The NFL draft and spring practices are behind us, meaning that another phase of the college football offseason is upon us. (It also means we are one step closer to the first college football Saturday of 2013 … 123 days, to be exact. But who's counting?)
Spring ball offered us a fresh look at teams and their question marks as they prepare for the upcoming season, and on Monday our Mark Schlabach put forth his latest evaluations in releasing a revised too-early Top 25. Big East fans will like who they see awfully close to the top.
Louisville has jumped four spots from Schlabach's latest rankings, ending up at No. 4.
Previous rank: 8
Is there a hotter athletics department in the country than Louisville right now? The Cardinals are coming off a 33-23 upset of Florida in the Allstate Sugar Bowl, a men's basketball national championship and a trip to the women's basketball Final Four. With 19 starters coming back in football, including Heisman Trophy candidate Teddy Bridgewater, the Cardinals are more than capable of duplicating last season's success. Bridgewater picked up where he left off in the spring game, completing 16 of 20 passes for 214 yards. Louisville has added more weapons around him, including Florida transfers Robert Clark and Gerald Christian and tailback Dominique Brown, who sat out last season with a knee injury. The Cardinals might not be the country's fourth-best team based on talent and depth, but which opponent is capable of unseating them in the depleted Big East? Louisville plays a soft nonconference schedule (Ohio, Eastern Kentucky, Kentucky and Florida International) and its Big East road games will be played at Temple, South Florida, Connecticut and Cincinnati.
Schlabach bases these rankings on potential paths to perfect regular season. Using that logic, it is hard to argue against the Cardinals' ranking, as they are the reigning Big East champion and the clear-cut favorite in what will be the American Athletic Conference in 2013, led by a preseason Heisman Trophy candidate in Bridgewater.
Louisville will likely be heavily-favored in each of its 12 games.
The top spot in Schlabach's rankings belongs to Ohio State, which jumped Alabama following this spring season. Again, given the criteria, it is hard to see the Buckeyes stumbling given what they bring back in Urban Meyer's second season (and given their perfect 2012 campaign).
Oregon comes in at No. 3, while Stanford rounds out the Top 5.
No other Big East teams are in Schlabach's Top 25.