number five were the Louisville Cardinals.
5. Louisville (23)
Why They Will: If you are looking for a team on the rise, look no further than Louisville. Sure, the Cardinals record is just 14-12 in the last two years, but the program is on the right track under coach Charlie Strong. Louisville has also played a handful of young players over the last two seasons, including sophomore quarterback Teddy Bridgewater. As a freshman last year, Bridgewater threw for 2,129 yards and 14 touchdowns. He should only get better in 2012, especially with a talented group of young receivers returning. The defense should rank among the best in the conference, and the incoming recruiting class will bolster the depth and talent on each level, particularly at linebacker with Nick Dawson and Keith Brown. The Cardinals have some tricky games on the schedule but should be favored in each contest.
Why They Won’t: Even if the Cardinals can navigate through the season with one loss or an undefeated record, it’s a longshot they would climb high enough in the BCS standings to play for the national title. The Big East does not have a strong reputation right now, which will hurt Louisville in terms of national respect. In order for the Cardinals to make a run at the national title game, they need some help from their Big East foes. Getting Pittsburgh, Rutgers, and South Florida to make a run into the top 25 would help the conference’s reputation and give Louisville a boost in schedule strength. The biggest personnel issue for Louisville is youth. Eleven sophomores could earn starting spots in the two-deep, while there’s only six seniors expected to see significant snaps in 2012.
This comes just a few days after Fox Sports ranked Louisville #14 in the country, rather than the borderline top 25 position most regard the team as. It is easy to see why the coaching staff is working so hard to keep the team humble and hungry when pieces like this begin to surface. I believe the #14 position Fox gave us is definitely a little high for right now. We definitely have the opportunity to end up around there if we have the season most are expecting, but let’s pump the brakes for now. As for possible national title aspirations, while it is a great compliment to the team and staff, I am not sure the college football landscape would ever allow it. Even if we go 12-0 and blow everyone out, it will be tough to bump an SEC, Big 10, or Big 12 team from a spot in the game. It is a nice thought, though.
Hopefully the team will remain level-headed as pieces like this begin to come out. Yet, if they do not, I am pretty sure the coaching staff will take care of any inflated egos.