Can Louisville go 12-0?

With the first kickoff of the season less than 24 hours away, the Cardinal Authority staff takes a crack at making predictions on the new season. Will we see 12-0 anybody?

Well, it's time for a game.

The Cardinal Authority staff hopes you have enjoyed all of the preseason coverage of the University of Louisville football team. Now, it's time for some real games.

We look forward to bringing you top-notch coverage each week. But before the Cardinals kickoff on Sunday at 3 p.m., here are some staff predictions.

JODY DEMLING, PUBLISHER

As we embark on the new season, I glance back in the rear view mirror at last year's Sugar Bowl and am reminded the Cardinals arrived a year early.

This was the season the staff was pointing towards.

The 2013 campaign was supposed to be the year the Cardinals made a run at a BCS bowl game. But it came a bit early, meaning it came with a bunch of sophomores and juniors leading the charge last season.

Now, that bodes well for the new season.

The Cardinals not only have lofty expectations and I know folks are saying – ‘but some games were close last year' – but they did it with younger guys last season and now go to battle with a bunch of veterans. It makes a difference.

After starting 8-0 last season, I can see the same kind of start this season. I figured Rutgers would be a tough game but they gave up 52 in the first game.

I expected a game at South Florida would be tough and then they went on the field Saturday against McNeese State.

It appears to me that Cincinnati and Louisville are the two best teams in the AAC - at least right now – with Central Florida the next best. The Cards get an 8-day break before Central Florida and Cincinnati isn't until the final game.

I don't want to jinx it and say 12-0 but the more I think about it, the more I believe they might finish the season undefeated. And then again, going undefeated at any level in football takes a lot of solid play and a lot of luck.

Oh, what the heck. I've seen the talent and I know the weapons they have and as long as No. 5 is on the field the Cards are not going to lose.

Enjoy the season!

MICHAEL MCCAMMON, SENIOR STAFF WRITER

There are three factors that will play a role in just how the University of Louisville manages and finishes the regular season. The first two, the Cardinals stockpile of talent and the teams relatively soft schedule, have been discussed in length. The third factor, the X-factor, is not as simple to judge or predict.

With a Heisman Trophy candidate behind center, a collection of receivers that would rival any in the nation and a talented collection of running backs, the Cardinals have an offense that should be among the best in the country. With 12 players with starting experience returning on defense, including three players that have been named to preseason award watch lists, U of L is expected to improve on it's top 25 finish of a year ago.

Scanning through the ninth-ranked Cardinals 2013 slate reveals 12 games that should find U of L as the favorite each time out. Louisville opens as a three touchdown favorite against Ohio, a team that many believe will be one of the more difficult games of the year. A similar or larger point spread can be expected for the majority of the team's outings, with UCF, USF and the regular season finale likely providing the stiffest challenge this fall.

If one could control the unknown, the Cardinals would march through the schedule unscathed, but outside factors such as weather, possible injuries and team focus will make the trek challenging. Road games at South Florida, a place where U of L has won just once in five tries, and the season ending matchup against rival Cincinnati will be difficult. Home contests versus Ohio, Rutgers and UCF could also pose a challenge.

Despite the strength of schedule, finishing the regular season undefeated is difficult for any team. It takes the right calls and some lucky bounces. With the right twist of fate, the Cardinals could very well end 2013 without a blemish.

I anticipate a single loss for Louisville this season, with the trip to Tampa to face the Bulls the most likely loss. USF has always had its share of quality talent, but has often lacked the proper coaching to sustain it throughout an entire season. New Bulls head coach Willie Taggert has the fan base excited and he may be the guy to finally get the program on track. The Cardinals have always struggled with focus when visiting Tampa, but if they are able to maintain, it could mean an undefeated season.


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