Preview 2016

Louisville Football Outlook: The Cardinal Curveball

The Louisville football outlook for 2016 season could be terrific, even if Florida State and Clemson are the ACC’s stars.

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With a break here and a key development there, Louisville could be ready to become the ACC’s fly in the ointment in 2016.

Each year, the ACC is home to at least one upstart program, North Carolina filling the role in 2015. The Cards, for a number of reasons, are one of the preseason favorites to surpass last season’s results.

Bobby Petrino is beginning Year 3 of his Louisville return with a talent-laden squad that won eight of the final 10 games last fall, and welcomes back a strong contingency of starters on both sides of the ball.

The coach has done a very nice job so far of repairing his image, winning 17 games in two years as he’s helped pilot the program into a much tougher league. Recruiting has been solid, and the school is investing in the program, including signing Petrino to a seven-year contract extension in April.

Now, the Cards are looking to swing for the fences, transforming their recent momentum into an improbable run to conference contention.

Louisville isn’t Clemson or Florida State, but it’ll have both programs on high alert in 2016. After struggling with youth and consistency on offense last season, the Cards should be ready to take flight around dynamic second-year QB Lamar Jackson.

The multidimensional sophomore is about to become the face of the attack, and he’ll be supported by a quality collection of backs, receivers and tight ends. But for Louisville to fully transcend the mediocrity of 2015, it must improve at the point of attack.

Defense will continue to be the calling card of this program, a staple going back to the time when Charlie Strong was in charge. Coordinator Todd Grantham has pushed all the right buttons, aided by the incoming additions of transfers Devonte Fields, Josh Harvey-Clemons and Shaq Wiggins in 2015.

And while there are a couple of unfilled holes in the front seven and a need to fine-tune the pass defense, history and a scout’s eye suggest that the Cardinals will be ornery once again from this side of the ball.

There’s an opening in the ACC pecking order behind Clemson and Florida State. Louisville is eager to be this year’s No. 3, even putting a scare into the Tigers and the Noles if Jackson truly raises the bar as the offensive sparkplug.

After somewhat of a pause and a rough start in 2015, the Cardinals are well-positioned to make a run this fall at 10 wins and increased national attention.