Best Case/Worst Case: Louisville
First, two quick promotional items. I'll be making my ESPN News debut this afternoon, appearing with colleagues Heather Dinich and Chris Low. Really looking forward to it. And tomorrow, as part of our countdown to college football's kickoff, I'll be hosting a live chat on all things Big East at 2:30 p.m. Please join me with your questions.
Now, let's get back to the Best Case/Worst Case scenarios, with Louisville on the clock. (And as always, the truth is in the middle).
Steve Kragthorpe has weeded out all the bad apples, and new coordinators Jeff Brohm (on offense) and Ron English (defense) eliminated the silly mistakes and game slippage that plagued the Cardinals last year. Hunter Cantwell is as good as advertised at quarterback, while receivers Scott Long (broken foot) and Trent Guy (gunshot wound) both return to the field quickly to give him dependable targets. The running game is among the best in the Big East with Bilal Powell, Brock Bolen and Victor Anderson. The perilous depth situation remains unexploited as Louisville finally gets some good luck in the health department. An opening win over Kentucky gets the fan base back on board, and the Cardinals start out 5-1 thanks to an easy first-half schedule that features five home games. They beat Syracuse on the road, Cincinnati at home and pull off an upset somewhere else to finish 8-4. No one's ever been happier to accept a Meineke Car Care Bowl invitation.
The talent drain -- more than 20 scholarship underclassmen have left since last spring -- takes too much of a toll. Long and Guy never fully recover, allowing teams to stack the box and stop Louisville's rushing attack. The defense, which has no experience at linebacker, gives up to 30 points a game. An opening loss to Kentucky brings out fresh boos at Papa John's Cardinal Stadium as the fans spend another year debating if Kragthorpe is the right guy for the job. Injuries mount. Negative momentum leads to early home losses against Kansas State and Connecticut, and the back half of the schedule turns ugly. Louisville finishes 4-8 and leaves fans wondering how the program will dig out of this mess.