Four weeks have come and gone in the 2014 college football season and as it currently stands, parity rules. The point has been reached where certain teams begin to separate themselves from the pack, and the question marks for every team turn into consistent flaws. Improving those weak links becomes a focal point for coaches and fans, and in Louisville, the search for improvement begins and ends with the offense.
If a member of the playoff selection committee, and I certainly would accept a nomination, my four teams at this juncture would be Texas A&M, Oklahoma, Florida State, and Alabama. These teams aren't invincible, but have certainly shown the most balance, consistency, and ability to win big games. As of now, A&M and Oklahoma will be playing for all the marbles in Dallas. With that being said, I don't envision this four team playoff lasting much longer. This season has already brought us had scratching upsets, lackluster performances, devastating injuries, and at its conclusion, 2014 will show the need for an eight or 12 team playoff.
Where do our Cardinals stand after four weeks? The answer is simple, yet painful. If not for a fumbled punt, Louisville would be in the top 15, atop the ACC, and in the middle of the championship conversation. Let bygones be bygones though and face reality. If Louisville has any hope of sneaking their way back into the playoff picture the two glaring weaknesses will have to improve drastically.
The offensive line came out firing week one and have sense deteriorated into a porous, penalty flag crazed bunch. It's hot and cold with the big boys up front, and that appears to be the frustration. One series they'll protect perfectly, abstain from the yellow flag, finish their blocks downfield, and put seven up on the scoreboard. Then they will take the field, appear absent minded, allow the quarterback to take a beating, and constantly put the offense behind the chains with negative plays and pointless penalties. In the last two games, which have been ugly and forgettable, the offensive line has committed eight holding or false start infractions. That is unacceptable and has stalled promising, game changing possessions.
Bobby Petrino is frustrated and aside from his mastery with quarterbacks, Coach Petrino understands the value and workings of a successful offensive line. Louisville is certainly lacking some talent up front, but I fully expect heated practices and film sessions to mask our weaknesses. Louisville is going reach nine wins or more, but if the offensive line continues to digress, best start enjoying those happy hour beers at PJCS now.
Since my doctor recommended it for heart health, I am choosing to ignore the Krag years and his influence on the quarterback debacle we all experienced during his tenure. That unspeakable era aside, I cannot remember the Cardinals' weakest link ever being the play of the quarterback. Last week, I was willing to believe Gardner could improve on his less than stellar performances, and more importantly, show the ability to take care of the ball. Will is a team leader, a good kid, and we all root for him, but sadly he played terrible against a terrible team, and turned the ball over multiple times. Louisville has eight turnovers as a team, Will has seven of them. The Cardinals have survived on their defense thus far, but to improve going forward, a change has to be made under center.
Reggie Bonnafon gives Louisville the best chance to win. Our offensive line is somewhat inconsistent, and his scrambling ability can help alleviate that disadvantage. Reggie is also much calmer under pressure and isn't succumbed to the fear of taking a hit. The extent of Gardner's injury is also unknown, and with back to back winnable games approaching, now is the time to give Reggie all the reps possible.
Coach Petrino knows quarterbacks and offenses, and we all know he is fully capable of deciding which quarterback gives the Cardinals the best chance to win. Gardner is a redshirt sophomore and was the most experienced QB on the roster upon his arrival. Will looked good in spring ball, had the respect of his teammates, and put up great numbers in the spring game. Fall camp spun a different tale as Reggie quickly climbed the ranks and challenged for the starting spot. Due to his spring performance, Will was named the starter, but after four games, he simply isn't getting the job done, and worse, his turnovers create a major liability moving forward. Reggie has shown the ability to make every throw, and his legs will give the stagnant Cardinal offense a different dimension. The Bonnafon era is here, and I could certainly warm up to the idea of another local legend.
Louisville is going to get better, period. Bobby Petrino is one of the best in the business and I have confidence he can guide the Cardinals through this exciting and promising season. The defense has exceeded all expectations and is certainly the group that will carry the Cardinals through their October gauntlet. Louisville will spend the next three weeks searching for improvement, and Reggie Bonnafon is set to take over the sleeping giant that is the Cardinal offense. Its show time Cardinal fans, enjoy the ride.
All Hail UofL & more importantly prayers for the Bonnafon family from all of Cardnation.