Louisville Cardinals Odds to win the College Football National Championship with Expert Betting Predictions
Replacing a Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback can be very tough when you aren't a blue-blood program with an embarrassment of depth. Ask Kevin Sumlin and Texas A&M. Or Baylor. Or Oregon. Louisville will hope to not be added to that list after Lamar Jackson has headed to the NFL and a new era dawns in Louisville. And on top of that, Bobby Petrino has another problem to deal with - his Cardinals weren't really that good the last couple of years even when they had Jackson. They've gone 17-9 the last two years and seem to be trending in the wrong direction. I'm of two minds here, I'll admit. On one hand, I think college football is better when Louisville is good, so I am pulling for them. But college football would definitely be better if Bobby Petrino weren't a part of it, so a rough season that led to his departure wouldn't break my heart.
2017 in a Nutshell
The team beat Purdue on a neutral field and won at North Carolina to start the season. Not a bad start in that they did what they had to do, but as soon as they faced a real challenge they were humiliated by Clemson. Then they proved nothing by beating two States - Kent and Murray. They were ranked 17th at the time, but it would their last appearance in the polls. They lost at NC State and then to Boston College. A win at Florida State was solid but not nearly as meaningful as it would have been in Jimbo Fisher wasn't setting a tire fire on his way out of town, and any positive vibes from the result were lost when the team went out and lost at Wake Forest in the next game. They finished up with wins against the dregs of the ACC - Virginia, Syracuse and Kentucky. A record of 8-4 sent them to the TaxSlayer Bowl, where they lost to a Mississippi State team playing for an interim coach. It wasn't a great year, though admittedly it could have been worse.
Key Additions and Departures
Jackson is gone, but that might not be quite as much of a problem as it might be. Jawon Pass, the best-named QB out there, is a redshirt sophomore who was a four-star recruit and who tasted a bit of game action last year. He's talented and could be ready to be functional. The team had better hope so, though, because behind him depth is an issue. The second- and third-leading running backs are gone, and Jackson's legs leave a big hole, too, but there is some depth to play with. The top three receivers return, and there is some upside behind them, so receiver should be a strength for Pass to work with. And though left tackle Geron Christian was drafted, the other four starters from a solid line are back, and they have a senior with plenty of experience waiting in the wings to replace Christian. They have some depth in the two deep, too.
The defensive line loses three starters, including Trevon Young in the draft. But they still have plenty of talent and some new guys - like early enrollee Jarrett Jackson, who people are really excited about - that will fill the gaps well enough. There are plenty of changes at linebacker, but Robert Hicks was their highest-rated recruit and he enrolled early, and there are other guys looking for a chance. It might be okay. The team is replacing their entire secondary, but they have a surprising amount to work with, including two newly-eligible transfers who could make some noise - P.J. Mbanasor from Oklahoma and Rodjay Burns from Ohio State.
There were a couple of eye-raising coaching moves. Cort Dennison, who primarily contributed as a top recruiter, moved to Oregon. Peter Sirmon essentially swapped places with Todd Grantham when the latter took over as DC at Mississippi State and Sirmon left there to take Grantham's job at Louisville. Sirmon reportedly resigned after one underwhelming defensive year, but since he left to coach inside linebackers at Cal you know there is more to that story. His replacement is Brian VanGorder, who has been DC for Auburn, Notre Dame and the Atlanta Falcons over the years. It's not the most inspiring, innovative choice, but anything should be better than the defense they played for large parts of last year.
Biggest Area of Concern
The obvious answer would be replacing Jackson, but I am actually more concerned about the defense. They are breaking in a whole lot of new faces and a new and complex defensive scheme that was very tough for players to learn at Notre Dame. Not to get too personal, but academically Louisville is not Notre Dame.
Louisville Cardinals Schedule Analysis
Might as well get the toughest game out of the way early, I guess. Louisville likely will be humiliated in their opener against Alabama in Orlando - a game that likely made more sense when it was scheduled than it does now. They get relief in the form of Indiana State, Western Kentucky, and then Virginia. Then it's Florida State, and it you are sure of what they will be this year then you are a smarter person than me. Georgia Tech, Boston College and Wake Forest is a manageable stretch. Then if you are going to play one of the two best teams in college football, you might as well play the other as well, so Louisville plays at Clemson. They finish with easier games against Syracuse and Kentucky sandwiched around an NC State team that isn't dissimilar with this one in a lot of ways. The lows are going to be really low, but there are some wins to be had as well.
2018-19 Louisville Cardinals Betting Odds and Trends
Louisville is tied with NC State as the fifth choice to win the ACC at +3300. Clemson is favored at -190, so victory celebrations don't need to be planned just yet. They are the fourth choice to win the ACC Atlantic behind Clemson, the prohibitive favorite at -375, Florida State and NC State. The season win total sits at 7, with the "under" favored.
2018-19 Louisville Cardinals Predictions and College Football Picks
I don't love the team, but I actually lean slightly to the "over" on the season win total. The two games are no-hopers, but eight are very winnable, and two are at worst coin tosses. If Pass can step up as the man, the defense can answer a few questions, and the team can bounce back from a couple of humiliating beatdowns without letting it get to them, they could win eight. I'm not betting heavily on it - or likely at all, to be honest - but it's interesting.
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