Photo courtesy of Adam Creech/Louisville athletics
Louisville football had a very up-and-down season in 2020.
With the COVID-19 pandemic ripping through the nation and an offense that was sporadic all season, the Cardinals finished up Scott Satterfield’s second season with a 4-7 record. It was a disappointing follow-up to a bowl-winning season in 2019.
Now, an offseason which has seen the coronavirus start to finally recede will be the first “normal” season in college football in what seems like an era. Louisville will start off its season on Labor Day against Lane Kiffin and his Ole Miss Rebels.
We at Fifth Quarter will give our schedule prediction for the Cards. Here’s a look at what to expect in 2021:
vs. Ole Miss (Sept. 6, Atlanta)
The Cardinals will start their season off in the jewel of the South for a Monday prime time game against Ole Miss. Kiffin returns most of a squad that topped No. 7 Indiana in the Outback Bowl. The Cards, while returning a few key players, still lose a lot of defensive starters and a key running back while having a thin quarterback room.
Prediction: Ole Miss 42, Louisville 24
vs. Eastern Kentucky (Sept. 11)
Louisville returns home on a short week and gets a turnaround win against a respectable, but smaller state school.
Prediction: Louisville 38, Eastern Kentucky 10
vs. UCF (Sept. 17)
The Golden Knights return one of the best offensive and defensive line units in the AAC as well as an excellent quarterback in Dillon Gabriel. UCF has also done work via the transfer portal to add key pieces on both sides of the ball. The teams will go up and down the field, but the Knights will do it just a little bit better.
Prediction: UCF 38, Louisville 31
at Florida State (Sept. 25)
The Seminoles will return 17 starters after a 3-6 season, with 10 of those players being on offense. The Seminoles are still in a rebuilding phase under Mike Norvell, but seem to be trending upwards. FSU has a chance to get close to .500 this year. While Louisville was only one win better than the Seminoles last year, the Cards still clipped the Noles by 32 points in what may have been Louisville’s best win last season. Expect Louisville to emerge again, but in a much closer game this time around.
Prediction: Louisville 28, Florida State 25
at Wake Forest (Oct. 2)
Wake Forest returns almost all of its starters after a bowl appearance last season, including the entire offense. That is very rare and very good news for Wake fans and coaches. Wake Forest capped last year at 4-5 with a Mayo Bowl loss to Big Ten power Wisconsin. Clemson and Louisville were the only two conference foes to beat the Demon Deacons by more than a field goal. Be that as it may, Louisville will be replacing key players in the wide receivers room, running back room, and across the defense. Having this game in Winston-Salem will make a difference as the Demon Deacons win a close contest.
Prediction: Wake Forest 29, Louisville 27
vs. Virginia (Oct. 9)
The Cavaliers will be looking to replace almost half of their defensive starters as well as several offensive starters. They will be returning their quarterback Brennan Armstrong, who took over for Bryce Perkins after Perkins left for the NFL following the 2019 season. A home game against a rebuilding Virginia defense bodes well for the Cardinals.
Prediction: Louisville 37, Virginia 26
vs. Boston College (Oct. 23)
Boston College will be one of the most watched teams in the ACC this season. Returning 18 of 21 starters, including star quarterback Phil Jurkovec, the Eagles are coming off a solid 6-5 season with four loses coming to AP-top 25 teams. Last season’s Boston College team was also able to outduel Louisville in a 34-27 decision in Chestnut Hill. Look for Boston College to get another one against the Cards and compete for second place in the Atlantic division.
Prediction: Boston College 35, Louisville 24
at NC State (Oct. 30)
North Carolina State will be returning 20 starters from a team that went 7-3 and earned a Gator Bowl bid last season. The Wolfpack had three preseason first-team All-ACC selections, including running back Zonovan Knight. NC State seems to be one of the more experienced and talented teams coming into the 2021 season. Couple that with a Halloween weekend trip to Raleigh and the Wolfpack will be tough for Louisville to beat.
Prediction: NC State 31, Louisville 27
vs. Clemson (Nov. 6)
Is Dabo Swinney still Clemson’s head coach? Check. Is the new quarterback a 5-star super recruit? Check. Is Clemson still filled with enough 5-stars to get to the “most wanted” level record on Grand Theft Auto? Check.
Prediction: Clemson 48, Louisville 19
vs. Syracuse (Nov. 13)
Syracuse may return 19 out of 21 starters on defense, but the Orange are still coming off a one-win season where they ranked in the bottom of every major FBS category on both sides of the ball. A home game in “The Ville” gives the Cards a much-needed win to keep bowl hopes alive.
Prediction: Louisville 38, Syracuse 14
at Duke (Nov. 18)
The Blue Devils, unlike the Orange, return only 10 starters from last season — five on each side. That same team won only two games last season. David Cutcliffe has done a nice job in Durham, but the Cardinals should be starting to click late in the season. Louisville wraps up ACC play with a road victory.
Prediction: Louisville 34, Duke 17
vs. Kentucky (Nov. 27)
Kentucky has taken advantage of Louisville’s rebuilding over the last several years with two straight wins in the series. Kentucky however, will return only 12 starters from a 2020 team that won just one more game than the Cards. The Wildcats went 5-6 following a bowl victory. Kentucky had some issues on offense last season, and will likely have a new face starting at quarterback in Penn State transfer Will Levis. Fans in red will get to see the Governor’s Cup come back to Louisville as the Cardinals clinch a bowl berth.
Prediction: Louisville 28, Kentucky 23
Overall Record: 6-6
ACC Record: 4-4
Bowl: Gasparilla Bowl vs. Missouri