By Conner Farrell —
In August 2015, news broke that football would play the Alabama Crimson Tide to start the 2018 season. At the time, Alabama had already won three national titles and would tack on two more in 2015 and 2017.
The Cards are no stranger to high profile teams like the Tide. They played at least one team ranked in the top three in each of the last four seasons, along with six SEC schools during the same span.
However, this match-up undoubtedly has more of an edge.
U of L is returning from a season in which they failed to meet expectations because of injuries, poor play on the defensive side and, at times, questionable play-calling.
Through it all, they still managed to win eight games. Playing against the defending national champions will show what Louisville is made of moving forward.
A new defense, a new quarterback and a strong core of skill position players are the key components of football in 2018.
The defense is managed by Brian VanGordner, who jumped ship to Louisville after a season in Stillwater as defensive assistant for Oklahoma St. VanGordner pairs with head coach Bobby Petrino for the second time after the two coached together in the NFL for the Atlanta Falcons.
A make-or-break situation rests on the defense, following a year in which the group bore much of the blame for 2017’s disappointments.
The quarterback torch is passed to redshirt sophomore Jawon “Puma” Pass.
At 6-foot-4, Puma is the prototypical passer that Petrino has had success with in previous stints. With the ability to throw the ball virtually anywhere on the field and a knack for making plays on the run, the Cardinals will have a pass-first mentality that has been missing in prior seasons.
Finally, a talented core of wide receivers makes the transition for Pass much easier. Senior Jaylen Smith, junior Seth Dawkins and redshirt sophomore Dez Fitzpatrick combined for 20 touchdown receptions in 2017.
Louisville’s bout with Alabama on September 1 will be a strong indicator for the 2018 season will shake out. Along with ACC foes like Florida State, NC State and Clemson waiting on the schedule, the Cardinals have an exciting year ahead of them.
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Photo by Nancy Hanner / The Louisville Cardinal