Louisville’s near comeback against Auburn shows glimpses of how good the Cardinals could be this year.

Louisville v Purdue

With the score 24-0 in the 3rd quarter, all I could think was that Louisville had been outscored 61-14 in their last 6 1/2 quarters against top 15 SEC teams. Louisville lost 37-14 to Georgia in their bowl game, and again today it appeared the current Cardinals simply weren’t equipped to play with teams of that caliber. Where ACC teams like Clemson, Florida State, and Georgia Tech had multiple wins against top ranked SEC competition in recent years, Louisville looked over-matched at the line of scrimmage.

I was ready to write an obituary on Louisville. The program had promise, but how the offensive line needed a complete overhaul to compete at the highest level. The quarterback situation was shaky at best, and that after a year at Louisville, Petrino still hadn’t got the offense truly off the ground. In an inspired 1 1/2 quarters, my impression of what this Louisville team could do this year all changed.

Auburn was controlling the line of scrimmage with their front 4 on defense. Petrino’s 1st half playcalling was suspect at best, and then a switch went off for Louisville.  Lamar Jackson came in at QB, repeatedly broke down the Auburn defense with his legs. The Louisville defense held Auburn to 14 second half points. They were good enough to hold the Tigers to just over 300 yards total for the game I don’t consider Auburn a national title contender, but that’s a good top 10-20 team, and I doubt you’ll see them often held to that low of a yardage total this year.

What Louisville showed were glimpses of how good that could be by the end of the year. Jackson gives Petrino another option at quarterback. Reggie Bonnafon is the better passer, but Jackson has better mobility and a fearless style.

The offensive line is not a finished product, but they went from being dominated upfront to at least holding their own in the second half. The Cardinals were helped with Carl Lawson, the Tigers best defensive lineman missing much of the second half so the enthusiasm should be tempered. I still think that group played better in the 2nd half.  The defense has some ability. I think they could be a really nasty unit by the end of the year.

Louisville shouldn’t take this as a moral victory. They made a lot of mistakes especially early and dug themselves a huge early hole that they couldn’t climb all the way out of. Predictions of them winning the ACC, I believe are a stretch. Like Clemson last year that started the year 1-2, and went on to a 10-3 season though, I can see a 2-3, or 3-2, start due to a tough opening scheduling then a lot of wins for Louisville.

Here’s my prediction, the Cardinals will be a top 25 team by the end of the year.

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