As we countdown the days until the 2019 season kicks off why not take a moment and address five of the biggest questions each and every team is facing heading into the 2019 season. I think the majority of us anticipate a far better performance this year than last but how exactly is that going to happen?
1. Who is the most important player on the offensive side of the football this season?
The easy and obvious answer for questions like this is to just point to the quarterback and move on. While I hate to take the easy way out, I honestly think that is the truthful answer in 2019. This team goes how the quarterback goes, period. Satterfield seems to be looking at Jawon Pass to lead the charge out of the gate this season and while many fans have a sour taste about his play last year it’s becoming painfully obvious that it’s nearly impossible to pull any definitive information from the 2-10 nightmare that was 2018. I like to think Jawon will return to the player who was being targeted by numerous elite schools out of high school for his ability to stand tall in the pocket, use his legs when necessary, and most importantly make the simple throws to move the ball downfield. The new Satterfield offense should simplify things quite a bit and we will hopefully see a new, more confident man behind center.
2. Who is the most important player on the defensive side of the football this season?
There are plenty of choices on this side of the football since last year Louisville was statistically one of the worst to ever do it. In my opinion, the change starts up front, down in the trenches. Teams became so comfortable running the football last year that they threw the balanced approach out the window and just ran the ball down the Cards throats, begging them to try and stop it. Spoiler alert…they did not. If the play along the line does not improve the rushing defense will once again prove to be the downfall of a defense starving to be superior once again.
Coach Bryan Brown will bring over his 3-4 approach from Appalachian State this year which relies heavily on the man in the middle, the nose tackle. Brown will have a couple guys he can look to but the lion share of the load will fall on senior G.G. Robinson. In the new scheme Robinson will be asked to fill both gaps up front and generate pressure up the middle. If Robinson, who I think can excel in this new role, plays up to his potential and sets the standard up front expect the rest of the line to follow suit. A rejuvenated D-line that can stop the run and create pressure behind the line will do wonders for the entire defense.
3. What will be the biggest challenge facing the team from last season to this season?
Confidence. I don’t care if you’re playing pee-wee ball or if you’re a starter in the NFL. Coming off a season with a .167 winning percentage hurts your soul. You can claim they mailed it in, they gave up, the coaches stopped trying, etc but that 2-10 doesn’t go away. It stays on the books forever. FOR-EV-VER. So how do these young men, many of whom where a part of the team in the hunt for a playoff spot just two seasons ago, respond? The easy part is getting hyped up and screaming about culture changes in the offseason. The new staff is doing excellent getting buy in during the dog days of summer but have they planted themselves deep enough into the subconscious of these young men that if they get punched in the face Week 1 against Notre Dame they don’t fold up like a cheap lawn chair? I believe in this staff and I think seeing them practice the family first, positive environment means more than just a few simple video clips or photo ops. These guys are the real deal, and even if the wins are just as tough to come by in 2019 the attitude and confidence level will be completely different on a day to day basis inside the facility. That change means something, and often that attitude can translate into a winning mentality. Hitting the reset button sounds simple but rebuilding confidence in 18-22 year olds is a season long process that is just now getting started.
4. What is the most important game on the schedule in 2019?
Coming off a 2-10 season every game is important, but the tipping point for me will come early in the year, a contest alongside a team that the Cards should have a three game winning streak against, the Seminoles of Florida State. FSU is still fighting to get back to relevancy in the ACC and nationally after a couple of tough years and are vulnerable to get beat at home by a Louisville team likely coming off two straight wins. Imagine how different the season will feel if the Cards are sitting at 3-1 when we turn the calendar to October versus 2-2. With Vegas projecting 4 wins it’d be pretty impressive for the staff and this team to already be 75% there after just four games. I think 3-1 feels like “bowl eligible” talk is in the air and spirits are still high around the program moving onto another couple winnable contests against BC and Wake. A 2-2 record on the other hand is likely business as usual, what many expected, and the excitement may begin to dwindle only a month into the year. If the Cards can take care of business against the in-state schools and then pull off a tough road win at Doak, we could be talking about an incredible turnaround year one of the Satterfield era.
5. A win/loss prediction for the 2019 slate?
I’ve changed my thoughts on this more frequently than the weather changes here in Louisville. Some days I’m searching for hotel rooms during bowl season and other days I’m trying to find that ever elusive third win. With less than two weeks until kickoff I’m going to submit my well thought out, no second guesses, without question, final answer….until I inevitably change my mind.
2019 Louisville Football Record Prediction: 5-7 (3-5)