This post is sponsored by EA Sports NCAA Football 2011.
It's difficult to lay out expectations when heading into the first season of a head coach who is taking over a program that just suffered through one of the most disappointing stretches in its history.
Charlie Strong has done just about everything possible to rejuvenate the program and the fan base during the offseason, but those positive vibes make it easy to overlook the fact that - with the exception of Jordan Campbell - the players he's signed or brought in are all either freshmen or high school seniors-to-be. While the future appears promising, this is still going to be the most talent-depleted U of L football roster in recent memory.
That said, here are seven things I expect from the Louisville football team in 2010:
1. A drastic increase in effort/excitement
Even more so than ratio of wins-to-losses, the most disappointing aspect of the Steve Kragthorpe era, to me, was the fact that I always felt like I cared more than 75% of the players on the field and the coaches on the sidelines. Three years, three very difficult teams to support.
I'll be extremely disappointed if the product on the field in 2010 is anything less than something every supporter of U of L sports feels like they can be behind wholeheartedly.
2. A drastic increase in competency
No more 12 (or 13, or 6) men in the huddle penalties, no more using timeouts before extra points, no more blind stares and mass confusion on the sidelines, no more broken plays, no more completely unchecked receivers, no more wondering if the team isn't practicing between games.
3. Keeping the Kentucky game competitive
This might be the worst UK team since Petrino's second season at U of L, which makes the fact that we can't make winning the game an expectation (or guarantee) that much harder to swallow. But things are the way they are, and beating Kentucky for the first time in four years would, sadly, be a welcome surprise.
It's unfair for any of us to expect or demand victory on Sept. 4, but I don't think keeping the game interesting and competitive is too much to ask.
4. No more hollow cliches
I'd say "play our balls off" was a promising start.
5. Win the games you're favored to win
It probably won't happen often, but it'd be nice to meet the expectation when it does.
6. Put the best players on the field
No more ridiculous attempts to "make a statement" or prove your coaching "genius." It's not difficult to discern which guys are and aren't getting the job done on the field. Keep the guys who are out there.
7. Provide hope for the future
This goes hand-in-hand with the previous six, but it's the most obvious and important expectation of the season ahead. No one is hoping for double-digit wins, but they are looking for signs that those days can be reached again in the somewhat near future. We want to see a staff that has it together, players that care, offensive and defensive schemes that can have success and a program poised to re-attain its former status as one of the most exciting in the country.