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2021 Louisville college football preview: Cardinals enter season with endless possibilities

Louisville regressed record-wise in 2020, and the program is an interesting spot with some of the comments made by head coach Scott Satterfield. This year could go many different ways for the Cardinals.

NCAA Football: Louisville at Boston College Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

The Louisville Cardinals took a step back in the 2020 season with a 4-7 record, and it is difficult to get a good read on where this program is at the moment. Scott Satterfield immediately injected life into the team his first year in 2019 for a program that needed a full culture rebuild and resulted an eight-win season.

A rough go of it in Year 2 is not the end of the world especially in a pandemic-impacted season, but Satterfield’s relationship with the fan base took a bit of a hit. He interviewed for the South Carolina head coaching job without telling the athletic director, and admitted he would likely take interviews with North Carolina and NC State if they asked. Sometimes honesty isn’t the way to go, and Louisville finds themselves in a unique spot as a program because of it.

The 2021 Louisville football season is a bit of a wild card as this year could go in many different directions, and there will be plenty of eyeballs on Satterfield in Year 3.

2020 Season Review

  • 4-7, 3-7 ACC (12th)
  • Lost first four ACC games, never won a game away from home

2021 Talent

2021 247Sports Composite Ranking: 39
ESPN Returning Production: 61% overall (93rd): 73% offense (61st), 50% defense (114th)
Returning Talent Index: Negative, 13th in ACC
Returning starters: 7/11 offense, 6/11 defense
* All rankings out of 130 FBS schools

Key Player

Quarterback: Malik Cunningham (Junior)

Malik Cunningham regressed a bit in 2020 and will need to cut down on the turnovers moving forward. He completed 64.1% of his passes for 20 touchdowns, but he threw 12 interceptions and lost three fumbles through 11 games. He is best at short and medium routes and will keep defenses honest with his running ability. Cunningham rushed for 609 yards and seven touchdowns last season.

Offense (non-QB): TE Marshon Ford (Sophomore)

Louisville is losing plenty of talent at the pass catcher spots, and tight end Marshon Ford figures to be a beneficiary of more targets his way. Wide receivers Tutu Atwell and Dez Fitzpatrick have moved on, and Cunningham will need a familiar face to throw to. A former walk-on, Ford caught 25 passes last season for 309 yards with six touchdowns and is among the top tight ends in the ACC.

Defense: CB Kei’Trel Clark (Sophomore)

After playing a season at Liberty, Kei’Trel Clark put together a big-time season with Louisville in 2020. He excelled in man coverage, but this is a secondary that is forced to replace three starters. Depth in that area could be a major concern, but if Clark can produce the way he did last season, that is one less concern the Cardinals coaching staff will have in their secondary.

Team Stats Projections

2020 SP+ final: 35th overall: 15th offense, 75th defense, 118th special teams
2021 SP+ projection: 47th overall: 16th offense, 93rd defense

Odds from DraftKings Sportsbook

To win national title: +50000
To win ACC: +2500
Win total: 7 (Over +120, Under -152)

2020 Against The Spread: 5-5-1
2020 Point Total: Over 7-4-0

2021 Louisville Schedule

2021 Louisville Cardinals schedule

Date Opponent Time (ET)/TV Spread/Total
Date Opponent Time (ET)/TV Spread/Total
Monday, Sep. 6 vs. Ole Miss (Mercedes-Benz Stadium, ATL) 8:00 p.m./ESPN UL +7.5
Saturday, Sep. 11 vs. Eastern Kentucky 7:00 p.m./ACCN N/A
Friday, Sep. 17 vs. UCF 7:30 p.m./ESPN N/A
Saturday, Sep. 25 at Florida State TBA N/A
Saturday, Oct. 2 at Wake Forest TBA N/A
Saturday, Oct. 9 vs. Virginia TBA N/A
Saturday, Oct. 16 Open TBA N/A
Saturday, Oct. 23 vs. Boston College TBA N/A
Saturday, Oct. 30 at NC State TBA N/A
Saturday, Nov. 6 vs. Clemson TBA N/A
Saturday, Nov. 13 vs. Syracuse TBA N/A
Thursday, Nov. 18 at Duke 7:30 p.m./ESPN N/A
Saturday, Nov. 27 vs. Kentucky TBA N/A