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    Photo courtesy University of Louisville Football Facebook Page
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    Last season there was one big question surrounding the University of Louisville football team.

    It could be danced around in many different ways, but basically it boiled down to this: Who was more responsible for the Cardinals’ success, former coach Charlie Strong (after all he didn’t leave the cupboard bare, especially on defense, when he bolted for Texas) or Bobby Petrino?

    The truth is we may never truly know the answer. However, we may come closer to finding out Saturday afternoon when U of L opens its 2015 season against sixth-ranked Auburn in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game in Atlanta. This Louisville team should have more of the fingerprints of Petrino and his staff on it, especially after the Cards suffered heavy losses off a team that went 9-4 (including 5-3 in its inaugural season in the Atlantic Coast Conference) last year. With a plethora of players returning from Strong’s final team, Petrino’s second first season at U of L went as many expected. The Cards were in every game in the regular season (although the postseason bowl game was a much different story) and won almost every game they should have (with the exception of at Virginia) in spite of key injuries to star wide receiver DeVante Parker and two starting quarterbacks (Will Gardner and Reggie Bonnafon).

    Generally speaking the biggest surprises last year were that the Louisville offense wasn’t as explosive as it had been during Petrino’s first go-round at the school, some of which was obviously due to the injuries at QB, and that the defense led the way.  

    Will that continue to be the case this season? We’ll soon find out. One thing we know for sure is that there will be plenty of new faces on both sides of the ball.

    U of L lost six starters on offense, including three linemen and Parker, who was a first-round NFL Draft pick, so their replacements better be ready. The good news is that Brandon Radcliff (last year’s leading rusher) and wideout James Quick (last year’s third-leading receiver who will be looked upon to be more of a playmaker this season) are back. Also returning are quarterbacks Gardner, Bonnafon and Kyle Bolin, each of whom started at least one game last season. One will start against Auburn, although we probably won’t know which one until the first series of the game (something I suggested a couple of weeks ago, a few days before another local writer did).

    Meanwhile, Louisville lost seven starters on defense, including FBS interception leader Gerod Holliman. The Cards are hoping that with the return of defensive end Sheldon Rankins and linebacker James Burgess (both of whom were named to the preseason All-ACC team), and the addition of a trio of transfers, they’ll be able to reload, not rebuild. The new players are linebacker Devonte Fields, who is high risk/high reward after he was dismissed from TCU, and defensive backs Shaq Wiggins and Josh Harvey-Clemons (who is best known for his part in the Immaculate Deflection).

    Can U of L succeed with so many new starters? Can the offense be better than it was last year? Can the starting quarterback, whoever it is, stay healthy? Can the Cards find a big playmaker on offense? Can the defense be as good as it was last season? Can they make their sixth straight bowl game?

    These are just several of the key queries facing Louisville as it begins this season, while also trying to put the big question of last season to bed.   

    Photo courtesy University of Louisville Football Facebook Page

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