I skipped Louisville in the schedule analysis rotation last week to avoid too much concentration of Cardinals content. As promised, I'm now doubling back to check on the slate facing the defending Beef 'O'Brady's Bowl champs:
Nonconference opponents (with 2010 records):
Sept. 1: Murray State (6-5)
Sept. 9: Florida International (7-6)
Sept. 17: at Kentucky (6-7)
Oct. 1: Marshall (5-7)
Oct. 8: at North Carolina (8-5)
Big East home games
Oct. 21: Rutgers
Oct. 29: Syracuse
Nov. 12: Pittsburgh
Big East road games
Oct. 15: at Cincinnati
Nov. 5: at West Virginia
Nov. 19: at Connecticut
Nov. 25: at South Florida
Gut-check time: The Cardinals close with three of their last four on the road in league play, including the final two at Connecticut and at South Florida. A young team will have to hope it has grown up by the time the finishing kick begins.
Trap game: Florida International. Mario Cristobal's team is feisty, as it showed last year in nearly beating Rutgers and winning its first bowl game. This game also comes a week before the rivalry showdown at Kentucky, so if the Cardinals are looking ahead, they could be in trouble.
Snoozer: Murray State. It shouldn't be as bad as the last time these two met, when Louisville won 73-10 in the first game of the Steve Kragthorpe regime. But it shouldn't be very interesting, either.
Good luck with that: Like Rutgers, Louisville has just one bye week, and it comes after Week 3. So the Cardinals will play their final nine games in a row and won't have any breaks in conference play.
Upset watch: North Carolina will likely be favored at home, but Louisville will have had a few weeks to break in its new starting quarterback and figure things out. The Tar Heels are losing a load of talent to the NFL. North Carolina may regret moving this one off opening weekend, when they would have played a much greener version of the Cardinals.
Final analysis: There's little that's easy about this schedule for Charlie Strong's second year. The two toughest nonconference games are on the road, the Big East road schedule looks daunting and the team will have to stay healthy without a second bye. But there also don't appear to be any truly unwinnable games on the schedule, either, as there might not be a preseason Top 25 team on this slate. If the Cardinals take care of business, especially at home, they can get back to a bowl game.