Welcome to a new Card Chronicle original mini-series where we’ll take a look at Louisville Football’s schedule month-by-month, finding all of the basic things we should know and maybe some non-basic things to keep in mind heading into each month of this season.
It’s called "Who Will Louisville Beat This Month?" or WWLBTM (Working title)
I’m your host, NNNNMNM (Not Not-New, Not-Married Not Mike), and I’m going to take my best shot at summing up each month of the Cardinals’ schedule so we can all make sure we overthink everything heading into the season. After all, that’s what August is all about, right?
Without further ado, let’s dive into September.
Wake Me Up When September Ends – Green Day (If you’re having a bad day and don’t care if it stays that way/need a song that just gets you right now.)
September – Earth, Wind and Fire (If you’re having a great day and want it to stay that way/you’re having a bad day and still have hope that it can be better.)
Miami Hurricanes – Home – Monday, September 1st, 8 p.m., ESPN
The Gist: Maybe the most fortunate part of Louisville’s drubbing of the ‘Canes in last year’s Russell Athletic Bowl was that the victory came against a Duke Johnson-less Miami team. Johnson will be back this season behind an offensive line that returns three upperclassmen that have all started 18 games or more during their tenures in Miami. The quarterback position is still mostly a mystery, though the Miami Herald tried to shed some light on the subject on Tuesday. There’s talent at quarterback, but plenty of inexperience, too. Regardless, they’re a talented bunch at the skill positions that could be a handful on opening night.
As seems to be the case a lot with Miami, there’s plenty of good talent everywhere (at least on paper). Defensively, though, they were fairly atrocious up front last season despite their perennially loaded recruiting classes. They’ll have a lot of turnover in that department, which Connelly says could be a good thing. Most of their secondary will be upperclassmen with loads of experience, which could make for a fun battle with Louisville’s ultra-talented receiving corps.
The Verdict: Duke Johnson finds ways to run the ball against a Louisville front that proves to be a little raw after losing talent and experience. The Cardinal defense may bend a bit, but it won’t break, leaving plenty of room for the high-powered offense to put up points. Louisville wins its marquee ACC debut behind a raucous crowd and an impressive opening night from Petrino’s offense.
Murray State Racers – Home – Saturday, September 6th, 7 p.m., ESPN3
The Gist: The Racers finished 6-6 overall and 4-4 in the Ohio Valley Conference last season. Obviously, they’re likely the easiest team on Louisville’s schedule. They’ll have a new quarterback this season that will be without last season’s leading receiver. Defensively, they’ll be searching for some new leaders as well, though that may not entirely be a bad thing. The Murray State defense gave up over 570 yards of total offense per game last season.
The Verdict: This one could (should) get ugly for all of the obvious reasons, and should serve as a bit of a breather following a massive week one tilt with Miami. Barring catastrophe, Louisville will avoid an Appalachian State-like embarrassment, rolling to a 2-0 start to 2014.
Virginia Cavaliers – Road – Saturday, September 13th, 12:30 p.m., ACC Network (WAVE)
The Gist: Virginia is hard to figure out, because they appear to be exceptionally talented on paper. This happens a lot in college football, but as Connelly points out, at some point, talent will count for something. In other words, this season could be that season for the Cavs. They return basically everyone offensively, and almost all of the offense is comprised of upperclassmen. The offense struggled to make big plays last season despite some of that big-time talent (running back Taquan Mizzell and wideout Darius Jennings to name a couple), but theoretically has the firepower to make things interesting.
Defense is the strength of the Hoos, and while they were susceptible to the big play last season, they return basically everyone on this unit as well. Connelly put it this way about the 2013 defense: "You were either gaining three yards or 35 on Virginia". This is good news for the high-powered Louisville offense. Still, in the Cardinals’ first ACC road game, this unit certainly appears capable of at least making things difficult if they can come together and limit Louisville’s big play potential.
The Verdict: It gets close in the third quarter for reasons Louisville fans may not quite be able to grasp in the moment, but Gardner, Parker and Co. find ways to put up points in the fourth quarter and are backed by a steady defensive effort to win by a couple of scores.
Florida International Panthers – Road – Saturday, September 20th, TBA, TV TBA
The Gist: We all know the history between Louisville and FIU. We hate part of it, and part of it was a cruel measure of payback. We’re talking, of course, about 2011’s T.Y. Hilton show and last season’s complete dismantling of a sorry Panthers squad. This season should pattern itself more after last season, as a completely hapless FIU team appears to be returning nearly as hapless. They only gained 27 yards against Louisville last year, so maybe this season they can crack 100. Maybe not.
The Verdict: Louisville keeps rolling here in a big way heading into their last game of September. If you’re wondering, they’ve likely selected Earth, Wind and Fire over Green Day at this point.
Wake Forest Demon Deacons – Home – Saturday, September 27th, TBA, TV TBA
The Gist: The Deac’s went 4-8 last season, and it doesn’t appear that there’s a lot of help on the way to change things. In fact, Connelly points to big losses across the board first as opposed to young talent that’s coming up. They don’t have a real option at quarterback and lose most of a defense that was a strength of theirs in 2013. If there’s hope here, it starts with head coach Dave Clawson, who takes over for Jim Grobe. He’s an expert re-builder, but Wake will take far longer than one offseason to return to relevance. In essence, the Demon Deacons shouldn’t pose much of a threat to Louisville on either side of the ball. If they have one thing going for them, it’s that Kevin Johnson and Merrill Noel are a fairly impressive cornerback tandem in the defensive back field.
The Verdict: Louisville will be too much for the Demon Deacons in almost every facet of the game, especially since they’ll be a major jump in competition level from Wake’s first four opponents (UL-Monroe; Gardner-Webb, Utah State and Army).
There you have it. September.
Miami is clearly the biggest hurdle of the month and one of the biggest games of the year. It’s a little nerve-wracking to have that game right off the bat, but it’s exciting all the same and something Louisville hasn’t seen in quite some time. Playing at home in the first game of the Petrino Era Redux will surely help, and while the two teams will be much different from last season’s bowl matchup, both return plenty to make this a marquee matchup.
Make sure to take a peek at all of Bill Connelly’s previews. They’re excellent, and provided the majority of the data used here. You’re probably wondering what he thinks about Louisville, so click here and find out.
Who Will Louisville Beat This Month?
Everyone (we think).
See you Thursday for a look at an October that’s shaping up to be highly entertaining.