.

Non-Conference schedule:

9/6 Mississippi at Atlanta

9/11 Eastern Kentucky

9/17 UCF

11/27 Kentucky

This is a difficult non-conference schedule for sure. The opening game against Ole Miss will be a huge test for the Cardinals’ defense as the Rebel offense should be high-powered. Eastern Kentucky should be easy but then UCF will be another difficult game. They wrap up the season with the grudge game against Kentucky and the Wildcats aren’t an easy out. Going 2-2 against these teams might be a stretch.

Conference Schedule:

9/25 at Florida State

10/2 at Wake Forest

10/9 Virginia

10/23 Boston College

10/30 at NC State

11/6 Clemson

11/13 Syracuse

11/18 at Duke

The conference schedule could be tougher as the Cardinals don’t have to play Miami or North Carolina from the other division so that is a plus. There are three winnable home games against Virginia, Boston College, and Syracuse. The other game against Clemson would be a major upset if they won that one. The road games consist of winnable games at Duke and at Wake Forest and difficult tests against Florida State and NC State. The season will depend on if they win the three home games and can beat Duke and Wake on the road.

Summary: Louisville has a chance to move up the ladder and get back into the top 4 or 5 teams in the ACC. They have to win the games they are supposed to win and grab a couple of toss-up games and surprise someone else on the schedule. The chance is there but they need to show me they can do it. I don’t think they are quite there yet.

Predicted Finish: 6th in Atlantic Division

Overall Record: 5-7

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