So I'm posting this to tackle the question we're all wondering going into this football season: can the Cards really go 12-0 this year in football? First of all, just being able to legitimately ask that question feels great, considering where were 4 years ago with our 4-8 record (major kudos, Charlie and crew). There are those who look at our schedule,including Cards fans, and say "O they have a cupcake schedule, they should just roll through everybody this year." However, going 12-0 is no small task, for any team. Even when a team does go undefeated in the regular season, it often ends in a loss in the championship (see 2012 LSU, 2013 Notre Dame, 2003 OU, etc...).
An undefeated season is definitely in the mix for the Cards, but we are naive if we think it's going to be a cakewalk. We lost 2 games last year, would have blown a 30+ point lead against UNC if not for Andrew Johnson, had to come back in the 4th quarter to win against Southern Miss, USF, and Cincinnati, and needed a spectacular GUMP performance by Teddy on the road to rally to beat a Rutgers team that came out of the gate firing on all cylinders. Needless to say, last year's success did not come easily, and our opponents really aren't going to be any easier this year.
So accomplishing this dream of an undefeated regular season is going to be in the hands of our team. On paper, yes, we should put a beat down on most of our opponents, especially if we play anything like we did against Florida. But college football has proven to us year after year that things don't usually work out like that. So let's evaluate what the changes, both positive and negative, that the team has gone through since last season.
Mario Benavides, Nate Nord, Nick Hueser, Adrian Bushell, Will Stein, Alex Kupper. Of all these losses, I think losing Mario and Kup on the offensive line hurts the most. There is tremendous value in having 4 year players like that, but keep in mind that Louisville did not have a single player drafted in this years NFL draft. It won't be quite the drop off when we lost Eric Wood, who has been starting in the NFL for a few years. I have total faith in the guys coming in. With 350 lb Nacho Garcia at left tackle and 270 lb BJ Butler at fullback, Teddy will be well protected and the running lanes will be wide open.
Notable Additions to last years team:
Dominique Brown: People really don't realize how much this guy is going to bring to the team this year. We really missed the presence of a big back last season, and Dominique is a feature guy. Our boy Teddy called him a "quarterback’s dream" because of his strength, size, and speed. With Bridgewater's uncanny proficiency at running the play action, these two will be a dangerous combo. Also look for freshman Brandon Radcliff to fill the same type of roll. Both he and Dominique are over 10 lbs bigger than any running back we had last year and yes, size does matter.
BJ Butler: I know he technically was on the team last year, but this gem was not really discovered until the bowl game. At 6-2 274 lbs, Butler is going to be an absolute monster at fullback. His first time ever touching the ball on offense was in the Sugar Bowl on a play that was about 6 inches away from a touchdown. Look for him to be a BIG part of the offense, whether it be carrying the ball in short yard situations, blocking assignments, or rolling out and catching a quick pass. I can see him doing it all this year.
Nachoooooooooooooooooooo Garcia: This guy was a highly touted freshman OL coming in, but did not see a whole lot of time during close game situations because of senior Alex Kupper. Nacho came in at 355 lbs as an 18 year old freshman, but from what I hear he was just kinda fat and not that strong. That has since changed due to 16 months of Pat Moorer's strength training program, and he is a beast now. Look for him to be a big part of the O-Line this year at left tackle. Yea losing a 5th year senior in Kupper sucks, but Nacho is about 50 lbs bigger, so I don't anticipate losing any ground at this position.
Gerald Christian: Nate Nord and Ryan Hubble made some valuable contributions at tight end last year, but this guy is supposedly an absolute stud at the position. I expect that with this addition it will somewhat change how we use tight ends, putting more emphasis on blocking patterns rather than using it as more of a receiver.
James Quick: Just fits in so perfectly. We need a speedster guy like him to put in the slot. Really excited to see what this guy can do. With him in the mix it's going to be even more difficult for teams to double team Devante, and if you don't double team Devante, he's getting into the end zone.
Nick Dawson and Gerod Holliman: Gerod came in as a very highly touted safety, but the decision was made to redshirt him. I wouldn't be surprised to see big things from him. Watch out for Nick Dawson this year too. I've seen him around campus and the guy is huge. Word is that he could have definitely gotten valuable playing time last year, but his dad passed away in the middle of preseason practice. He missed a couple weeks because of this so the staff decided to redshirt him. Not 100% sure on this, just what I heard, but I fully expect big things from him at the OLB position.
Charles Gains: This is a guy with enormous upside who dominated every game he played in. Unfortunately, he only played a few games because of suspensions and off the field issues. He is making the switch from receiver to corner this year. With his receiver hands and the fact that he is possibly the fastest guy on the team, he could be very strong player at this position. He is one of the most explosive players we've seen in a while, and it'll be nice to see some of that explosiveness on the defensive side.
As you can see, the list of additions is a lot longer than the losses. These guys will bring a lot to a team that already had a ton of skill and potential. However, I don't think that the addition of these players will be the biggest difference this year. As Teddy said on twitter during #TweetTeddyTuesday, the most influential improvement from last year is the maturity of our current players. From the 2011 season to the 2012 season, many of Strong's players went from Freshman to sophomore, and we saw the impact. People don't realize how many freshmen and sophomores we had starting and playing significant minutes last year and the year before. Now those sophomores will be Juniors; and not just regular juniors, these are juniors who have been relied on to carry the team since they got here. Not to mention how good our strength and conditioning program is, one more year of that can really help
My conclusion is that that maturity of our younger players and the impact players we adding to the team, we will not lose a game this regular season. However, our guys can't do it alone. WE NEED TO PACK THE HOUSE EVERY GAME AND LINE THE STREETS WITH FANS FOR EVERY CARD MARCH, LIKE WE DID AT THE SUGAR BOWL. I think lack of fan support is exactly what lost us the UConn game, lets not let that happen again. Go Cards! Get on the Train or get the f*ck out of the way!!