Louisville football has a playmaking quarterback and reinforcements via the transfer portal. Will Scott Satterfield take his team to new heights?

All eyes in the ACC may be on Clemson and Miami, but there’s a team waiting in the wings hoping to shake things up in the conference title race.

The Lousiville Cardinals challenged opponents in 2021. The next step is to hand out some upsets and prove they’re on the rise.

The Cardinals come into the season ranked No. 43 in the FanSided Top 50 Preseason Rankings.

Can they prove that’s too low?

Louisville Football 2021 season in review

After a disappointing 2020 campaign, Lousiville bounced back into bowl eligibility in 2021 with a 6-6 regular season record. It certainly could have been even better than that as the Cardinals lost several close games, including upset bids on Wake Forest and Clemson, losing by single digits in each.

Five of the team’s seven losses were to ranked squads but a blowout loss to Kentucky and a bowl game loss to Air Force weren’t an ideal way to end the season.

Previewing Louisville Cardinals offense for 2022 season

Returning starters (7): QB Malik Cunningham, RB Tiyon Evans, TE Marshon Ford, RG Adonis Boone, LG Caleb Chandler, RT Renato Brown, LT Trevor Reid
Notable newcomers: RB Tiyon Evans (Tennessee), WR Tyler Hudson (Central Arkansas), C Bryan Hudson (Virginia Tech)
Impact player: Malik Cunningham

Malik Cunningham is one of the most dynamic playmakers in the ACC and he’ll have a fully-stocked offensive line returning in front of him. Caleb Chandler was an All-ACC first-team selection last year at left guard. He’s back to headline a veteran group of returning starters which has only gotten stronger with Virginia Tech transfer Bryan Hudson taking care of the center position.

A returning line like that should be music to the ears of the running back room, which added Tennessee transfer Tiyon Evans and returns a load of depth.

The receiving corps has been rebuilt with FCS star Tyler Hudson and Miami’s Dee Wiggins joining freshman standout Ahmari Huggins-Bruce. Hudson was extremely productive at Central Arkansas and should make an immediate impact. Tight end Marshon Ford should give Cunningham a nice familiar safety blanket as well.

Previewing Louisville Cardinals defense for 2022 season

Returning starters (7): DE Yaya Diaby, DE Ashton Gillotte, LB Yasir Abdullah, CB Kei’trel Clark, CB Quincy Riley, FS Kenderick Duncan
Notable newcomers: NT Jermayne Lole (Arizona St.), LB Momo Sanogo (Ole Miss), LB Nicario Harper (Jacksonville St.), DB Quincy Riley (MTSU), DB Jalen Alexander (Duke), DB Jarvis Brownlee (Florida St.), MJ Griffin (Temple), Jayden Williams (USC)
Impact player: Kei’trel Clark

The Cardinals lost their two leading tacklers from last season but the starters they bring back and the influx of transfers could make this defense formidable.

Yasir Abdullah led the team with 10 sacks and should give opposing OCs plenty to think about, especially with Ashton Gillotte on the line after a bright freshman season and Arizona State transfer Jermayne Lole plugging holes at NT.

The linebacker corps also got a boost from Ole Miss transfer Momo Sanogo and Jacksonville State’s Nicario Harper, who will flank middle linebacker Monty Montgomery in his return from a season-ending injury. Harper was an FCS All-American.

The secondary can lean on top cornerback Kei’trel Clark along with an influx of transfers who will greatly improve depth.

Louisville football players awards watch for 2022 season

The Cardinals have five players on preseason watch lists for national awards.

Yasir Abdullah, Bednarik

The defensive end was second-team All-ACC last year and will be trying to make himself a household name this year.

Caleb Chandler, Lombardi/Outland

The standout offensive lineman could draw plenty of attention from award voters as a returning first-team All-ACC pick.

Kei’Trel Clark, Thorpe

Clark missed time with injuries last year but he’s one of the ACC’s best when healthy and he’ll be looking to prove it.

Malik Cunningham, Camp/Maxwell

The dual-threat quarterback had 1,034 yards and 20 touchdowns on the ground in 2021 while maintaining his 150.38 passer rating with 2,941 yards and 19 touchdowns through the air. He’s a dark horse candidate for major national awards for sure.

Marshon Ford, Mackey

Ford led the Cardinals in receiving with 550 yards last year. He’ll be eager for more.

Louisville Cardinals biggest game on 2022 schedule

All roads to the ACC title lead through Clemson so that No. 12 game at Death Valley could be a pivotal one for the Cardinals if they intend to make a run in 2022.

Louisville Football best-case scenario

Cunningham could absolutely go off in the ACC with transfers like Evans and the two Hudson’s taking the offense to the next level. Meanwhile, the defense has a capable pass rusher and shutdown corner providing a foundation for increased success.

Given the experience and depth available, the Cardinals could be a surprise contender for the ACC Championship.

Louisville Football worst-case scenario

Satterfield’s third season in charge was promising because his team played everyone so close, but they still had a 6-7 record.

Cunningham may have hit his ceiling while the transfers may not hit the ground running.

A step back is within the realm of possibility with Louisville on the outside of bowl eligibility,

Louisville Football 2022 season prediction

Satterfield is a good coach and there are playmakers on this squad. The biggest issue is the strength of other teams in the ACC with Clemson, NC State, Wake Forest, Florida State and Boston College all receiving votes to win the Atlantic Division. The Cardinals received none.

Louisville will make it very tough for everyone that plays them and there are compelling reasons to expect them to take a step forward this year instead of back. Will that step be quite as drastic as an ACC title? Probably not.

Look for a winning season with a 7-5 record in the regular season and hopes of an entertaining bowl victory.

Louisville Football 2022 Bowl Game Prediction

Bill Bender of Sporting News projects the Cardinals to end up in the Pinstripe Bowl against Purdue.

Up Next: No. 42: Boston College Eagles

Other articles in this series: 

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