Louisville’s 2019 football schedule was unveiled this afternoon, along with the rest of the ACC football programs. Louisville’s schedule features two teams that made an appearance in the College Football Playoff, three in-state opponents and nine teams coming off of bowl appearances.
Here’s an early look at Louisville’s opponents on the gridiron next year.
v. Notre Dame (Monday, Sept. 2)
Louisville wastes no time jumping into the fire early next season, hosting a Notre Dame team fresh off its first appearance in the College Football Playoff. The Irish will likely be an early contender for the College Football Playoff again, but will have a much tougher schedule with road trips to Louisville, Georgia, and Michigan all planned. Quarterback Ian Book returns after a pretty successful 2018 campaign, completing 68% of his passes for 2,628 yards and 19 touchdowns. Notre Dame’s most notable losses will be on defense, as they are losing playmakers like defensive tackle Jerry Tillery and cornerback Julian Love.
v. Eastern Kentucky (Saturday, Sept. 7)
Unless the Cardinals can get a massive upset against the Irish on Labor Day, their next game against FCS Eastern Kentucky likely points to being the first win in the Scott Satterfield era. EKU finished with a 7-4 record last year, and should see two All-Ohio Valley Conference First Team players back in defensive tackle Aaron Patrick (12 tackles for loss, 7.5 sacks) and Leodis Moore III (48 tackles, five interceptions). However, EKU will need to replace L.J. Scott, who led the team in rushing last season and was All-Ohio Valley Conference Second Team.
v. Western Kentucky (Saturday, Sept. 14 in Nashville, TN)
For the fourth time in five seasons, Louisville has a neutral site game on their schedule, heading to Nashville for part two of their series against Western Kentucky. Like Louisville, Western Kentucky will have a new head coach in Tyson Helton, who was the offensive coordinator for Tennessee last year (and was offensive coordinator under Jeff Brohm when the Hilltoppers won the 2015 Conference USA title). Helton inherits a WKU team that finished 3-9 last season, which included a crushing loss to FCS Maine, but also included back-to-back wins over UTEP and Louisiana Tech to close the regular season. The Brohm/Helton offenses were really explosive in 2015, and WKU hopes to recapture that with some talented receivers in Lucky Jackson (563 yards, four touchdowns) and Quin Jernigan (426 yards, one touchdown). Ben Holt returns as a leader for the Hilltoppers on defense; the senior linebacker posted 116 total tackles last year, 45 more than the next leading returning tackler (defensive back Ta’Corian Darden).
at Florida State (Saturday, Sept. 21)
One season in, and head coach Willie Taggart already finds himself on the hot seat in Tallahassee. The Seminoles ended last year at 5-7, snapping a 36-year bowl streak. The 2019 schedule isn’t any easier for them, as they have an out-of-conference slate that includes Boise State and a trip to rival Florida. They’ll lose Brian Burns and A.J. Westbrook on defense, but leading tackler Hamsah Nasirildeen and Stanford Samuels III do return. If Florida State is to return to a bowl game, they’ll need better production from their offensive line. The Seminoles allowed 36 sacks last season and were near the bottom in every major offensive line category, hindering both their passing game and running attack. Deondre Francois, Cam Akers and Tamorion Terry are all talented players that are returning to Tallahassee (although James Blackman may not, as he has reportedly entered his name in the transfer portal). But if the offensive line doesn’t improve, there is a real possibility Florida State could miss on a bowl game yet again.
v. Boston College (Saturday, Oct. 5)
Boston College is an interesting team. The Eagles have built their identity in recent years by playing smashmouth football and tough defense. They do get running back A.J. Dillon back for another season, and sophomore David Bailey should be a solid complementary piece behind him. Quarterback Anthony Brown returns and should be an efficient player, as long as he doesn’t get caught with the turnover bug. But the Eagles will have to replace a lot of key players on defense. Defensive ends Wyatt Ray and Zach Allen, along with linebacker Connor Strachan, both graduate, and defensive back Hamp Cheevers declared for the NFL Draft.
at Wake Forest (Saturday, Oct. 12)
Wake Forest returns in 2019 with a favorable schedule that could see them in another bowl game. Their out-of-conference games include Utah State, Rice, FCS Elon and North Carolina (I’m absolutely serious about this). They also get some winnable games at home this year, among them being Duke, Florida State, and Louisville.
Personnel wise, Sam Hartman returns after a season-ending injury last year, but Jamie Newman performed admirably as his replacement late last season. The big losses for Wake Forest will be on offense though, as Matt Colburn graduates and Greg Dortch declared for the NFL Draft. Cade Carney does return, and that is big for the Deacons as he had 1,005 yards last season. Essang Bassey and Justin Strnad return as Wake’s top playmakers on defense.
v. Clemson (Saturday, Oct. 19)
For the fourth time since their arrival in the ACC, Louisville will have a chance to play the defending national champions, hosting Clemson at Cardinal Stadium. The Tigers became the first college football team to go 15-0 in a season since 1897, and will likely be the favorite to repeat as champions in 2019. Clemson’s offense will see a lot of its key contributors returning, including quarterback Trevor Lawrence (3,280 yards, 32 touchdowns & four interceptions) and running back Travis Etienne (1,658 yards, 24 touchdowns), both of whom will likely be favorites for the 2019 Heisman Trophy. The Tigers will lose a lot in their front seven, but Xavier Thomas could emerge as their next star on the defensive line. A.J. Terrell, Isaiah Simmons and K’Von Wallace will also return as veterans from last year’s championship squad. Despite their losses, expect Clemson’s defense to continue to be at the top as long as Brent Venables is there.
v. Virginia (Saturday, Oct. 26)
Quarterback Bryce Perkins returns and could be in-line to be the best quarterback not named Trevor Lawrence in the ACC. But he will be missing two key playmakers on offense in Jordan Ellis and Olamide Zaccheaus, both whom have graduated. Hasise DuBois and Joe Reed will have to step up next year and emerge as playmakers for Virginia to take the next step in a wide open ACC Coastal division. Virginia also loses its top defensive playmaker in Juan Thornhill, as well as Chris Peace who led the team in sacks. Charles Snowden (61 tackles, 7.5 TFL, 2.5 sacks) and Jordan Mack (66 tackles, six tackles for loss) return as Virginia’s top defensive players from last year.
at Miami (FL) (Saturday, Nov. 9th)
The Hurricanes now have a third head coach since 2014, with Mark Richt unexpectedly retiring after a disappointing 2018 season. Now taking over is Manny Diaz, who became one of college football’s hottest coordinators under Richt at Miami.
The big storyline will be who emerges as Miami’s starting quarterback next year. N’Kosi Perry does return, but the Hurricanes got a nice postseason gift when former Ohio State quarterback Tate Martell announced he was transferring to The U. Martell hopes to graduate from Ohio State in the spring, which would give him immediate eligibility and be a huge jolt for the Hurricanes offense.
With Diaz returning to Miami, the Hurricanes will also see many of its stars on defense return for 2019, including All-ACC First Team linebacker Shaq Quarterman. Cornerback Trajan Bandy also returns as a top defensive back for the Hurricanes, but defensive end Joe Jackson and running back Travis Homer declared for the NFL Draft.
at North Carolina State (Saturday, Nov. 16)
Among all the teams in the ACC Atlantic, N.C. State may be the team that has the most questions and the most to replace. The Wolfpack will have to replace a ton of production on offense, losing a 1,000-yard rusher (Reggie Gallaspy), two 1,000-yard receivers (Kelvin Harmon & Jacobi Meyers) and quarterback Ryan Finley, who was one of the best in the ACC over the last three seasons. Additionally, head coach Dave Doeren is replacing two of his top assistants; offensive coordinator Eli Drinkwitz leaves Raleigh to take over as head coach at Appalachian State, while offensive line coach Dwayne Ledford is now an assistant under Satterfield at Louisville. It will likely be a three-way battle between Matthew McKay, incoming freshman Ty Evans, and JUCO transfer Bailey Hockman for the quarterback spot. Thayer Thomas and Emeka Emezie return as top receivers for the Wolfpack, and Ricky Person should be their top running back. Germaine Pratt’s departure on defense will leave the Wolfpack looking for a big-time playmaker on that side of the ball.
v. Syracuse (Saturday, Nov. 23)
The Orange emerged as the breakthrough team in the ACC Atlantic last season, finishing with a ten-win season and came closer than anybody to upsetting Clemson in Death Valley. While Dino Babers is staying in Syracuse, he’ll have to transition from the Eric Dungey era, who graduates after a productive career in upstate New York. Likely to inherit his spot is sophomore Tommy DeVito, who was the #13 pro-style quarterback in the 2017 class (per 247sports.com). The big question for Syracuse’s offense will be if they can get reliable production in the running game; Moe Neal does return (869 yards, five touchdowns), but part of the offense’s overall success last year was because Dungey was an effective scrambler. The Syracuse defense, however, should be solid. The Orange return two players who had ten sacks each (Kendall Coleman & Alton Robinson) and Andre Cisco, who had a terrific freshman season.
at Kentucky (Saturday, Nov. 30)
As usual, the Cards and the ‘Cats will do battle in Lexington to close out the 2019 regular season.
Kentucky enters 2019 having to replace a ton of key contributors on defense. Their most notable loss will be Josh Allen, who leaves UK as perhaps its best defensive player of all-time. The Wildcats also lose basically its entire secondary to graduation, along with linebacker Jordan Jones. Kash Daniel does return and will likely be the centerpiece of a rebuilding Kentucky defense.
On offense, the biggest loss for Kentucky will undoubtedly be running back Benny Snell, who declared for the NFL Draft. A.J. Rose should be their starter next year and could be a solid piece in the Kentucky offense. Lynn Bowden also returns, and should be Kentucky’s most reliable receiver by a landslide. Terry Wilson does return, but he will need to step up his play if Kentucky is to keep their momentum in a very competitive SEC. This season will be a true test of Mark Stoops’ better recruiting in recent years, as he looks to replace the massive amount of production both Snell and Allen had.