The Louisville Cardinals had an excellent season in 2012, going 11-2 with a 33-23 win over Florida in the Sugar Bowl. Expectations are high entering the 2013 season, as the Cardinals have a legit Heisman Trophy candidate in quarterback Teddy Bridgewater and have been mentioned as an under-the-radar national title contender.
Playing a relatively weak schedule in the re-organized American Athletic Conference won’t do the Cardinals any favors on a national scale, as they only face four teams that had more than five wins last season.
Louisville will likely have to run the table in the regular season, and win most of their games decisively, to have a chance to play in the BCS National Championship Game. Can they do it? Let’s take a closer look at the Cardinals’ 2013 schedule.
Aug. 31- vs. Ohio
Ohio won nine games in 2012, and have been one of the best teams in the MAC for a number of years now. A solid victory at home to start the season will be vital for Louisville.
Sept. 7- vs. Eastern Kentucky
The Colonels are a solid FCS program, but the Cardinals should be able to get their backups some playing time in this game.
Sept. 14 @ Kentucky
The Wildcats are not one of the top teams in the SEC, but a decisive win over a team in a top conference can only be good for the Cardinals.
Sept. 21- vs. Florida International
The Cardinals should have no trouble handling the Panthers.
Oct. 5 @ Temple
The Cardinals beat the Owls 45-17 last season, and a similar result should come this year.
Oct. 10 vs. Rutgers
This is one of the most challenging games on Louisville’s schedule, on a Thursday night against a Scarlet Knights’ squad that won nine games in 2012. A decisive win, or a disappointing loss, could serve as the turning point in the Cardinals’ season.
Oct. 18- vs. UCF
The Knights won 10 games last season, but it remains to be seen if they can carry that success to a new conference after being in Conference USA. This could be a high-scoring game, but the Cardinals should come away with a victory.
Oct. 26. @ South Florida
The Bulls won just three games last season, but they did give the Cardinals a test, losing 27-25 in October. A loss here would be the death knell to any national title hopes Louisville has.
Nov. 8 @ Connecticut
The Huskies went to Louisville and beat the Cardinals 23-20 in overtime late last season, which was the highlight of a five-win campaign. Look for the Cardinals to get some revenge.
Nov. 16- vs. Houston
The Cougars have a top signal caller of their own in David Piland, so this game could be a high-scoring affair and help cement Bridgewater’s Heisman candidacy.
Nov. 23 vs. Memphis
The Tigers ended 2012 on a three-game winning streak, giving them a total of four wins. The Cardinals should roll here.
Dec. 5 @ Cincinnati
This game could determine who earns the BCS bowl bid out of the American Athletic Conference, or cement Louisville’s case for a spot in the national title game.
Brad Berreman is a contributing writer at Rant Sports.com. Follow him on Twitter @bradberreman24.