Football

Louisville football’s high early preseason praise is questionable

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A national college football reporter has given Louisville football some early preseason love.

It was a disaster season for Louisville football in 2020 after the program earned a lot of praise in the preseason. In what was considered to be a “throw away” year for many programs throughout the college football landscape, Louisville was champing at the bit to include themselves in that discussion.

The Cardinals finished 4-7 overall on the year and won just three ACC games after certain outlets had projected them to be dark horse ACC contenders to compete with Clemson. They fell way short of that mark and were very fortunate to avoid the College Football Playoff participants.

Despite their sputtering season,  Brett McMurphy, a national college football reporter for Stadium, believes the Cardinals will be much improved in 2021.

No – the Cardinals are not ranked No. 1 in the nation despite what you may have been hoping for. In fact, they’re not in McMurphy’s Top 25 either. But they did land in his “top 40 teams” grouping where they were the sixth team listed following the list of 25.

That logic would lead you to believe McMurphy thinks they are the 31st best team in the country heading in to next season.

Any praise that the program can get at this time is good for the program. But do they actually deserve it?

For anyone that saw the team’s performance on the field each game, the answer would probably be a hard “no” with no disrespect to the team behind that sentiment. The Cardinals just simply were not good in 2020 where they turned it over as much as anyone in college football and there were clearly some leaking holes on the team.

Louisville does return their entire offensive line as well as 2020 starting quarterback Malik Cunningham from a week ago which is some of the most important continuity that a team can have entering a new season.

The defense returns key starters and contributors from last season including linebackers Monty Montgomery and CJ Avery as well as All-ACC corner Kei’Trel Clark.

Key losses on both sides of the ball include running back Javian Hawkins, receivers Tutu Atwell and Dez Fitzpatrick. Key defensive losses include nose tackle Jared Goldwire, linebackers, Rodjay Burns and Dorian Etheridge, and safeties Isaiah Hayes and Russ Yeast.

There is plenty of talent for the defense to work with while the offense will have to replace multiple NFL-caliber players at the skill positions. The key to the 2021 season will be cleaning up messy turnovers that derailed many performances for the Cardinals. That responsibility lies mostly on fifth year quarterback Malik Cunningham.

A step up for him could prove to be a deciding factor in 2021 and – if Cunningham proves a step up is possible – Louisville could be primed for an ACC run.

It is difficult to project a team coming off of a 4-7 team to push for top-25 contention this season.

Cunningham has the talent to take the next step. But he will be working with a brand new skill position group.

The nation is feeling good about Louisville football early on. With a few things solved, the early praise just might come true.

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