This used to be a fun space. One where each year I would note how few times my annual prediction had been off by more than one game, and how when it had, it was typically because of some totally unforeseeable program collapse.
Now, it has become a humbling place.
I write to you on this eve of Cardinal football coming off of back-to-back years in which my preseason prediction was off by four or more games. It was one thing in 2018 when I echoed the masses with a 7-5 call before what might have been the worst U of L football season in history. There’s only mild shame in that. The real embarrassment stems from 12 months ago, where my concerns over depth, quarterback play and a nearly complete staff transition led me to forecast a 3-9 campaign.
That did not happen. As a result, my predicted win total was more than one victory shy of the actual win total for the first time since I started doing this all the way back in 2006. This also marked the first time where I’ve been more than two games off on a preseason prediction and the head coach did not get fired at the end of the season.
I don’t know what to say. I’m ... I’m sorry.
It’s time for a bounce-back, but before we get to that, here’s the full rundown of 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
2018: PREDICTED: 7-5; ACTUAL: 2-10
2019: PREDICTED: 3-9; ACTUAL 7-5
Now let’s dive into 2020 ...
GAME ONE: vs. Western Kentucky
A year ago, this game represented Micale Cunningham’s first start at quarterback, and the Cardinal offense was far from the well-oiled machine we saw for much of October and November. Still, TuTu Atwell went nuts and U of L hung 38 points on the ‘Tops in a 17-point win.
I think the concerns about dealing with DeAngelo Malone and a strong WKU rush attack and our inexperienced specialists are all justified. I also think that all those concerns will result in is a few anxious moments in the first half. Louisville is too skilled offensively and should be improved enough defensively to keep Saturday from being a night where we’re all terrified deep into the second half.
CC Prediction: Louisville 38, Western Kentucky 17
GAME TWO: vs. Miami
This is the only opponent on the schedule where we have the benefit of having seen them play a game already. After a slow start, the ‘Canes looked good against UAB Thursday night. Their 337 yards on the ground were the second most they’ve had against an FBS opponent since joining the ACC in 2004. Houston QB transfer D’Eriq King is a stud, and exactly the type of player the Cardinal D has struggled mightily against in recent years.
The Cards start ACC play on an extremely sour note as Miami gets the better of them for a second straight year. The U’s fans also declare the program “back” for a 75th straight season, but they ultimately go on to finish in the middle of the pack in the conference.
CC Prediction: Miami 31, Louisville 27
GAME THREE: At Pittsburgh
Pretty much every national game-by-game prediction that I’ve seen for Louisville this preseason has had the Cards losing this game. Pitt is always one of the most unpredictable teams in college football, a tradition which could be amplified by the bizarro nature of this year and this season.
Louisville was fantastic in bounce-back scenarios last season, never losing games in back-to-back weeks. They refocus and roll the Panthers as an underdog, temporarily putting to bed the murmurs that this team may have been overrated heading into the season.
CC Prediction: Louisville 42, Pittsburgh 24
GAME FOUR: At Georgia Tech
The 66-31 loss two years ago may have represented the lowest point for the program over the last decade. The coaching staff may be different, but a lot of the guys on this year’s roster were on the field or the sidelines for that beatdown. I’m sure they haven’t forgotten how it felt.
CC Prediction: Louisville 56, Georgia Tech 17
GAME FIVE: At Notre Dame
Keith has been hyping this up as an upset special since before the pandemic hit. His confidence has me confident that this will be a dogfight, but I can’t pull the trigger on an upset that would throw Louisville right back into the national rankings and the ACC title race.
CC Prediction: Notre Dame 30, Louisville 24
GAME SIX: vs. Florida State
We’re 2-4 against these guys since joining the ACC, and we could easily be 5-1. That’s annoying. FSU will be “back” at some point in the near future, but not this year, and not on this Saturday.
CC Prediction: Louisville 31, Florida State 20
GAME SEVEN: vs. Virginia Tech
It’s still very weird that this is the first time we’re playing these guys since joining the conference, but whatever, this should be a fun one. Louisville fans have started talking themselves back into the possibility of the Cards getting into the top two in the ACC standings and playing Clemson for the conference title. That talk dies for good after a soul-crushing loss U of L fans feel like their team should have had.
CC Prediction: Virginia Tech 28, Louisville 27
GAME EIGHT: At Virginia
The bounce-back boys are at it again and take out their frustrations from the previous week on Virginia Tech’s biggest rival.
CC Prediction: Louisville 34, Virginia 17
GAME NINE: vs. Syracuse
The first of back-to-back Friday night tilts feels like another Louisville mauling of Syracuse. If you take out the 2018 disaster season, U of L has won its five ACC meetings against Syracuse by a combined score of 243-95.
CC Prediction: Louisville 49, Syracuse 20
GAME TEN: At Boston College
It’s a rebuild year for Boston College, but it’s also late November in Chestnut Hill. This one feels like it has the potential to be all sorts of ugly.
CC Prediction: Louisville 19, Boston College 13
GAME ELEVEN: vs. Wake Forest
A December home football game at Cardinal Stadium against the Deacs. It’s hard to foresee this one being as fun as the game played in Winston-Salem a year ago, but here’s hoping for another shootout to end the regular season on a high note.
CC Prediction: Louisville 52, Wake Forest 42
FINAL RECORD: 8-3 (7-3)
Here’s hoping this is overly cautious by a game or two (or three).