If you followed the site last fall when I started writing, you'll know that I quite enjoy football. I'm an avid fan of sports in general, but football is one that I really cling too because of the intricacies. Football is like a game of chess, except if all of the pieces could go more or fewer spaces than intended completely at random. Much thought is put into tactics and game planning only for them to potentially fall apart with every snap. Anyway, this probably won't be the last time you see me write about football, because it is so present in my brain. I will still bring you your prescribed doses of women's soccer when applicable, but I ask that you begrudge me my football thoughts. With fall camp in full swing and kickoff in Indianapolis a little under a month away, now seems like as good a time as any to share some thoughts about the upcoming season.
More Questions than Answers
There were many things which might be blamed for last season's late season letdown. Many of those potential causes were sources of significant change over the offseason. However, the changes may not have brought quite as much peace of mind as we hoped. Did Lamar Jackson's arm improve as much as signs indicated? If not, did teams really figure him out and will he be as effective this season? Will Mike Summers' return have a big enough impact to protect an asset like Lamar Jackson from severe harassment? Will Peter Sirmon's defense be ranked 112th at Louisville? Can the players adjust to the new schemes brought by new coaches? Has Louisville peaked or will they see a huge leap in Petrino year four?
These are all questions that can't really be answered until the season ends (hopefully) in January. Louisville hosted an open practice last week to start camp (the only one they'll host this season) and most reports indicated that the answers to these questions are unclear. It is almost impossible for Lamar Jackson to have not gotten better over the offseason, but how much better did he get and how much of an effect will it have? If the offensive line isn't any better, will it matter at all? Some said that Jackson's arm didn't seem all that much more tuned than before. He still missed throws he shouldn't have, but a lot of that can be chalked up to shaking off the rust of a new fall camp. Some of the questions about Louisville's Heisman winner will be answered very early, with others having to wait. I believe that a student of the game such as Jackson will have made large strides over the summer. Whether or not this was apparent last week during a practice is irrelevant. What Jackson shows on the field against Purdue is what will matter for the success of this Cardinal team.
As for the positional groups under new tutelage, the answers are more unclear. There are sure to be games where the new hires to not appear to have made anything better. Offensive linemen will still miss assignments, because even the best ones in the NFL miss assignments. The defense will still give up touchdowns because it would be an obscene feat for them to not do so. However, if there is one thing that I have learned about Bobby Petrino as a football coach, is that he is not particularly foolish. He did not make these hires to get worse or to stay the same. Sirmon and Summers were brought to Louisville to make this team better, and as of right now, I have no reason to believe they will not do so.
College football "experts" have spent the last part of these summer months saying all kinds of stuff. Most of what they say is to draw page views to their site, but they are still interesting to see and potentially talk about. One list left Lamar Jackson out of the top five players. Another left him out of the top five quarterbacks. Jackson has taken multiple approaches when asked about it, but the bottom line remains the same. The things that people write about players' talents do not have an impact on the outcome of the game. So long as the players themselves perform the best that they can, those talents will speak for themselves.
Louisville plays a tough schedule this year. They are likely to do so every year, with guaranteed games against Florida State and Clemson. They've become a team that can be considered a serious contender for a College Football Playoff spot if they handle their own business. That will be quite the challenge this season. Hosting Clemson will likely be the best chance Louisville has at getting their first win against the Tigers. However, road games against North Carolina, Florida State, North Carolina State, and Kentucky are not likely to be walks in the park. Louisville will need to come into every game more focused than ever. I foresee this Louisville team finishing the regular season with two losses, but at the moment, I'm not quite sure where they come from. That is the kind of season that likely ends in a New Year's Six Bowl, which would be nice to return to. That said, I think there is the potential for this team to be something extremely special. There is also the potential for them to fall on their face. Like I said, there are more questions than answers.
Sound off in the comments with how you think the Cards will do this year. What do you see being their strengths and weaknesses? Where do the wins and losses come from? Let me know what you think.
Until next time, Go Cards!