2012 record: 11-2
2012 conference record: 5-2
Returning starters: Offense: 7; defense: 10; kicker/punter: 2
2012 statistical leaders (*returners)
Rushing: Wright (824 yards, 10 TDs)
Passing: Bridgewater* (287-of-419 for 3,718 yards, 27 TDs, 8 INTs)
Receiving: Copeland* (628 yards, 2 TDs)
Tackles: Brown* (109)
Sacks: Lorenzo Mauldin* (4.5)
Interceptions: Terell Floyd* (3)
1. Bridgewater. The reigning conference player of the year has only improved. Bridgewater, who has already been showered in preseason Heisman hype and declarations that he's the No. 1 pick in next year's draft, was nearly flawless in the spring game and is primed for another standout campaign.
2. Running back. Wright is not enrolled in classes and Perry is still recovering from an ACL tear suffered late last season, but Dominique Brown shouldered the load and impressed. After sitting out last year with an MCL tear, the converted quarterback rushed for 79 yards and two scores on just nine carries in the spring game. He had four touchdowns in a scrimmage one week earlier, too.
3. Receiving corps. The Cardinals led the league in passing offense last season and should only improve this season, as Bridgewater gets his three favorite receivers back in Copeland, Parker and Eli Rogers. If Perry comes back at full strength, the combination of him and Brown as threats in the backfield should allow the Cardinals to become even more efficient through the air after a season in which they finished 24th nationally in passing offense.
1. Key holes on O-line. Replacing Kupper and Benavides is no easy task, especially given their positions. Shoring up Bridgewater's blind side was the No. 1 goal this spring. Abraham Garcia looks to have the inside track at left tackle but has zero career starts, while Kamran Joyer has moved from guard to center.
2. Pass rushing. The Cardinals had trouble getting to the quarterback last season, ranking 78th nationally in sacks. Returning 10 starters on defense and, more importantly, the entire two-deep of its front seven, should be enough to turn that weakness into a strength heading into 2013.
3. Managing expectations. Louisville will be favored in every game in 2013, barring anything unforeseen. The program has never received this kind of attention before, and it has a schedule that will seemingly make anything but a 12-0 regular-season record a disappointment. Head coach Charlie Strong's challenge is keeping this team focused and away from the outside noise that has trailed it ever since its rout of Florida in the Sugar Bowl.