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Cardinal Authority ranks the opponents the Louisville football team will play this season; the opener is Thursday night against Charlotte

Cardinal Authority ranks the opponents the University of Louisville football team will play this season. The Cardinals opener is Thursday night against Charlotte in Papa John's Cardinal Stadium at 7 o'clock.

Cardinal Authority ranks the opponents the University of Louisville football team will play this season. The Cardinals opener is Thursday night against Charlotte in Papa John's Cardinal Stadium at 7 o'clock.

1. at Clemson (Oct. 1)

Louisville's first trip to Death Valley was a close-call that could have easily gone the Cardinals way. The Cardinals lost 20-13 last season at home and Clemson went on to the national title game. It will be a huge game for Louisville to try and take down the preseason No. 3 team in the country. DeShaun Watson is the Heisman frontrunner and the Tigers are loaded with NFL-caliber talent.

2. Florida State (Sept. 17)

It's not a must-win situation but it will be the first Saturday game at home and Papa John's Cardinal Stadium and should be a good opportunity for the Cardinals to score a huge victory. Louisville could have won two years ago against the Seminoles at home and lost 41-21 last season. Dalvin Cook and the Seminoles won't make it easy, but the Cardinals could get this one.

3. at Houston (Nov. 17)

If the Cardinals do win one of the two 'big' games the Thursday night game at Houston will be a monster. After a disappointing 34-31 loss in the second game of the season last year, there will be a revenge factor for the Cardinals. How healthy will both teams be? Could be a game that has a lot of postseason implications for both teams.

4. at Syracuse (Sept. 9)

It is the first game on the road for the Cardinals, but there shouldn't be a lot of drama for Lamar Jackson and the offense on a Friday night in the Carrier Dome. The Dino Babers fast-paced offense is going to give the U of L offense plenty of opportunities.

5. N.C. State (Oct. 22)

Most have the Wolfpack fifth in the Atlantic Division but we think they will be a better team; Cards beat the 7-6 Wolfpack 20-13 last season on the road but they have a good group of returning players.

6. Duke (Oct. 14)

The two schools have played some big games on the hardwood, but it's just the second meeting between the two schools in football. The Blue Devils would have been higher but QB Thomas Sirk will miss the season because of an Achilles injury.

7. at Marshall (Sept. 24)

Could be a trap game? It's a Friday night after Florida State and before Clemson - the two biggest games on the schedule. The Thundering Herd will be one of the top teams in Conference-USA and only four teams in the country (Alabama, Clemson, Ohio State and Florida State) have more than the three straight seasons with 10 wins that Marshall does. QB Chase Litton has a lot of weapons around him on offense.

8. Kentucky (Nov. 26)

The Battle of the Bluegrass is in Louisville and the Cards have won five in a row against the Wildcats. The folks in Lexington say Kentucky will be better, but it's the final game of the season and depth will be a major issue. Plus, the flap between Bobby Petrino and Lamar Thomas isn't going away. Cards will be on their toes for this one even more than normal.

9. at Boston College (Nov. 5)

The Eagles have had trouble scoring in recent years and the defense isn't expected to be as talented this time around. Louisville didn't play well last season and still won 17-14 against Boston College. It might be cold in Chestnut Hill, Mass., but U of L should win.

10. at Virginia (Oct. 29)

All four career meetings between the two schools have come down to the last possession, including last season when Louisville outlasted the Cavaliers 38-31. The Cavaliers won't be great in the first season under Bronco Mendenhall and it's not a tough road environment.

11. Wake Forest (Nov. 12)

The previous two meetings have been a lot closer than expected for Louisville fans, but this one shouldn't be close. It's later in the season and the Cardinals should be rolling.

12. Charlotte (Sept. 1)

The Cardinals should make quick work of the 49ers in the opener. It's the second year in FBS for Charlotte and just the fourth season of football. Charlotte went 2-10 last season and it won't get easier in the opener.

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