Louisville Cardinals Odds to Win the 2015 College Football National Championship
by Alan Matthews - 8/15/2014
Louisville has long had a tremendous basketball program, but even 15 years ago the team was still a football afterthought. That changed when Bobby Petrino took over the program in 2003 when it was still in Conference USA. He turned U of L into a force almost immediately, highlighted by a 12-1 record and Big East title in 2006 when Louisville played in its first BCS bowl, an Orange Bowl victory against Wake Forest. However, then Petrino left for the NFL (briefly), and the program fell back into irrelevance under Steve Kragthorpe. AD Tom Jurich, perhaps the best at his job in the nation, made the bold move to hire Florida defensive coordinator Charlie Strong to replace a fired Kragthorpe before the 2010 season. That move brought the program to where it is now: a member of the ACC, something that couldn't have been imagined five years ago.
So a new era begins at Louisville as it will play with the big boys for the first time (not to mention helping create the most ridiculously good basketball league in history). Alas, Strong won't be around to lead the program as he took $5 million a year to coach at Texas -- really you can't blame him because UT might be the best job in the country. Strong had the Cardinals perhaps one win from playing in last season's national title game. They were unbeaten and ranked No. 8 when they hosted Central Florida on Oct. 18, 2013. Louisville was up 28-7 in the third quarter, but a guy named Blake Bortles helped lead the Knights back to a shocking 38-35 last-second victory. Louisville wouldn't lose again, so one could assume it would have played opposite Florida State in the BCS title game ahead of one-loss Auburn. It might be the closest U of L gets for a while with the step up in competition.
Louisville Cardinals Odds to Win the 2015 National Championship Story Lines
Jurich surprised many by bringing Petrino back to replace Strong. There's obviously no question that Petrino can coach and that he's an offensive genius, it's just his off-field decisions leave a lot to be desired. Petrino is 83-30 as a college coach and was 41-9 in his first stint at the school. Assuming Petrino is a changed man, it's a great hire, and Louisville will be fun to watch.
The coach has to replace some major talent, No. 1 being Teddy Bridgewater, perhaps the best quarterback in school history. Taking his spot will be sophomore Will Gardner. He appeared in six games of mop-up duty a year ago but was stellar in the team's spring game, going 32-for-37 for 542 yards and four touchdowns. He's big dude at 6-foot-5, 220, but he ran a 4.55-yard 40 dash. The offense should be just fine with leading rusher Dominique Brown (825 yards, 8 TDs) and two of the top receivers, DaVante Parker (885 yards, 12 TDs) and Eli Rogers (536 yards, 4 TDs), returning.
The defense could be a concern with only four starters back. Perhaps the four best guys from that side of the ball; defensive end Marcus Smith, linebacker Preston Brown, and safeties Calvin Pryor and Hakeem Smith; have moved on. The linebacking group will still be excellent with Lorenzo Mauldin (40 tackles, 9.5 sacks) and James Burgess (75 tackles, 9.0 for loss) back. Both cornerbacks return, led by Charles Gaines (5 interceptions). The Cards will shift into a 3-4 under new coordinator Todd Grantham.
The schedule is harder than the Cards will be used to simply because of the step up from the Big East/American Athletic Conference to the ACC. U of L opens at home against Miami (Fla.), the only game on Labor Day Night. For what it's worth, the Cards blew out Miami in last season's Russell Athletic Bowl, but I take nothing from that. Louisville opened as a 3.5-point favorite for this one and -165 on the moneyline.
The Cardinals then will blast Murray State out of conference before their first ACC road game, at Virginia, one of the worst teams in the ACC last year. Louisville is -8.5 for that. Then it's another cupcake for Louisville at Florida International before hosting Wake Forest and visiting old friend Syracuse. The Cards are -4.5 for that and could be 6-0 and ranked in the Top 15 or so when they visit Clemson in their first major test. The Tigers are -9.5. NC State visits Louisville the following week before a major test arrives in what could be the biggest home game in school history: Florida State on a Thursday night, Oct. 30. The Seminoles are currently -16.5. The regular season concludes at Boston College (Eagles +14) and then with two more nonconference games: at Notre Dame (-8) and vs. Kentucky (+15). The Cards won 27-13 last year in Lexington to claim the Governor's Cup for the third straight year.
Louisville Cardinals 2015 National Championship Odds and Trends
Odds courtesy of 5Dimes . Louisville is +22500 to win the National Championship, +1350 to win the ACC Championship Game and +725 to take the ACC Atlantic (latter two both second behind Florida State). The Cardinals currently don't have odds to make the College Football Playoff. Louisville's "over/under" wins totals are 8.5 (under -170 favorite), 8 (over -135 favorite), 7.5 (over -225 favorite), 7 (over -555 favorite) and 6.5 (over -735 favorite). Gardner is +15000 to win the Heisman Trophy. Louisville was 6-7 against the spread last season (3-5 at home) and 3-10 O/U (2-6 at home).
Louisville Cardinals Odds to Win the 2015 National Championship Predictions
Not having seen much of Gardner, with total offensive and defensive makeovers and with the conference change, Louisville is one of the toughest teams to project in the nation. I thought they were overrated last season, and really nothing changed that opinion against a terribly weak schedule that didn't include a ranked team at the time. The Cards will face at least three Top-25 teams in 2014. I say this is an 8-4 team, losing to Miami, Clemson, Florida State and Notre Dame. It will finish third in the Atlantic behind the Noles and Tigers, a spot Louisville may want to get used to.
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