LOUISVILLE, Ky. - College football is almost back. In less than three weeks, Louisville will kick off their 2022 season in upstate New York when they take on Syracuse on Saturday, Sept. 3
With the offseason nearly in the rearview mirror, here are our three bold predictions regarding the Cardinals' upcoming season:
1. Malik Cunningham will be a Heisman Trophy finalist.
Had Louisville had a little more success in the win/loss column last year, the prediction would not be so bold, and it might have already come true. Cunningham completed 62.0 percent of his passes for 2,941 yards and 19 touchdowns to only six interceptions, while also rushing for 1,031 yards and 20 touchdowns. His 20 rushing scores ranked fourth nationally, his 305.5 yards per game was good for 14th, and he finished just one passing touchdown shy of joining the exclusive 20/20 club - a club where four of the eight members are Heisman Trophy winners. Cunningham didn't start to get a lot of national recognition until really late into the 2021 season due to a deep crop of ACC quarterbacks and Louisville's struggles as a team, but has been generating a lot of "dark horse" Heisman buzz in the offseason. A deep running back room, and increased efforts by Cunningham to run less could decrease his overall productivity, but if he puts up comparable numbers to last year and Louisville wins more, this could be a possibility.
2. Yasir Abdullah will break Louisville's single-season sack record.
All Yasir Abdullah did last year was put up the most productive season from a Louisville pass rusher in in nearly a decade. He tallied 10.0 sacks, the most by a UofL defender since Devonte Fields had 10.5 in 2015, while also logging 17.5 tackles for loss, which was good for seventh-most in a single season in Louisville history. He opted to bypass the NFL, and not only is he arguably Louisville's top defender, he's one of the top returning sack artists in the ACC. Breaking the program's single-season sack record won't be easy, considering that mark is nearly double what Abdullah had last year (20.0 by Elvis Dumervil back in 2005). But with his ability to penetrate past offensive lines with incredible closing speed, it could be possible. Another mark, one that could be a little more attainable, is the single-season TFL record of 23.0 set by Dewayne White in 2001.
3. Louisville will win two of their final three games (at Clemson, vs. NC State, at Kentucky).
The predication wholly depends on how Louisville starts their season. If they start the year 6-0 or 5-1, and demonstrate that they do have the ability to close out games unlike last year, then this becomes a lot more plausible. Still, the second half of Louisville's schedule is not easy, as they'll have to host Pitt and Wake Forest before getting to their final three games, which are the hardest of the season. The most winnable game here is at home vs. NC State, but offense will have a lot to deal with considering the Wolfpack have one of the best defenses in the ACC. Then the Cardinals have to go on the road vs. the other two. Clemson has shown vulnerability because of their quarterback situation, but that defense is still loaded with five-star talent, and Death Valley is one of the toughest places to play at in college football. Then there's Louisville's recent struggles and Kentucky, which are already well documented. But if they can finish games, once again sport a top-25 offense, and - at minimum - boast a defense that finishes in the top half of the ACC, winning two of three down the stretch can be done.
(Photo of Malik Cunningham: Jerome Miron - USA TODAY Sports)
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