posted on Friday, August 31, 2012 at 11:30 AM
We’re previewing the 2012 college football season with the help of SBNation.com. Today, we talk with Mark from Big East Coast Bias about Louisville's BCS chances.
Louisville enters the 2012 season with aspirations to go to the postseason for the third consecutive year. The schedule sets up favorably, as they host preseason favorites USF at home (Oct. 20). The Cardinals hit the road to Southern Miss, Pittsburgh and Rutgers in 2012.
2011 Record: 7-6
2011 Bowl: Belk Bowl vs. NC State, 24-31
2012 Bowl Projections:
Orlando Bowl History: N/A
Describe the 2011 season in two words.
The best two words to describe the Louisville season are "up" and "down". And this is true from virtually every conceivable angle. Louisville started the year with an extremely young team and lost an early home game to FIU. They followed it up by ending a four year losing streak to rival Kentucky and winning in Lexington for the first time since 2005. They followed the huge win at Kentucky by coming home and losing to Marshall. Later in the season, the Cardinals beat West Virginia in Morgantown only to return home and lose to a struggling Pitt team that didn't even have Ray Graham. The up and down nature of the season reflects the fact that Louisville's roster was filled with talented players, all of which are extremely young.
What’s the biggest change that Charlie Strong has made to this team behind the scenes since he hit campus in 2010?
There have been myriad changes since he's arrived, but the biggest change behind the scenes has been the attention to off the field matters. He inherited a program that was entering into scholarship reductions because of academic performance. The football APR has increased every year under his leadership and should be above the minimum required for postseason performance after this year. This year, before the season started, former assistant coach Larry Slade, who now has an advisory role in the football office, organized a job fair and mock interview process for the players. That sort of thing behind the scenes has endeared him to the players and community both.
On paper, what looks like the toughest game this season?
It's tough to say. On paper, it could be one of three. The September game against North Carolina will be a tough game. North Carolina is probably a borderline top 25 team like Louisville and last year's game in Chapel Hill was a tough game where Teddy Bridgewater took a pounding. South Florida will also be a difficult game because of BJ Daniels' playmaking ability both running and throwing. But, I think the game at Rutgers to close the season will be the toughest. Louisville squeezed by Rutgers 16-14 last year at home. This year, Rutgers returns the best defense in the conference, signed a tremendous recruiting class, and the game is at Rutgers on just five days rest. It could be like 2006 all over again for Louisville.
What element of Teddy Bridgewater’s game needs to develop the most in 2012?
Decision-making in the pocket. Teddy threw a couple of bad interceptions at critical times down the stretch last year that, at the time, you could just tell were a symptom of being so inexperienced. If he is more comfortable with the offense under coordinator Shawn Watson, and is more comfortable standing in the pocket facing a pass rush, the Louisville offense should more consistently sustain drives and put up more points.
Best case/worst case scenario for the postseason.
The best case scenario for Louisville is to win the Big East and avoid the clunker losses at home that have plagued the team under Charlie Strong. A 10-2 or 9-3 season with a BCS Bowl bid would be outstanding. Worst case scenario would be Louisville having a repeat of last season by winning games and playing with focus against the best teams on the schedule, only to lose to games most would expect them to win and finish in the 7-5 neighborhood again.
One Question In The Other Direction
If it's something you're entitled to share, I'd love to know what the reputation of Louisville is as a traveling fan base and how much that plays into the bowl's decision making?
Answered by Director of Digital Media Matt Repchak
I can’t say we have a firm hold on the ‘Ville’s reputation as a fanbase, since we’ve never hosted them. We do get a lot of glowing reports from our selection committee members who have been on campus for games in the previous two seasons, and we’ve certainly heard a lot about their excitement levels (both from the fans themselves and others. That passion does play a role in the final decision – if we’re looking at teams with comparable records and one fanbase is far and away more enthusiastic about our reps and the possibility of playing in Orlando, that will come up in the room on Selection Sunday. Most of the decision rests on whether the team is deserving, but a great group of fans can definitely tip the scales in the right situation.