- Andrea Adelson, ESPN Staff Writer
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We continue our look at Big East title chances for each team in the league. Up today: Louisville. The Cardinals had a surprise season in Year 1 under Charlie Strong. Can they win a league title in Year 2?
Why Louisville will win the Big East
1. Dynamic duo. The Cardinals lose Bilal Powell, who led the team with 1,405 yards and was a huge reason they made it to and won their bowl game. But Victor Anderson and Jeremy Wright have the potential to step right in and keep up the pace in the running game. Anderson showed promise in the spring game after injuries held him back the past few years. He is ultra motivated to stay healthy going into his senior year. Wright missed the spring with an injury but should be fine for fall practice.
2. Young studs. No question Louisville is going to be young this season. But there is talent to be had. Much is expected of quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, who enrolled in school in January and participated with the team in the spring. He will definitely play this season. Eli Rogers and DeVante Parker could step right in at receiver; Gerod Holliman in the defensive backfield. Let's not forget redshirt freshman receiver Michaelee Harris and the return of Hakeem Smith at safety.
3. Front seven. The strength of the defense should be the front seven, where five of seven starters return. That includes defensive end Greg Scruggs, one of the hardest workers on the team poised for a big season. There is finally depth on the defensive line, with eight players returning who have had some starting experience. That could help make up for questions in the secondary.
Why Louisville won't win the Big East
1. Secondary. Perhaps the biggest question mark on the entire team is in the secondary. Smith made second team All-Big East as a freshman last season, but aside from him, there are some unknowns at cornerback with Johnny Patrick and Bobby Burns gone. Will cornerback Darius Ashley remain on the team after his second DUI arrest? Will Charles Gaines remain at cornerback after playing some there in the spring? Will Holliman be able to contribute immediately? Plenty has to be resolved before the season starts.
2. Offensive line. If you aren't good up front, then you aren't going to have much of a chance. The Cardinals return just one starter on the line in center Mario Benavides, who missed the spring with injuries. Powell had plenty of success because of his talent, but also because he had a veteran unit blocking for him. Offensive coordinator Mike Sanford said depth is such a problem that Louisville might have to use true freshmen in the rotation this season. If there's any position where you don't want to see true freshmen, it's generally the offensive line.
3. Inexperience. It's well documented that Louisville lost 25 seniors from a team that won the Beef 'O' Brady's Bowl last season. There is no question there is young talent, and that could be a plus. But it could also hurt when it comes to experience playing in big games and pressure-packed situations. Good teams thrive with veteran leadership, and that was the case last season. How is the youth movement going to serve Louisville?