As I grow older I have come to realize that life is a series of beginnings and endings. I believe that much of this is to prepare us for some of life’s greatest challenges. We tasted the bitterness that came along with saying good-bye to some great players and a great coaching staff during the off season. But on Monday night Cardinal fans will get to taste the sweetness of new beginnings. Monday night starts a new era of Louisville football, and one that will surely be full of success.
So here we are Cardinal fans heading into a new season. We made it through our transition year and now will embark on what will be a game changer for the Louisville football program. We won’t have to wait weeks to play our first ACC opponent. The Cards will play Miami on Monday to kick off what will surely be the first of many battles between these teams. This game has so many story-lines. From the Godfather of both programs Howard Schnellenberger who went 41-16 at Miami, winning the ’83 national title and went 54-56-2 at Louisville, winning the ’91 Fiesta Bowl.
To what has previously been named one of the top recruiting battles in the country, and with the current coaching/player’s connection between these schools this one has got it all. There will be 14 Louisville players from the Miami-Dade county area featured in this game, and 30 Louisville players from the sunshine state all together. Some of these guys have played against each other since they were little kids. This just adds extra fuel to an already heated rivalry that has developed between these teams.
Our Cardinals have walked away with a win the last two times out against the Hurricanes. A win in 2006, when the Cards beat the visiting Canes 31-7, and a win just a few months ago in the Russell Athletic Bowl 36-9. Miami leads the all-time series, 9-2-1.
This game is really a tough one to break down as both of these teams have several new variables to consider. Both of these teams lost some very good players but also have some great ones back. Something that may come into play though is how well the Cardinals have learned the new offensive and defensive schemes. Mind you we do have an offensive genius on our sideline.
-At the QB spot both teams have a question mark. I do think Gardner has the edge even though he’s learning a new offensive scheme. Brad Kaaya by all accounts is a very good player, but starting a true freshman on the road in what will be a very hostile crowd will be tough.
-Both QB’s will have the luxury of handing the ball off to some very talented running backs. I think this part of the game gives a slight edge to Miami. With Dyer not 100% Dom Brown and LJ Scott will have to carry more of the load. Miami has Joe Yearby, powerful sophomore Gus Edwards, and Duke Johnson who will return for another year. Johnson has rushed for 16 touchdowns in his first two seasons, despite missing the last five games of the year in 2013. Cards defense will have their hands full with this group.
-Both QB’s will also have some great talent to throw it to as well. Listed by ESPN as the potential #1 and #2 WR units in the ACC. Both teams lost their leading receiver from last season. Our Cardinals return four of their top five leading receivers when factoring in TE Gerald Christian. Even with Parker out we still have plenty of weapons. Look for Eli Rodgers, Matt Milton, Kai De La Cruz and James Quick to fill the void.
The Hurricanes return five of their top six receivers from 2013. Stacy Coley will be their top guy, Clive Walford a very good tight end, Phillip Dorsett, Herb Waters and Beau Sandland will be among some players the Cardinals secondary will have to stop.
-One of the biggest keys to a football game is what happens in the trenches especially on the O-Line. We’ll have to see what unit wants it more Monday night, but I like our group with veterans John Miller and Jake Smith leading the way. Miami lost a few of their O-Linemen but they still have a very talented group also. Left tackle Ereck Flowers, left guard Jon Feliciano and center Shane McDermott will hold down their side.
-On defense the Cardinals will have to adjust to life without some very good players especially in the secondary. And had to learn a whole new system. The Cards return 5 starters from the 2013 defense. Specifically, the defensive line has only 1 returning starter, Lorenzo Mauldin, who finished with 9.5 sacks last year. Charles Gaines and Terell Floyd are back in the secondary, the duo combined for 9 interceptions in 2013. The defensive newcomers will need to step up.
The Miami defense has the athletes but have lacked discipline on this side of the ball. Denzel Perryman, the leading tackler from last year, will return along with CB Tracy Howard, Anthony Chickillo and Al-Quadin Muhammad. The Hurricanes hope to create some pressure up front as 7 of their top 8 sack leaders from 2013 return.
-Special teams could also play a big role in this game if things play out evenly in the other aspects. And I really like our kick and punt return guys Charles Gaines, Corvin Lamb James Quick, Kai De La Cruz and Eli Rogers. Turnovers could also decide a game that is even all the way around.
I’d be a blind homer if I were to say definitively that Louisville was going to win this game. It really is a close match-up when looking at it from a unbiased perspective. I do know definitively that it is one of the most anticipated opening games in Louisville’s football history, and maybe the most. And I do think the home crowd will help our Cards. I think that the home field advantage may be what determines a close one. I know I’m looking forward to it.
The Beak Prediction:
Louisville 31 Miami 28