Is 2013 the year someone finally knocks off the SEC as the kings of college football?
Teams like Stanford, Ohio State and Oklahoma State, among others, believe so.
It is Louisville, however, that is in the best position to make a run at the national title. The Cardinals return 53 players from last year's team, including 16 starters. Junior quarterback Teddy Bridgewater is a strong contender for the Heisman Trophy and leads an offense that will score a lot of points.
Bridgewater's coming-out party was the Sugar Bowl win over Florida where he threw for 266 yards and two touchdowns. Before that game, many fans had never seen Bridgewater play, but his strong arm and pinpoint accuracy made him an early favorite to be selected No. 1 overall in the 2014 NFL draft.
Bridgewater isn't the only reason the nation is paying more attention to the Cardinals. Head coach Charlie Strong is entering his fourth year at the helm of the Cardinals and is one of the better defensive-minded coaches in all of college football. In addition to that, Strong is a tireless recruiter with strong ties to the talent-rich state of Florida.
We often hear of the phrase, 'you are only as good as your last game,' and that is true. In Louisville's case, that is especially good. They beat a very good Florida team that was No. 5 nationally in total defense last season. And they made it look easy.
So, before we crown Louisville and hand them a spot in the 2013 national title game, let's keep in mind this team did lose to Syracuse and Connecticut last year. It took a season-ending win over Rutgers for the Cardinals to even get the Big East's automatic BCS berth.
Speaking of that automatic berth, the Cardinals won't be so lucky in 2013. The dissolution of the Big East cost the Cardinals a chance at an automatic BCS berth, but it was a good long-term move for Louisville. They will become a full-fledged member of the ACC in 2014. This year, they will be members of the newly-formed American Athletic Conference.
The roster of AAC doesn't exactly inspire confidence. Joining Louisville in the conference is Rutgers, Cincinnati, Connecticut, Central Florida, SMU, Temple, South Florida, Memphis and Houston. Fortunately for Louisville, this is a one-year stop on the way to the ACC.
There is a positive to playing in the AAC this season, though. The Cardinals will face an extremely easy schedule where they will be favored in every game. They should be ranked high enough early in the season where if teams ahead of them lose, they could move up each week. That is, of course, if they win every game like they should.
Let's say, for instance, that the Cardinals enter the 2013 season ranked No. 11. Several SEC teams, at least three, will be ranked ahead of them, which is good for the Cardinals. The hope is that the stiff competition of the SEC will help move Louisville up as teams like South Carolina, Texas A&M and Georgia take turns beating one another.
Hoping for the misfortune of others is great and all, but you first have to take care of your business. Louisville doesn't have any major roadblocks standing in their way. When UConn or Cincinnati are the toughest games on your schedule, there's no reason why you shouldn't be 12-0 come early December.
One game that could give the Cardinals trouble is Louisville. They play their in-state rivals Week 3 in Lexington. The Wildcats have traditionally been the doormats of the SEC, however, new coach Mark Stoops has Kentucky fans thinking big. What better way for Stoops to ingratiate himself with 'Big Blue Nation' then to ruin Louisville's hopes for a perfect season?
Can Louisville go undefeated? Sure, the bigger question is will there schedule will be held against them if they do indeed go undefeated.
There is also the matter of if they can actually beat a team like Alabama with everything on the line. Yes, they beat Florida last year in impressive fashion. However, the Gators were playing for nothing. Things would be quite different this time around.
History often tells us when we go over each team's schedule, week-by-week, and say they should go undefeated, they often don't. Louisville appears to have what it takes to buck that trend.
If the Cardinals go undefeated, Bridgewater will be in the driver's seat for the Heisman. And the Cardinals will be everyone's favorite team come January as they look to break the SEC's streak of seven consecutive national titles.