It’s time once again for my least favorite post of the entire year. Here’s your annual disclaimer ...
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 13th time in 13 years that I’ve written this post, and it still never fails to elicit the same types of reactions. Although I’m not posting your all’s responses this year since everyone caught onto the schtick and just made sarcastic comments last year. Well played.
Despite all the grumbling, I’ve actually only predicted Louisville would have a worse season than it wound up having twice (Charlie Strong’s first and second seasons).
Here’s the CC prediction history:
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
2016: PREDICTED: 9-3; ACTUAL: 9-3
2017: PREDICTED: 9-3; ACTUAL: 8-4
So six times in 12 years I’ve hit the final record directly on the head, and only twice have I been off by more than one game (thanks, Krag). The actual losses that have been predicted are typically way off, but whatever, don’t steal my shine.
Please keep in mind that I reserve the right to dramatically alter these when the actual game rolls around. Now let’s run through the 2017 season and then get mad.
GAME ONE: vs. Alabama
I like the shit talking, I’ve loved the buildup all summer ... I don’t love the fact that Bama just absolutely wrecks teams (especially good teams) in week one. Sure, they do it in most other weeks too, but the Tide is undefeated under Nick Saban in season-openers, and 9-1 against the spread in those games over the past decade. That’s the best mark of any team in the FBS.
Louisville actually scores first and then follows that up with a huge defensive play to seize all of the early momentum. They actually win the first quarter and get the segment of the American sports public that wasn’t paying attention to start paying attention. Not much goes right after that.
CC Prediction: Alabama 42, Louisville 17
GAME TWO: vs. Indiana State
The first game inside the newly expanded Cardinal Stadium and the first game inside a venue named merely “Cardinal Stadium” since 1997. It looks great.
The Sycamores went 0-11 last season, but they tried really hard. A good evening is had by all.
CC Prediction: Louisville 55, Indiana State 7
GAME THREE: vs. Western Kentucky
Western is supposed to be way down, but this still feels like a game that has the potential to be clunky. Victory never really feels in doubt, but the offensive performance doesn’t provide a great deal if optimism as the team prepares to head into one of the most crucial stretches of the season.
CC Prediction: Louisville 27, Western Kentucky 17
GAME FOUR: At Virginia
Despite the hosts being not particularly good at football, Charlottesville has been a brutal trip for Louisville since joining the ACC. The nationally ranked Cards were stunned by Virginia in their first road game of 2014, and needed a last second touchdown pass from Lamar Jackson to Jaylen Smith to keep the lowly Cavaliers from dashing their College Football Playoff dreams two years later.
Bronco Mendenhall has UVA headed in the right direction (I think), but it still feels like we’re at least a year away from there being tangible evidence of that. That doesn’t mean this won’t be at least somewhat terrifying yet again.
CC Prediction: Louisville 30, Virginia 24
GAME FIVE: vs. Florida State
Louisville gives its most complete performance of the season and appears to be headed for their third straight win over Florida State for 90 percent of this game. Fluky things have a tendency of happening in this series, and the ball bounces FSU’s way in the 4th quarter as the Cards are dealt a soul-crushing defeat they didn’t deserve.
CC Prediction: Florida State 40, Louisville 38
GAME SIX: vs. Georgia Tech
The Cards allow the heartbreak from the previous week to beat them twice. For a third straight year the “Blackout” game crowd is never really able to get into the action. This is the worst one yet though.
CC Prediction: Georgia Tech 30, Louisville 14
GAME SEVEN: At Boston College
Just as they did a year ago when it appeared as if all was lost, Louisville finds a way to pull some good football out of seemingly nowhere. Bobby Petrino takes advantage of the new redshirt rule that allows freshmen to see action in four games, and Jordan Travis provides the Cardinal offense with a much-needed spark.
I’m also not buying Boston College the way everyone else seems to be. Sure, they’ll be fine, but I think all the “sleeper ACC contender” talk has been a bit much. AJ Dillon is awesome and my assumption is the defense will be rock solid as always, but we need to remember that it was pretty easy for the Eagles to exceed expectations last year. The fact that they have been competent for two seasons now has everyone waiting for the next step forward, and I’m not so sure that it’s coming.
CC Prediction: Louisville 34, Boston College 20
GAME EIGHT: vs. Wake Forest
I also think Wake comes back down to earth (relatively speaking) this season. They’re starting an unknown QB who began the summer fifth on the depth chart, and presumed Louisville game starter Kendall Hinton — who has been suspended for the first three games of this year — has had an up and down .. and down some more ... career up to this point.
Greg Dortch can’t rack up 500 total yards by himself if the pieces around him aren’t doing enough.
CC Prediction: Louisville 37, Wake Forest 27
GAME NINE: At Clemson
Look, they’re gonna be really, really good, and they’re also likely to be in the thick of the CFP hunt at this point. That said, there’s a recent history of Clemson either losing or almost losing a home game against a relatively average opponent around this time of year.
Maybe that team is Louisville in 2018. Or maybe, and perhaps more likely, we get late season Clemson option two: four quarters of pants-pissing pain.
CC Prediction: Clemson 42, Louisville 24
GAME TEN: At Syracuse
They still look like they’re going to be able to score, but they also still look like they aren’t going to be able to stop anybody. The other thing is Eric Dungey has had SO many injury issues throughout his career, it’s really hard to bank on him being 100 percent this late in the season.
CC Prediction: Louisville 40, Syracuse 31
GAME ELEVEN: vs. NC State
This is the swing game of this year’s predictions. Win it, and you wind up with a season that’s both accepted by most of the fans and seen as setting the stage for bigger things in 2019. Lost it, and there’s going to be more than a little offseason grumbling that you won’t have to strain to hear.
It’s also worth pointing out that NC State is contractually obligated to win no more than eight regular season games, but no fewer than seven. So the Pack’s record entering this contest is going to be key.
CC Prediction: NC State 31, Louisville 27
GAME TWELVE: vs. Kentucky
Kentucky has never won a game inside Cardinal Stadium. That’s just a fact.
The trend doesn’t stop this year.
CC Prediction: Louisville 30, Kentucky 17
FINAL RECORD: 7-5 (4-4)
We’re long overdue for a reverse 2007 where I’m extremely wrong but in the opposite direction. Here’s hoping this is the year.