It’s time for round two here on the now critically acclaimed WWLBTM (Who Will Louisville Beat This Month?) series. Yesterday, we took a look at the month of September, forecasting an undefeated start to the 2014 season for the Cards. Today, we’re moving along to perhaps the most exciting month of the year, October.
It will undoubtedly be a month full of trials and tribulations for the Cardinals, with two of Louisville’s toughest opponents on the docket. Let’s see how things add up. First thing's first, though...
There’s no good music with "October" in the song title like there is with September, so we’re going to have to think outside the box. Your choices are:
A New Game – Tom Hedden (It’s NFL Films music, just turn it on and try not to think about a brisk October afternoon getting ready for football. Yep, you're right. It is impossible.)
Higher – Creed (Exactly, turn on the NFL Films music.)
One thing before we get going, here’s a solid preview of Louisville that we’ll work off of as we move through the schedule.
Syracuse Orange – Road – Friday, October 3rd, 7 p.m., ESPN
The Gist: Louisville knows a thing or two about the Orange, though they do have a different head coach this time around. As we know, Doug Marrone left for the NFL to coach the Buffalo Bills, and Scott Shafer took over. 2013 saw Syracuse go 7-6 and narrowly beat Minnesota in their bowl game.
Offensively, they play at a fairly quick tempo and run the ball effectively. This season, a solid stable of running backs returns behind a good offensive line that returns most of its starters and is experienced. Quarterback Terrel Hunt is also back this season, and he can pose some problems with his feet, which could be critical given the less-than-exciting receiving corps he has to work with.
Leading tacklers Cameron Lynch (OLB) and Durell Eskridge (FS) return to a Syracuse defense that was in the middle of the road in basically every category last season. They attack often and have moderate to good success, especially against the run. DT Jay Bromley will be absent this year, leaving the defensive line without their leading tackler, but three seniors return to the line, all of whom played in all 13 games last season.
The Verdict: Louisville’s aerial assault continues, exploiting a shaky Orange secondary. The Carrier Dome proves to be louder than usual this time around, but the Cards still win by 10 or more.
Clemson Tigers – Road – Saturday, October 10th, TBA, TV TBA
The Gist: Here we go. After Miami, Louisville is likely to gain plenty of confidence heading into this extremely tough game at Death Valley, and they’ll need that and more. Tajh Boyd and Sammy Watkins are gone from this Clemson squad, but they aren’t to be taken lightly by any means heading into 2014, due mostly to their defense that has the potential to be downright nasty up front.
We’ll start with that defense, and it begins with a line full of studs. Literally everyone returns to this unit that features defensive end Vic Beasley (23 TFL in 2013) and could easily be the best group in the country. Middle linebacker Stephone Anthony returns as a senior to lead a corps of ‘backers that lost two of its top tacklers. Still, this unit will attack relentlessly, meaning Louisville will have to be on top of its game from the jump if it wants Will Gardner and the running back committee to be upright beyond the line of scrimmage.
On offense, the absence of Boyd will be noticeable, as it leaves the Tigers shockingly thin at the quarterback position. Still, they return senior Cole Stoudt and bring to campus a five-star recruit in Deshaun Watson. This will be an interesting area to watch as the season unfolds. Whoever ends up quarterbacking Clemson will be without the team’s two best wideouts from a year ago, but Dabo and his staff brought in a bevy of young talent that, while it may take a bit, should be just fine.
The Verdict: This is a tough one in a difficult environment, and while Clemson’s offense may not be as scary as last season, their defense is. Louisville could struggle here, and if it wants a chance to win, it will need a valiant all-around effort.
N.C. State Wolfpack – Home – Saturday, October 18th, TBA, TV TBA
The Gist: The Wolfpack were not a good team last year, a far cry from the N.C. State squad Louisville came up against in the Belk Bowl a few years back. They went 3-9 in 2013, with their highest-ranked win coming against Central Michigan (111). Injuries hurt them badly in a year when depth wasn’t their strong suit, but they may not have been that talented to begin with. We’ll find that out in 2014.
The Pack will have a new quarterback leading the offense, which is probably fine considering their two most frequent quarterbacks from a year ago posted a TD/INT ratio of 11-to-15 combined. Enter Florida transfer Jacoby Brissett, a junior who was a 4-star recruit of the Gators’ out of high school. A running game that’s likely to be subpar will put some pressure on Brissett, who has a young group of receivers to develop chemistry with.
Simply put, pass defense was N.C. State’s forte last season, red zone defense wasn’t. In truth, it didn’t really matter, as the Wolfpack lost by fairly large margins pretty frequently. In the secondary, they’ll return most of their defense’s greatest strength. Additionally, much of that secondary are still juniors or younger. If there’s an area where they can cause some problems, it’s with this group, which brings solid size and experience back in 2014.
The Verdict: Connelly says this one is out of reach for N.C. State, and he’s right. Louisville should roll at home and have little trouble shutting down the Wolfpack offense with a defense that will be further solidified by this point in the season.
Florida State Seminoles – Home – Thursday, October 30th, 7:30 p.m., ESPN
The Gist: Florida State was really stinkin’ good last season, and they’re probably going to be really stinkin’ good again in 2014. The ‘Noles didn’t lose last season, and they were fairly close to perfect in doing so. For the most part, they demolished their opponents on both sides of the ball.
Famous Jameis Winston returns to the fray in 2014 looking to live up to extraordinary expectations after a stellar season in which he threw for over 4,000 yards and 40 touchdowns en route to a Heisman Trophy. Karlos Williams will be the lead running back in his senior year after Devonta Freeman departed following last year’s championship run. We’re not done yet, as last year’s leading receiver, Rashad Greene is also returning for his senior season. All of this will be protected by a behemoth of an offensive line that only loses one of its starters, though that starter was All-American and Rimington Trophy winner Bryan Stork. Yeah, they’re going to be good again.
On the other side of the ball, Florida State was the best in the country last season. They’ll suffer some attrition this season and did lose their defensive coordinator, but plenty of talent will be back to try to keep the ball rolling. One of the names that may ring a bell on the Seminole line is defensive end Mario Edwards, who will lead the unit this season in his junior year. Their two leading tacklers in the secondary are gone, but the ‘Noles are still loaded with talent in that department, with sophomores Jalen Ramsey and Nate Andrews likely leading the way for a generally young group.
The Verdict: Connelly lists Louisville as a team that could be a land mine on the road for the Seminoles, but this will obviously be the Cards’ biggest test. They’ll need to pitch a near-perfect game in front of a crowd that will surely be one of the most raucous of the season and on their side. No matter what happens, this one will be tons of fun in the week leading up to the game and under the lights on ESPN.
Whew. October is going to be challenging, but it will be the most exciting month Louisville football has had in years. Bobby Petrino and his staff will have their work cut out for them during this stretch, but they have the firepower to turn some heads.
Who Will Louisville Beat This Month? N.C. State and Syracuse.
Last but not least will be November, where Louisville will take a trip to South Bend and welcome Kentucky to The Oven. We’re excited already. See you tomorrow.
P.S. Be sure to take a peek at all of Bill Connelly’s previews. They’re excellent, and provided the majority of the data used here.