A late August tradition unlike any other.
I learned a long time ago that making game predictions on the team-specific sports website you run is a no-win game. You either pick the team you're a fan of to win, or you anger your readers (who will come back and gloat when your prediction is wrong as if you didn't want the team you're a fan of to win). I don't like making people angry and I don't like being disingenuous, so usually I either refrain from predictions or only make them when I truly believe Louisville is going to win.
Along the same lines, season-long college football predictions in August are also worthless. Far too little is known and far too much has yet to happen for anyone to have any real grasp on what might take place in a November tilt between a pair of teams that have yet to take the field.
And yet, this post comes back each and every year. I'm a sucker for tradition. Plus it's kind of fun.
In the spirit of full disclosure, here are my year-by-year prediction results, beginning all the way back in 2006 (Jesus, I've been doing this way too long).
2006: PREDICTED: 11-1; ACTUAL: 11-1
2007: PREDICTED: 11-1; ACTUAL: 6-6
2008: PREDICTED: 6-6; ACTUAL: 5-7
2009: PREDICTED: 4-8; ACTUAL: 4-8
2010: PREDICTED: 5-7; ACTUAL: 6-6
2011: PREDICTED: 6-6; ACTUAL 7-5
2012: PREDICTED: 10-2; ACTUAL 10-2
Please keep in mind that the following predictions will have no bearing on my prediction once the actual game rolls around. For example, I picked Louisville to lose to North Carolina before last season and then had a change of heart when it was time to actually take on the Heels.
I just...I just don't like to be tied down, all right?
GAME ONE: vs. OHIO
Louisville fans are basically divided into two groups heading into the season-opener: A group that's terrified of Ohio and one that sees no way the Cards win by any less than 30 points. I fall into the former group.
It's not that I think Louisville is overrated or that the team is going to be looking past a squad from the MAC, it's that I think Ohio is pretty good and plays a style of football that has given us trouble in recent years. You're going to be seeing a lot of pistol, a lot of read option (think Pittsburgh, the team that gave U of L more trouble than any other in the Big East), a talented group of running backs and a quarterback who can beat you with his arm and his feet.
I don't think there's any way Charlie Strong, Teddy Bridgewater or the other veterans on this team allow Louisville's dream season to be crushed before it ever gets started, but I'll be equally surprised if this is a romp for four quarters. Forget all the "rivalry games are never easy" nonsense, this is a much more scary opener than Kentucky would have been.
CC Prediction: Louisville 36, Ohio 24
GAME TWO: vs. EASTERN KENTUCKY
Everyone stay healthy.
CC Prediction: Louisville 45, Eastern Kentucky 7
GAME THREE: AT KENTUCKY
As much as we've thumped our chests about it (and will continue to thump our chests if pressed by the other side), last year's 32-14 win wasn't quite as impressive as it appeared on paper. UK turned the ball over multiple times on drives where it appeared they were destined for seven points, allowing us all to claim a "dominant" victory even though every "adjusted score" formula in the world had it as a narrow Cardinal win. The truth is, Louisville hasn't truly blown Kentucky out since that glorious opener in Bobby Petrino's final season at the helm.
That changes on Sept. 14.
CC Prediction: Louisville 42, Kentucky 14
GAME FOUR: vs. FLORIDA INTERNATIONAL
The first stop on Louisville's "closer than it should have been revenge tour." The Panthers are picked to finish last in their first season as a member of Conference USA, and there will be no Florida-related distractions and hopefully no rain to save them this year.
CC Prediction: Louisville 35, Florida International 13
GAME FIVE: AT TEMPLE
Temple is bad at football, and about 2,500 people in Philadelphia will be on-hand to watch them get stomped out in their AAC opener
CC Prediction: Louisville 41, Temple 10
GAME SIX: vs. RUTGERS
After consecutive weeks against completely overmatched opponents, Louisville only gets four days to prepare for the first opponent on their schedule that appears truly capable of beating them. With the home fans desperate for a quality opponent and an intrigued national audience tuning into ESPN, expect this to be the best PJCS environment of the season. It might also be the best game the home fans see.
CC PREDICTION: Louisville 27, Rutgers 19
GAME SEVEN: vs. CENTRAL FLORIDA
Friday night games have always been fun inside The Oven, but there's a reason more than a few experts have picked U of L to slip up here. This is a classic letdown game after what will have likely been a fairly emotional win over Rutgers. The national title talk and the criticism from the national media will also be at an all-time high, making focus far more difficult than it had been the previous six weeks.
The Cards respond and make a huge statement for the second straight week on national TV.
CC PREDICTION: Louisville 37, Central Florida 7
GAME EIGHT: AT SOUTH FLORIDA
Here's where you hate me.
It's insanely difficult for any team playing any schedule to go 12-0, which is why we see it happen so rarely. Even though there's about a 90% chance that my prediction will be different once this game actually rolls around, I'm picking this to be where the dream dies for three reasons:
1) Louisville never plays well at USF - They've only won there once (two years ago), and they weren't overly impressive when they finally did it.
2) South Florida is one of the only teams on the schedule with the horses to battle with Louisville in the trenches - The talent level, at least up front, has never been the issue down there.
3) Willie Taggart is a boss - He doesn't have the tools he needs to compete for conference titles just yet, but he's good for at least one big upset win right out of the gate.
CC Prediction: South Florida 23, Louisville 21
GAME NINE: AT CONNECTICUT
With their national title dreams dashed, the Cards take out some frustration on the team that almost ruined their BCS dreams the year before
CC Prediction: Louisville 31, Connecticut 14
GAME TEN: vs. HOUSTON
Crowd support is the main topic of conversation leading up to this one, and Louisville fans answer the bell on the first Saturday home game since Sept. 21. The Cards on the field throw in somewhat of a clunker and Charlie Strong turns into the Hulk after the game.
CC Prediction: Louisville 34, Houston 24
GAME ELEVEN: vs. MEMPHIS
The Senior Day curse ends in a massive way. Oh, Memphis.
CC Prediction: Louisville 44, Memphis 0
GAME TWELVE AT CINCINNATI
The conference championship comes down to what could be the last Battle for the Keg of Nails in a very long time. Plenty of Cards fans make the trip up to Nippert, making for an extremely hostile environment. U of L again earns a trip to the BCS in dramatic fashion on the final week of the regular season.
CC Prediction: Louisville 28, Cincinnati 27
FINAL RECORD: 11-1 (7-1)