1. Can U of L handle the big hype?
For the first time in Charlie Strong's four seasons as the Cardinals' head coach, U of L enters 2013 with massive national-level hype. The Cardinals are ranked a best-in-school-history No. 9 in the nation in the USA Today coaches poll. At least one national broadcaster, Tim Brando, is picking U of L to play Ohio State in the BCS Championship Game. Coming off its dismantling of Florida in last season's Sugar Bowl and facing a schedule that is facial-tissue soft (see below), anything other than an undefeated regular season will be judged a disappointment for Louisville.
2. Can the Cards overcome what is, on paper, a horridly weak schedule?
It's a shame that Louisville's 2013 football team cannot play U of L's 2014 schedule. In its first year in the Atlantic Coast Conference next fall, the Cardinals will play Florida State, Clemson, Miami and Notre Dame. Alas, the 2013 Cards are stuck in a lame-duck season in the football remnants of the old Big East — which is now known as the American Athletic Conference. How weak is U of L's competition projected to be? In the Athlon pre-season rankings, the only foes on the Cardinals' schedule in the Top 50 are Cincinnati (No. 35) and Rutgers (No. 47). Six of the Cards' foes are ranked No. 83 or lower.
3. Can Teddy Bridgewater make a legit bid for the Heisman?
After ending a stellar sophomore season (Big East Offensive Player of the Year) by earning Sugar Bowl MVP honors with his dicing of Florida (20-of-32 passing for 266 yards and two touchdowns), Teddy Bridgewater should be in prime position this year to make a run for the Heisman Trophy. The big question for the junior from Miami is whether the negative perception of the quality of Louisville's schedule will undermine his bid for college football's most prestigious individual honor.
4. Will returning to an all-out-blitzing style pay off for the Louisville defense?
After Louisville's sack total dropped from 39 (2010) to 33 (2011) to 22 (last season), defensive coordinator Vance Bedford is promising to bring back an all-out blitzing approach in 2013. "Last year, we kind of played to the strength of our offense with Teddy Bridgewater," said Bedford. "This year, we are going back to old school. You drop a hat, we are going to blitz you."
5. Are there enough footballs to go around for an offense stacked with playmakers?
Louisville has a bounty of offensive weapons. Returning wide receiver standouts DeVante Parker and Damian Copeland will be joined by transfers Robert Clark (Florida) and Matt Milton (Tennessee), plus incoming freshman James Quick, a four-star recruit from Trinity. That does not even account for the new tight end, Florida transfer Gerald Christian. At running back, Louisville returns Senorise Perry and Corvin Lamb from last season and gets 2011 standout Dominique Brown back from the injury that sidelined him all last season. As if that weren't enough, the Cards added former Auburn star Michael Dyer, the Most Outstanding Player of the BCS championship game for the 2010 season. Can the Cardinals possibly keep so many playmakers happy?
Mark Story: (859) 231-3230. Twitter: @markcstory. Blog: Markstory.bloginky.com.