Louisville Cardinals Football: 2015 Season Preview and Prediction


The Louisville Cardinals are looking to shake things up in the ACC, with head coach Bobby Petrino entering the second year of his second go-round with the Cards.

Petrino’s typically high-powered offense sputtered in 2014, but it was Louisville’s defense under Todd Grantham that carried the team to a 9-4 overall record, going 5-3 in conference play. This season, Petrino will have more than a handful of his own recruits on the squad.

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Playing in the ACC Atlantic Division doesn’t make things any easier on Louisville. Even without Jameis Winston, the Florida State Seminoles are still one of the teams to beat, and the Clemson Tigers will also have a say in who wins that division.

Offensive Outlook

The Cardinals will need to find some offense, finishing 47th in the nation in pass offense at only 252 yards per game in 2014, and 95th in the nation in rushing offense at only 142.69 yards per game.

The quarterback position is where it all begins for a Petrino offense, and right now it’s looking like Louisville will have someone very green under center. Sophomore Reggie Bonnafon would seem to have the edge on the starter’s job coming out of spring drills, followed by redshirt sophomore Kyle Bolin. Both players saw some game action last season, with Bonnafon playing in 10 games and Bolin getting into four.

Oct 3, 2014; Syracuse, NY, USA; Louisville Cardinals wide receiver James Quick (17) returns a punt during the third quarter of a game against the Syracuse Orange at the Carrier Dome. Louisville won the game 28-6. Mandatory Credit: Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

The wild card in the mix at QB is last year’s starter Will Gardner, a redshirt junior who had surgery following a left knee injury suffered last November against Boston College. Gardner, who had torn the ACL on his right knee twice before, is reportedly ahead of schedule and could be ready to take reps in fall camp.

Last year’s leading receiver, DeVante Parker, is gone, and his 855 yards and five touchdowns accounted for nearly a third of Louisville’s receiving yards. The Cards do have a lot of depth at the receiver position, and junior James Quick will probably be the top target.

Running the ball may continue to be a struggle for Louisville, who will still some issues on the offensive line. Redshirt Junior Brandon Radcliff, who led the Cardinals with 737 yards and 12 touchdowns last season, will be the primary back and will have a number of freshman in the backfield with him.

Defensive Outlook

Todd Grantham’s defense took a big step up last season, but looked to have been exposed against Georgia in the Belk Bowl. Their high defensive rankings may have been more a product of scheduling rather than ability.

Josh Harvey-Clemons and Shaq Wiggins, two Georgia transfers who had to sit out last season, will give this defense a boost in the secondary, a place where the Cardinals were weaker last season, giving up 199 yards per game in the air. The Cardinal linebackers were solid, though unspectacular, and junior Keith Kelsey will need to continue his fine play.

Rushing defense is where Lousiville held their strength last season, that is until they were Gashed by UGA’s deep backfield. Even still, they finished 10th in the nation, only giving up 109 yards per game on the ground. Their defensive line is returning intact, so there may not be much drop off.

The second year under Grantham will tell a better story than year one. He was able to come in an provide some quick fixes to major problems on defense, but history shows that (especially in the secondary) Grantham’s defenses don’t improve with age.


Playing in a tough conference and division, and still having questions at the crucial position of quarterback don’t bode well for Louisville this season. They’ll be tested right out of the gate, opening the season against the Auburn Tigers, who are one of the favorites in the SEC West.

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  • The early part of Louisville’s schedule is much more difficult than the last half, with Auburn, Clemson, and Florida State (in Tallahassee) all coming up by mid-October. If the Cardinals can get through the first half of the season with only one or two losses, they’ll still have a shot at an ACC Championship game appearance. Three losses would be almost impossible to overcome.

    The defense may have to carry this team again, and those three big early games all feature very potent offenses. With so many young players and unknowns on offense, the Cardinals may have a difficult job winning any shootouts.

    Prediction is a 9-3 regular season for the Cardinals, with losses against Auburn, Clemson and rival Kentucky to close out the season. Big upset for the season will be a win at Florida State.

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