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.
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.
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)
- 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 top–heavy 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
|Date||Opponent||Last yr's result (if played)|
|Sept. 9||at Syracuse*||W, 41-17|
|Sept. 17||Florida State*||L, 41-21|
|Sept. 24||at Marshall||L, 52-26|
|Oct. 1||at Clemson*||L, 20-17|
|Oct. 22||North Carolina St.*||W, 20-13|
|Oct. 29||at Virginia*||W, 38-31|
|Nov. 5||at Boston College*||W, 17-14|
|Nov. 12||Wake Forest*||W, 20-19|
|Nov. 17||at Houston*||L, 34-31|
|* ACC game|
Louisville: The last 5 years
|2015||8-5 / 5-3||— / —||Music City Bowl, W|
|2014||9-4 / 5-3||— / 21st||Belk Bowl, L|
|2013||12-1 / 7-1||9th / 15th||Russell Athletic Bowl, L|
|2012||11-2 / 5-2||25th / 13th||Sugar Bowl, W|
|2011||7-6 / 5-2||— / —||Belk Bowl, L|
|Total||47-18, 27-11||5 bowl games (2-3)|
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. 22: Coming Saturday. Want a hint? This will be the first Big 12 school to crack our Top 25.
1 school: ACC (23-Louisville); Pac-12 (25-Washington State); Mountain West (24-Boise State)