BOZICH | Louisville football season predictions by WDRB Sports staff
Will the Louisville football team finish the regular season at 10-2 or 9-3? The WDRB Sports staff is split evenly in its analysis of Bobby Petrino's third U of L team.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- The e-mails, blogs and tweets are all the same about the University of Louisville football team.
The Cardinals will be good. Very good. Better than the last two seasons good. Best team in the area good.
Just not good enough to overtake either Florida State or Clemson in the Atlantic Division of the Atlantic Coast Conference.
Example 71 arrived in my e-mail box Wednesday from the website TeamRankings.com. The site's analytics put the chances that Bobby Petrino's team will make a bowl game at nearly 84 percent (seems low) but the likelihood that Louisville will win the ACC at 7.9 percent (behind Clemson 29.2, FSU 25.8 and North Carolina 10.5).
That translates into a 9-3 or 10-2 season for the Cardinals, which is precisely how the WDRB Sports staff is split. Three predictions that Louisville will win 10, balanced by three the Cardinals will win nine.
What will make the difference? Try these Five Factors:
1. Quarterback Lamar Jackson improving his touchdown/interception ratio from 12-to-8 to something closer to the 35-to-13 Deshaun Watson gave Clemson last season, or at least the 21-to-8 Jake Coker provided at Alabama.
2. Cutting sacks allowed from 44 (worst in the nation) to 26 or fewer. Three of the 2015 playoff teams (Alabama 26; Clemson 18 and Michigan State 21) limited sacks to 26 or less. Oklahoma somehow survived with 41.
3. Keeping Jackson healthy. The quarterback showed his immense gifts during the rally against Kentucky and the rousing first half against Texas A&M. Jackson's ability to break long plays remains an tantalizing gift as well as an injury risk.
4. Stuffing the run. Running the football has been a chore for U of L opponents. Louisville ranked 14th nationally against the run last season, 10th in 2014 and first in 2013. If there is one tradition the Cardinals need to maintain, it's that one.
5. The kick is good. Some U of L fans enjoyed hassling kicker John Wallace on social media after he missed a pair of field goals last season, but Evan O'Hara and Blanton Creque are unproven, especially at crunch time.
On to the predictions from the WDRB Sports staff.
JOHN LEWIS: 10-2. U of L has so many players returning on both sides of the ball plus the maturation of QB Lamar Jackson is convincing me that the Cardinals have a chance to soar to new heights.
KATIE GEORGE: 10-2. Louisville: Louisville's three toughest match-ups: FSU, Clemson and Houston. Of the three, they'll win one game. Their best chance is against FSU at home (Sept. 17). Clemson and Houston will be tough road games.
ERIC CRAWFORD: 9-3. Ten wins are possible, but this is the more likely scenario this season.
RICK BOZICH: 10-2. Talent. Check. Speed. Check. Coaching. Check. Experience. Check. Depth. Check. Playmakers. Check. What could go wrong? Only injuries, the kicking game or the schedule, mainly sneaky tough road games at Marshall, Boston College and Virginia.
TOM LANE -- 9-3. Cards can’t quite get over the hump with the ACC big boys, but handle their business elsewhere.
MIKE LACETT: 9-3. Last year I had doubts. This year I'm all in. Cards are talking like winners and I believe they have what it takes on offense and defense to back it up.
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