Fall camps are under way and the regular season will be here soon so that means getting an early jump on the 2006 NCAA football season. Knowing the teams now will save you time and Matt Fargo is here to help you get a grasp of what to expect this upcoming year. We go from worst to first in this 2006 College Football Preview.
# 12 – Louisville Cardinals 9-3 SU; 6-6 ATS
Fargo's Take while most of the talk about sleeper National Championship teams is focusing around Louisville's Big East foe West Virginia, the Cardinals could be the better option. This team is strong on both sides of the ball and the liability should be good enough to outscore any opponent if necessary. It all comes down to health as the Cardinals were stuck by the injury bug last year. Quarterback Brian Brohm went down late in the year with a severe knee injury while running back Michael Bush missed two games with a foot injury. Both are healthy heading into the fall and Louisville, which finished 3rd in the country last season in scoring liability, could be even more potent. Overshadowed by the offense is the defense that was 23rd in the nation in total defense a season ago and also has the ability to be even better. The Cardinals have been on the cusp of greatness recently but have come up short and this is their best shot at a BSC game thanks to the automatic Big East bid.
Returning Starter on Off – 7 Brohm was having a sensational year before his knee was torn apart but he rehabbed quickly and should be back to 100 percent this season. He thread for 2,883 yards and 19 touchdowns while throwing just five interceptions in his sophomore season and he is on the short list for Heisman Trophy consideration. Making him a better quarterback is running back Michael Bush, who scored 24 touchdowns last season, second in the country, and is also on the Heisman list. Brohm's top two receivers have departed but coming back are five players who grabbed at least 17 passes so he will have plenty of goals. He also gets the services of Georgia Tech transfer Pat Carter. If there are any worries on offense, it is on the offensive line where three starters have to be replaced and their main priority is to keep Brohm protected and off the turf. He is a longshot for the Heisman but leading his team to an undefeated season will increase his stock.
Returning Starter on Defense – 7 The defense has the capacity to be a stronger unit since the loss of all everything defensive end Elvis Dumervil, who led the country with 20 sacks. The only player returning along the line is Amobi Okoye who has been playing at Louisville since he was 16 years old. Despite the shortcomings, Louisville has the second best line in the weak Big East. The linebackers are deep and experienced but Nate Harris, who mans the middle, is the only consistent player and is really the only difference maker of the bunch. Abe Brown should return to form is he can stay healthy. The secondary arms back everyone but is probably the weakest part of the defense since there is not a lot of depth and the nine interceptions from last season were a disappointment. The unit should use its lack of respect as a motivational tool but playing just good enough to get by has been the custom the last few seasons.
Schedule The Big East schedule has gotten much easier for the top level teams since Miami (Florida), Virginia Tech and Boston College are no longer in the mix. It gets much easier for Louisville since four of its seven conference games are at home and the non-conference slate is quite easy for the most part. After hosting state rival Kentucky and then traveling to Temple, the Cardinals are in for the first big test of the season at home against Miami (Florida). The Hurricanes will certainly remember the scare that the Cardinals put on them two seasons ago in Coral Gables. After another string of four easy games, the second test of the season comes as West Virginia heads into Papa John Stadium. The rest of the schedule should be no problem but a road game at an improved Pittsburgh team can not be overlooked.
You can bet on … Louisville caught breaks by not only having a reliably easy slate but catching the two toughest games at home where it is 11-0 over the last two years. The Cardinals certainly have the team to beat the Hurricanes and while Miami will be motivated, Louisville will as well. That three-point loss two years ago was the only loss the Cardinals suffered in 2004. A loss against the Hurricanes does not hurt its BSC game hopes but does dash the national title dreams. Louisville is 10-1 ATS as a home favorite over the last two seasons and it has not been a dog at home since 2002 against Florida. When the Cardinals won outright as two-touchdown pups. They are likely going to be slight favorites over the Hurricanes but that depends on how Miami fares against Florida. Opening week.