College Football News Preview 2021: Previewing, predicting, and looking ahead to the Louisville season with what you need to know.
– What You Need To Know: Offense | Defense
– Top Players | Keys To The Season
– What Will Happen, Win Total Prediction
– Louisville Schedule Analysis
– Louisville Cardinals Previews
2020 | 2019 | 2018 | 2017 | 2016 | 2015
Louisville Cardinals College Football Preview 2021: Offense
– The offense worked. It was fourth in the ACC averaging 444 yards and 30 points per game, the ground game was strong, thee passing attack was efficient, and ie was all undone time and again by a whole lot to turnovers – more on that in the Keys To The Season section.
Eight starters are expected to be back, there are a whole lot of good playmakers, and the explosion should be in place to do a whole lot more starting with …
– Malik Cunningham is the quarterback. It wasn’t a sure thing going into last year that there wouldn’t be a rotation, and then he threw for over 2,600 yards and 12 touchdowns and ran for seven scores. However, he had a MASSIVE turnover problem – he gave it away 15 times – to go along with all of his positives.
Jawon Pass left for Towson, but in comes Luke McCaffrey from Nebraska, but he’s likely going to battle with Evan Conley for the backup job and not be in the mix to knock out Cunningham.
Also potentially being used as a curveball is Georgia Southern option wizard quarterback Shai Werts, but he’s going to work at receiver. The Cardinals lost a killer 1-2 punch in Dez Fitzpatrick and Tutu Atwell, putting the pressure on Braden Smith to do more after finishing third on the team with 27 grabs and promising prospect Jordan Watkins.
There corps should be fine in time, and there’s a nice tight end in six-TD Marshon Ford to be used as a go-to-guy.
– The numbers for the ground game are there thanks to Cunningham, but leading rusher Javian Hawkins is now an Atlanta Falcon. That opens the door for Jalen Mitchell and Hassan Hall to do even more after they took over the rushing duties late last year.
The offensive line that’s been hit-or-miss over the last few years – and was awful at allowing tackles for loss and sacks – should be the strongest yet in the Scott Satterfield era. At least it’ll be the most experienced and deepest line yet with a little shuffling among the four returning starting parts to get the right fit.
NEXT: Louisville Cardinals College Football Preview 2021: Defense
Louisville Cardinals College Football Preview 2021: Defense
– The defense that rose up and finished third in the ACC allowing just 369 yards and 27 points per game loses way too many key parts. Six starters are gone with most of the losses coming in the back eight, and now the coaching staff has to put it all together while trying to get more out of the pass rush.
– The linebacking corps takes the hardest hit with Rodjay Burns and Dorian Etheridge two top tacklers who were also the biggest stars at getting into the backfield.
Leading tackler CJ Avery returns on the weakside after coming up with a team-high 79 tackles, and 225-pound Monty Montgomery should be terrific in place of Etheridge in the middle after finishing fourth on the team in tackles. Yasir Abdullah is a strong all-around playmaker at one outside spot.
– The defensive backs can tackle, but there’s plenty of work to do around star corner Kei’Trel Clark. He came up with 36 tackles and broke up ten passes, and Chandler Jones is a good enough veteran to hold his own on the other side.
It’s going to take some work to figure out the safeties – expect lots of playing around with the options in fall camp. Losing fifth-leading tackler Russ Yeast to Kansas State to Kansas State doesn’t help, but getting Kendrick Duncan from Georgia Southern is a big plus.
NEXT: Louisville Cardinals College Football Preview 2021: Top Players
Louisville Cardinals College Football Preview 2021: Top Players
Best Louisville Cardinals Offensive Player
QB Malik Cunningham, Jr.
Just cut down on the turnovers. A strong all-around veteran, he completed 63% of his passes for close to 5,200 yards and 43 touchdowns with 1,588 rushing yards and 18 scores.
However, he threw 18 picks in his three seasons with 12 last year. When he’s on, he can be as dangerous as any quarterback in the ACC … as long as he’s not giving the ball away.
2. RB Jalen Mitchell, RFr.
3. TE Marshon Ford, Soph.
4. C Cole Bentley, Sr.
5. WR/QB Shai Werts, Sr.
2021 Louisville Football Schedule: Analysis, Best and Worst Case Scenarios
Best Louisville Cardinals Defensive Player
CB Kei’Trel Clark, Soph.
A very quick, very active corner, he followed up a good freshman season with an all-star performance as a sophomore. The 5-10, 165-pounder made 36 tackles with a pick and ten broken up passes. No, he’s not going to get too physical on anyone, but be careful when throwing the ball anywhere near him.
2. LB CJ Avery, Sr.
3. LB Monty Montgomery, Jr.
4. LB Yasir Abdullah, Jr.
5. LB/S Jack Fagot, Sr.
Top Incoming Louisville Cardinals Transfer
WR/QB Shai Werts, Sr.
The possibilities are endless. The great option quarterback for Georgia Southern ran for close to 3,100 yards and 34 touchdowns, and he threw for almost 3,800 yards and 34 scores as an All-Sun Belt star.
He only caught one pass for the Eagles, but now he’ll be a wide receiver for the Cardinals. The coaching staff would be crazy, though, to not let him run a few times a game and design a few option packages for him.
NEXT: Louisville Cardinals College Football Preview 2021: Keys To The Season
Louisville Cardinals College Football Preview 2021: Keys To The Season
Louisville Cardinals Biggest Key: Offense
STOP TURNING THE BALL OVER. The offense was solid last year and should be even stronger this season, but turnovers were a killer seemingly every time out.
The 2019 Cardinals turned it over 19 times on the season with two or more in five games going 1-4. Last year UofL gave it up 24 times with two or more turnovers in eight of the 11 games. Worse yet, there were three turnovers in seven of those games.
They went 1-6 when giving it away three times.
QB Malik Cunningham was the biggest offender with 12 interceptions to go along with three fumbles, but he wasn’t alone. Be just a wee bit better than -12 in turnover margin and the season should be far better.
Louisville Cardinals Biggest Key: Defense
More of a pass rusher has to come from the line. The linebackers did almost all of the sack work last season, and that wasn’t enough with just 21 total for the D averaging a pedestrian two per game.
It was a problem in 2019, too, but give the coaching staff credit for improving a horrible situation – the Cardinals generated just 11 sacks in 2018.
Even with the lack of big pressure, the secondary was able to hold up well – it was the best in the ACC in passing yards allowed – but the defense could use more third down stops and it would be nice to make quarterbacks uncomfortable.
Louisville Cardinals Key Player To A Successful Season
WR Jordan Watkins, RFr.
The Cardinals have good wide receiver options in Braden Smith and Justin Marshall who’ll get bigger roles, and bringing in a few new players from the transfer portal and recruiting class should help, but you don’t get better by losing Dez Fitzpatrick and Tutu Atwell to the NFL.
The Cardinal wide receivers caught ten touchdown passes, and Fitzpatrick and Atwell had all of them.
Watkins got in a little work in his first year, catching eight passes for 57 yards, but he’s a speedster who needs to become the new star of the show.
Louisville Cardinals Key Game To The 2021 Season
at Florida State, Sept. 25
The Cardinals haven’t been all that bad against Florida State lately wining three of the last five. They lost 11 of 12 before that going back to 1970, but all that matters is pulling off the ACC opener on the road to take the pressure off early on.
It was a 48-16 win last year in what might have been Louisville’s strongest performance of the season. This time around it’ll be a big moment for the Seminoles as they try turning the program around. For the Cardinals, though, it might be a must-win moment after getting Ole Miss and UCF in the first three games.
2020 Louisville Cardinals Fun Stats
– Fumbles: Louisville 18 (lost 12) – Opponents 13 (lost 7)
– Time of Possession: Louisville 31:30 – Opponents 28:30
– Punt Return Average: Opponents 11.2 – Louisville 3.1
NEXT: Louisville Cardinals College Football Preview 2021: What Will Happen, Season Prediction
Louisville Cardinals College Football Preview 2021: What Will Happen, Season Prediction
To continue with a theme running through the Louisville 2020 season that’s going to be everything to the 2021 campaign …
Really – beating this into the ground – if the turnovers slow down, it’s a whole different team.
The Cardinals were better than Georgia Tech last year, but three turnovers screwed it all up in a loss. They weren’t better than Notre Dame, but they didn’t give the ball away and almost pulled off the upset.
They had close losses to Boston College, Virginia Tech, and Pitt. Take a wild guess what the main problem was. Throw in the losses to Miami and Virginia, and in those five games they gave it up 15 times.
That’s it. That’s Louisville last year, and that’s Louisville this year.
The talent is there to get to a bowl game and at least provide a push to finish second in the ACC Atlantic behind Clemson – and the Cardinals get the Tigers at home.
Set The Louisville Cardinals Regular Season Win Total At … 6.5
It’s going to be about doing all of the little things right.
They’re going to have one of the best offenses in the ACC, and the defense – while missing some major parts from last year – will be good enough to hold serve against the teams at their level.
Clemson is the one forget-about-it game, and getting Virginia and Duke from the Coastal is a massive break – they miss Miami and North Carolina.
Expect this to look and feel more like the 2019 version and less like last year. Expect the coaching staff to fix the glitch and tighten up those turnovers.
Expect Louisville to be far more fun than frustrating.