Just about every sports network on earth has unleashed a "way too early top 25" for the 2016 college football season, and Bobby Petrino's Louisville Cardinals are featured somewhere in pretty much all of them.
Here's a summary:
2015 record: 8-5, 5-3 ACC
Returning starters: 9 offense, 8 defense, 0 special teams
Outlook: The Cardinals were a bit of a disappointment after losing four of their first six games, but they might have turned the corner in the second half of the 2015 season. Louisville won six of its last seven, including a 27-21 victory over Texas A&M in the Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl. If quarterback Lamar Jackson continues to improve as a passer, the Cardinals might be more consistent on offense next season. Louisville's defense received a big boost when four juniors -- linebackers Devonte' Fields and Keith Kelsey, and defensive backs Josh Harvey-Clemons and Shaq Wiggins -- decided to return for their senior seasons.
|23||Louisville: The Cards slid back in Bobby Petrino's second season (8-5), but there's plenty to be hopeful about. Up to 10 starters return on defense, including quarterback Lamar Jackson (who has some Deshaun Watson in him).|
Campus Insiders: Unranked
You know the rules by now. Part of projecting the way-too-early Top 25 is ignoring schedules and how a team might finish at the end of the year. We're going to break that rule once, and only once, for Louisville.
Because, gosh almighty, the Cardinals could be in a real pickle. Nearly all of the starting 22 that won six of the team's last seven games return. However, Louisville gets Clemson and Florida State thanks to its alignment in the ACC Atlantic Division and Houston in nonconference play.
What we're saying is, it's entirely possible Louisville's record doesn't look that much better from 2015, yet the team itself could actually be significantly better. That's why the Cardinals are getting this much love in the way-too-early rankings. Quarterback Lamar Jackson is going to be a superstar, and the defense is loaded with returning players, including pass-rusher Devonte Fields and defensive back Josh Harvey-Clemons.
There are a lot of reasons to love Louisville in 2016, but that schedule features some brutal games.
23. Louisville (8-5): The Cardinals could return 19 starters from a team that won six of its last seven ACC games and beat Texas A&M in its bowl. QB Lamar Jackson showed as a true freshman he can be a big-time runner, but he must get better as a passer. Big-time pass rusher Devonte Fields put off the NFL, and a very experienced secondary should return intact.
USA Today: 23
23. Louisville (2015 record: 8-5)
ACC Atlantic Divisionhas two clear leaders in Clemson and Florida State, so Louisville should continue to be overlooked nationally. But the Cardinals will be a quiet contender for double-digit wins, thanks in no small part to the projected growth of rising sophomore quarterback Lamar Jackson.
The Sporting News: Unranked
No. 17 Louisville
Lamar Jackson provided a glimpse of just how good he could be during the 27-21 win against Texas A&M in the Music City Bowl. He does need to improve as a passer for the Cardinals to be more efficient on offense, but the pieces are definitely there. Defensively, Louisville received a big boost when all four of its star underclassmen prospects announced they were returning for another year. Louisville had one of the best defenses in the country and it should only get better with a wealth of depth and experience.