It's hard to believe that almost exactly a year ago, I was embarking on only my sixth-ever post here at CC and working under the pseudonym "Chris Mike" while real Mike was getting married. That post was the start of a three-part look at the Louisville football schedule, which is what we're about to get to below for this upcoming season.
Like last year, we'll go through the schedule month-by-month. Also like last year, SB Nation's Bill Connelly's team previews will help guide us as we work our way through. His Louisville preview is here if you're curious. Since we're in the previewing mood, Mark Ennis' positional tour may also come in handy. A new month will be previewed each week, which will take us into the opening weekend for college football.
Yes, it's getting that close.
Finally, there were songs of the month last season. Since that was fun and quite possibly the only thing that separates these preview posts from others, they're back. The Billboard Hot 100 is currently on Spotify shuffle as this is being written, so I suppose this year's songs of the month will help guide tailgate playlists or something like that. Anyway, here are the first couple:
Kick The Dust Up — Luke Bryan: Look, it'll be overplayed, but it's a good song to throw in the tailgate mix. A lot of people will know the words and sing along whether they want to or not. You at least know the chorus.
Real Life — Jake Owen: I can't totally relate to this song (honestly, I've never had RC Cola), but the gist of it is cool and it's got an easy-going, tailgate-friendly vibe to it. Yes, this is another pop-country song. Yes, there will be a different genre next week.
Without further ado, here's a look at September:
Auburn Tigers — Georgia Dome — Sept. 5, 3:30 p.m., CBS
The gist: The Tigers are the media favorites in the SEC despite having a new quarterback in Jeremy Johnson to go with the loss of two leading rushers (Cameron Artis-Payne and Corey Grant) and two of their top three receivers (Sammie Coates and Quin Bray). Why are folks still so high on Auburn? For one, Johnson is expected to be able to pick up in place of Nick Marshall. More than that, star wideout Duke Williams looks poised for a big season as the featured pass-catcher if he can stay healthy and out of suspension trouble.
While Gus Malzahn's Auburn offense figures to be a stout test for a Louisville defense that underwent its fair share of turnover this offseason, there's hope in the fact that Auburn's turnover was fairly sweeping in nature. Right out of the bag, anything could happen chemistry-wise on both sides of the ball in this matchup, for better or worse.
Because Auburn is Auburn, they can recruit top talent across the board. Will Muschamp inherits a defense that wasn't great last season, but has lots of 4- and 5-star options to work with. Chances are, he'll find a way to make his defense productive, and there's less turnover here than there is on the offensive side of the ball, especially up front. Three senior linebackers and three upperclassmen on the line could be troublesome for a Louisville team that is learning to live without DeVante Parker and with a fairly fluid offensive line.
The verdict: There's no questioning that Louisville can win this game, and I'll convince myself by game day that there's no way we'll lose. I mean, the jerseys. That bird doesn't lose. But because we're far enough out for my brain to work right now, I have a hard time seeing this as a win. Both of the coaches here will have their teams ready, and it will be close, but I think Auburn prevails. I'll happily be wrong.
Houston Cougars — Home — Sept. 12, Noon, ACC RSN
The gist: Houston hasn't been bad recently, but they haven't been enough for the last head coach to stick around. This season, the Cougars welcome former Ohio State offensive coordinator Tom Herman to try to reach another level. He's certainly a good bet to do it if anyone can.
Herman will have a returning quarterback in Greg Ward to work with, but the focus of this offense will likely be on two senior running backs. Kenneth Farrow and Ryan Jackson rushed for over 1600 combined yards and scored 19 touchdowns for Houston last season, and they figure to be the strength of an offense that loses four of its top five pass-catchers from a year ago. Still, turnover on the offensive line combined with a new coach could make for some early-season issues for the Coogs.
Defensively, a scheme switch is underway under new defensive coordinator Todd Orlando. Add in the fact that he inherits a unit in the midst of a personnel overhaul, and there will likely be some growing pains on this side of the ball. With that said, the Houston secondary returns nearly everyone, and they may be asked to cover up a lack-luster front seven.
The verdict: Louisville shouldn't have a ton of trouble here in its home opener. For one, there's a talent gap between the Cards and the Cougars. In addition, a fresh-faced front seven is not what you want to have when Louisville's greatest offensive strength may lie with running back Brandon Radcliff. Houston's schedule helps them look better than they are, and that will show at PJCS.
Clemson Tigers — Home — Sept. 17, 7:30 p.m., ESPN
The gist: Deshaun Watson is back this season, and if he can stay healthy, there's no reason that Clemson can't be very good offensively. The running game will need to improve, but as Connelly points out, they have lots of former 4-stars back to try to do that. Watson's arsenal of wideouts (former 4-stars Mike Williams and Artavis Scott, in particular) returns for the most part, so if an offensive line that returns just one starter from last year holds up, the Tigers could be special.
Defensively, Louisville will be relieved to not see the same unit across the ball as they did last year when they were held to a regular-season-low 17 points. Grady Jarrett and Vic Beasley are gone, as are Clemson's top two linebackers from last season. Some experience and plenty of talent will be there to fill the void, but the chances of the Tigers being as stout defensively as last season are slim. As we've said ad nauseam this summer, Louisville's offensive situation is far from figured out, but year two under Petrino should mean more than 17 points this time around.
The verdict: The Cards get a big one in front of a big crowd at home. Louisville fans enjoyed themselves at Clemson last year, so hopefully Tigers fans will feel just as welcome. Here's to also hoping they'll leave with the same disappointment we did last season. This should serve as the game where it looks like Louisville has adjusted to some new personnel and new stars.
Samford Bulldogs — Home — Sept. 26, TBA
The gist: Samford is this season's FCS opponent of choice, and it heads into the season with a new head coach in former Murray State head man Chris Hatcher. The 'Dogs went 7-4 last season and finished second in the SoCon, but two of those losses were lopsided affairs against FBS powers TCU and Auburn. So while Samford may not be the best that FCS has to offer, they're certainly far from the worst.
The verdict: Hatcher is familiar with Louisville, but his new squad won't be able to do much better than Murray State did when they were on the bad end of a 66-21 thumping at the hands of Petrino and the Cards last season. Louisville rolls into the bulk of its ACC schedule with a 3-1 record and a good level of confidence.