I learned a long time ago that making game predictions on the team-specific sports website you run is a no-win game. You either pick the team you're a fan of to win, or you anger your readers (who will come back and gloat when your prediction is wrong as if you didn't want the team you're a fan of to win). I don't like making people angry and I don't like being disingenuous, so usually I either refrain from predictions or only make them when I truly believe Louisville is going to win.
Along the same lines, season-long college football predictions made before the season starts are also worthless. Far too little is known and far too much has yet to happen for anyone to have any real grasp on what might take place in a November tilt between a pair of teams that have yet to take the field.
And yet, this is 10th time in 10 years that I've written this post.
A year ago, for just the second time ever, my preseason prediction wound up being off by more than one game. I'd spent the entire summer saying Louisville would go 8-4, and then at the last second (I blame the enthusiasm attached to the radio gig) I bumped that win total up by one game. Now, it's time for some redemption.
In the spirit of full disclosure, here are my year-by-year prediction results, beginning all the way back in 2006 (I am 1,000 in Internet years):
2006: PREDICTED: 11-1; ACTUAL: 11-1
2007: PREDICTED: 11-1; ACTUAL: 6-6
2008: PREDICTED: 6-6; ACTUAL: 5-7
2009: PREDICTED: 4-8; ACTUAL: 4-8
2010: PREDICTED: 5-7; ACTUAL: 6-6
2011: PREDICTED: 6-6; ACTUAL: 7-5
2012: PREDICTED: 10-2; ACTUAL: 10-2
2013: PREDICTED: 11-1; ACTUAL: 11-1
2014: PREDICTED: 9-3; ACTUAL: 9-3
2015: PREDICTED: 9-3; ACTUAL: 7-5
Please keep in mind that the following predictions will have no bearing on my prediction once the actual game rolls around. For example, I picked Louisville to lose to Syracuse and Notre Dame before the start of the 2014 season, but had an understandable change of heart by the time those games actually rolled around.
It's cool because you all are wrong a lot every year, too.
Let's all get back on track.
GAME ONE: vs. CHARLOTTE
Stay healthy. Beat 'em down.
CC Prediction: Louisville 59, Charlotte 7
GAME TWO: AT SYRACUSE
With last year being a notable exception, Syracuse has always been something of a thorn in Louisville's side, even when the Cards take care of business. It's a Friday night game, there will be an "Orange Out" inside the Carrier Dome, and the risk of spoiling one of the biggest home games in the history of Papa John's Cardinal Stadium the next week will be on the line.
I will be terrified, but business will be attended to.
CC Prediction: Louisville 33, Syracuse 14
GAME THREE: vs. FLORIDA STATE
The first of the "Big Three," and a game that national writers across the country have pointed to as a potential upset since the moment the ACC schedules were released. I feel the same way about this game as I felt about the Clemson game throughout last offseason, which isn't exactly reassuring since the Cards ultimately tasted defeat against the Tigers.
This will be the first true road test for Deondre Francois, and Louisville's light first two weeks should allow Bobby Petrino to save some tricks for Sept. 17. I'm sticking with my gut and saying U of L makes a massive statement to the rest of the country and finally gets over the hump against one of the ACC's twin powers.
CC Prediction: Louisville 37, Florida State 34
GAME FOUR: AT MARSHALL
Everyone's favorite trap game on the schedule comes with a primetime kickoff and a revved up fan base that has been referring to this as the biggest home game in the history of the program. Those extenuating factors are enough to make things scary (and ugly), but not enough for an actual upset to go down.
CC Prediction: Louisville 28, Marshall 23
GAME FIVE: AT CLEMSON
College GameDay comes to town and the college football world focuses in on DeShaun Watson vs. Lamar Jackson. In an insanely hostile environment, the Cards show that they aren't quite yet the national title contenders that the Tigers are.
CC Prediction: Clemson 44, Louisville 28
GAME SIX: vs. DUKE
U of L gets an off week to lick its wounds before Duke comes to town for a Friday night tilt. The Blue Devils need a new quarterback now that Thomas Sirk is done for the year, but David Cutcliffe has shown that he's never going to let this program slip too far. It's a tussle in the first half, but Louisville's offense gets back to clicking after the break.
CC Prediction: Louisville 37, Duke 24
GAME SEVEN: vs. NC STATE
Bradley Chubb and the NC State front seven are one of the few on the schedule that have the ability to make Lamar Jackson uncomfortable. If the Pack can find a capable quarterback, they have the running game to put a scare into some of the top teams in the ACC.
Louisville's ACC championship and CFP dreams die on Homecoming.
CC Prediction: NC State 27, Louisville 24
GAME EIGHT: AT VIRGINIA
The bounceback performance that so many spend the week predicting doesn't happen, and Louisville drops a second straight in Charlottesville. The week after in the Derby City is extremely unpleasant.
CC Prediction: Virginia 30, Louisville 27
GAME NINE: AT BOSTON COLLEGE
The offense finally rights itself and Patrick Towles loses to Louisville for the 98th time.
CC Prediction: Louisville 49, Boston College 14
GAME TEN: vs. WAKE FOREST
The fans are still reeling a little bit from the rough October, but the Cards put on a show inside PJCS anyway.
CC Prediction: Louisville 52, Wake Forest 10
GAME ELEVEN: AT HOUSTON
The game isn't quite as big as some predicted before the start of the season, but it's still a charged up Thursday night in Houston where the Cougars are looking to solidify their spot in a New Year's Six Bowl. Louisville blows all that up with the season's most positive performance outside of Florida State.
CC Prediction: Louisville 45, Houston 30
GAME TWELVE: vs. KENTUCKY
CC Prediction: Louisville 44, Kentucky 20
FINAL RECORD: 9-3 (5-3)
In all the years of doing this, I've only picked fewer wins than the team ended up having twice, and both those times (Strong's first two years) the team bested that prediction total by a single game. Here's hoping I'm at least two wins short in the victory column for the first time this year.
Your own predictions are welcome below.