2022 Louisville Cardinals Preview

by Matt Fargo

Louisville Cardinals

2021-22 Season Record 6-7 (4-4 ACC Atlantic) - 6-7-0 ATS - 5-8-0 O/U

Returning Starters

Offense - 8
Defense - 7

Overview

Louisville has never been considered a football powerhouse but it has had its moments with five double-digit win seasons since the turn of the century but none since 2013 and only one in back-to-back years. 18 winning seasons compared to just six losing ones over the last 24 years is a very consistent run but there has been no continuity to stay at a high level for a prolonged period. The Cardinals have played in four different conferences and have made coaching changes five times over this stretch and that is difficult to get a flow going and after two straight losing seasons, head coach Scott Satterfield needs to turn it around. He has led them to two bowl games in his three years but in a not so elite ACC, this team should be more dominant. That season could be here and the decade long run of single win campaigns could be broken with 15 starters back and one of the most experienced teams in the conference and in the country.

Offense

Louisville had the same scenario last season with eight starters back on offense and the Cardinals produced as they finished No. 21 in total offense and No. 39 in scoring offense and are loaded once again. Quarterback Malik Cunningham is in his third season as the full time starter and over the last two years, he has completed 63 percent of his passes for 5,351 yards with 38 touchdowns and 18 interceptions while rushing for over 1,600 yards. This could be his best one yet coming up if he can cut down those picks and gel with the new receiving core that includes a pair of incoming transfers along with Braden Smith who played only four games last season. Four starters on the offensive line are back that allowed only 20 sacks last season and helped produce the No. 20 rushing offense in the land. Cunningham was the leading rusher but Jalen Mitchell returns after rushing for 722 yards with quality depth behind him.

Defense

This is the area that Louisville needs to improve as it brings back seven starters for a second straight season after finishing No. 84 in total defense and No. 76 in scoring defense. One area that has vastly improved is the rushing defense that has gotten better in each of the last four seasons and has cut down the total yards by 120 ypg since 2018. Still, the 4.4 ypc allowed last season which was outside the top 50 needs to get better and should behind a strong front seven that includes two disruptive playmakers on each level and two players who missed a lot of time last season after great 2020 campaigns. Louisville finished with 33 sacks which was No. 45 in the country and is led by linebacker Yassir Abdullah who had 10 of those sacks to go along with 60 tackles. The passing defense was not good despite the solid pass rush but it should improve led by safety Kenderick Duncan who had 76 tackles and a slew of excellent corners.

2022 Season Outlook

This is not a make or break season for Satterfield but this is probably his best team since arriving at Louisville and playing in the loaded ACC Atlantic including Clemson, NC State and Wake Forest, all of which are projected for 8.5 or more wins, will be a challenge. Louisville is ranked No. 14 in the country in returning production so there is no reason for a breakout year and to be able to compete with the big boys. The schedule is an odd one with ACC and nonconference games spread around throughout as the Cardinals open the season with a conference game at Syracuse followed by a tough matchup at UCF. They then host Florida St. and USF before a pair of winnable road games at Boston College and Virginia. While Clemson is on the road, NC State and Wake Forest are at home. The O/U win total is 6.5 which seems low but the backend of the schedule is loaded with six teams that won at least nine games last season.  

All photographic images used for editorial content have been licensed from the Associated Press.

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