If ever a school benefited from a change of scenery, it’s Louisville.
The Cardinals leave underrated Conference USA for the Big East, a conference created in the 1980s to keep college basketball players from leaving the inner cities.
Coach Bobby Petrino has taken the ball left by coaching icon Howard Schnellenberger and run with it, going 20-5 in his two-year reign. Last year, the Cardinals were 11-1 and just three points from a perfect season. More importantly, U of L was 10-2 against the spread.
This year the Cards return 15 starters to a program that specializes in playing freshman. Petrino has played 14 freshmen in his two seasons, including sophomore QB Brian Brohm. With Stefan Lefors graduating, Brohn has plenty of experience and should have no trouble leading one of the nation’s most explosive offenses.
Seven times last year the Cards scored more than 52 points, including back-to-back weeks of 65 and 70. Miami of Florida, which edged the Cards 41-38, left the Big East for the ACC. That created the opening Louisville needed to bolt from C-USA to the media powered Big East.
Las Vegas books haven’t quite gotten caught up in the Louisville magic, rating the Cardinals 35-1 as of last week at Caesars Palace.
But the more you look at this Louisville squad, the more it resembles last year’s Utah squad that went unbeaten and reached the Fiesta Bowl.
The Palms projects Louisville for 9Â½ wins. College Football News.com says the Cards are good for 11 wins, with the lone loss coming at home against Pittsburgh.
This year’s schedule is tougher (eight of the 11 opponents finished .500 or better) beginning with the traditional rivalry game Sept. 3 at Kentucky. The Cards have won five of the last six matchups, including 28-0 last year as a 9Â½-point favorite.
We see three major obstacles toward 11-0, the biggest an Oct. 15 clash with West Virginia in Morgantown.
The others are Pittsburgh (Nov. 3 at home) at the season finale (Dec. 3) at upstart Connecticut.
The Big East wanted Louisville for its basketball tradition. Little did league officials know, they were also getting the heir-apparent to Miami’s dominance.