Louisville's Micky Crum (bottom) gets a hug from Lamar Jackson after a 2-yard touchdown reception against Texas A&M in last year's Music City Bowl. (Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

Football

The American-Statesman’s Top 25: No. 23 Louisville

Posted July 8th, 2016

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Sure, it’s just July. But it’s never too early to talk college football. Here’s your daily fix — our eighth annual countdown of the preseason Top 25, as selected by the American-Statesman sports staff. Last season’s four College Football Playoff semifinalists were rated Nos. 3, 6, 13 and 24 on our 2015 list.

Today’s team: No. 23 Louisville (Related coverage: Q&A with Louisville’s Bobby Petrino — On experience, depth, expectations)

The Cardinals will contend if … their offensive line can protect explosive sophomore quarterback Lamar Jackson. Louisville’s line was painfully young last season, but there’s a lot of optimism. Tackles Geron Christian and Lukayus McNeil, along with guard Kenny Thomas, all are sophomores who started as true freshmen. The Cardinals had 10 offensive lineman who started at least one game in 2015.

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INSIDE THE CARDINALS

Coach: Bobby Petrino (3rd year, 58-18; 100-39 overall at Louisville and Arkansas. Petrino is in his second stint at Louisville.)

2015: 8-5, 5-3 in the ACC; beat Texas A&M in the Music City Bowl 27-21

Returning starters: 9 offense, 8 defense

The key game: Sept. 17 vs. Florida State

Hello: ATH Jawon Pass, WR Desmond Fitzpatrick, S London Iakopo, WR Keion Wakefield

Goodbye: OT Jamon Brown (New Orleans Saints)

Spring cleaning: New co-offensive coordinator Lonnie Galloway replaces Garrick McGee, who left to join Lovie Smith at Illinois. Galloway may not be as well known to Longhorns fans as his star pupil — former West Virginia and current Chicago Bears wide receiver Kevin White. In 2014, White had 132 yards on 16 receptions in a 33-16 loss to Texas. … Louisville hired three new coaches this offseason, including former USC secondary coach Keith Heyward and Petrino’s son Nick, who will coach quarterbacks after two years as a Cardinals graduate assistant. … The Cardinals’ 2016 recruiting class was rated 39th nationally by 247Sports’ composite rankings.

Remember TCU's Devonte Fields (95), who used to terrorize Big 12 quarterbacks like Texas Tech's Seth Doege? Fields is now at Louisville, and had 10.5 sacks last year. (Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
Remember TCU’s Devonte Fields (95), who used to terrorize Big 12 quarterbacks like Texas Tech’s Seth Doege? Fields is now at Louisville, and had 10.5 sacks last year. (Tom Pennington/Getty Images)

RETURNING LEADERS

Passing: Lamar Jackson, 135-247-1,840 yards, 12/8 (1st)

Rushing: Lamar Jackson (QB), 163-960-11; Brandon Radcliff (RB), 139-634-7 (2nd)

Receiving: Jamari Staples, 37-638-3 (1st)

Tackles: LB Keith Kelsey, 107 (1st)

Sacks: LB Devonte Fields, 10.5 (1st)

RETURNING ALL CONFERENCE (8)

Offense: WR James Quick (honorable mention)

Defense: LB Keith Kelsey (2nd team), CB Trumaine Washington (3rd team), S Josh Harvey-Clemons (3rd team), DT DeAngelo Brown (honorable mention), LB Trevon Young (honorable mention), LB Devonte Fields (honorable mention), CB Shaq Wiggins (honorable mention)

FYI …

  • Jackson has a lot of playmakers at skill positions. If his line protects him enough to allow him to get the ball into the hands of wide receivers James Quick and Jamari Staples, the Cardinals could give a lot of defenses in the ACC headaches.
  • The ACC Atlantic Division is already topheavy with Clemson and Florida State looking like strong contenders once again in 2016. The young Cardinals are a legitimate threat to the Tigers and Seminoles, but likely will have to settle for being the third best team in the 14-team ACC.
  • The Cardinals are going to have to control turnovers to be successful. Louisville had 27 total (15 interceptions, 12 fumbles lost) in 2015. That was to be expected with as young as the Cardinals were last year.

Louisville's 2016 schedule

DateOpponentLast yr's result (if played)
Sept. 1Charlotte
Sept. 9at Syracuse*W, 41-17
Sept. 17Florida State*L, 41-21
Sept. 24at MarshallL, 52-26
Oct. 1at Clemson*L, 20-17
Oct. 14Duke
Oct. 22North Carolina St.*W, 20-13
Oct. 29at Virginia*W, 38-31
Nov. 5at Boston College*W, 17-14
Nov. 12Wake Forest*W, 20-19
Nov. 17at Houston*L, 34-31
Nov. 26Kentucky
* ACC game

Louisville: The last 5 years

YearW-L/Conf.RankBowl
20158-5 / 5-3— / —Music City Bowl, W
20149-4 / 5-3— / 21stBelk Bowl, L
201312-1 / 7-19th / 15thRussell Athletic Bowl, L
201211-2 / 5-225th / 13thSugar Bowl, W
20117-6 / 5-2— / —Belk Bowl, L
Total47-18, 27-115 bowl games (2-3)
Note: Ranks are that year’s preseason/final ranking.

 

2015 NATIONAL RANKS

Scoring: 65th (28.7 ppg)

Scoring defense: 39th (24.1 ppg)

Passing yards: 44th (245.1 ypg)

Rushing yards: 59th (171.0 ypg)

TOP 25 SO FAR …

No. 25: Washington State

No. 24: Boise State

No. 22: Coming Saturday. Want a hint? This will be the first Big 12 school to crack our Top 25.

BY CONFERENCE

1 school: ACC (23-Louisville); Pac-12 (25-Washington State); Mountain West (24-Boise State)

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