The Orlando Sentinel has ranked all 120 Football Bowl Subdivision teams in the country. We'll take a closer look at a new team daily, counting backward from No. 120 to our projected No. 1 team. We will not be including the four teams the NCAA lists as still reclassifying to the Football Bowl Subdivision level.
Today at No. 30: Louisville
Coach: Charlie Strong (14-13, entering third season)
2011 results: 7-6 (5-2 in Big East, tied for first in Big East)
Look back: Louisville got off to a bumpy start, dropping four of its first six games of the 2012 season. The team's stout defense and improving offense hit its stride during the second half of the season, rallying to tie for a share of the Big East title. One of the clearest signs of Louisville's progress under coach Charlie Strong was its 38-35 road upset of then-No. 21 West Virginia. Louisville freshman quarterback Teddy Bridgewater stepped up, while the Cardinals forced defense and special teams unit forced turnovers. Louisville earned an invitation to play N.C. State in the Belk Bowl played in Charlotte, N.C. The Cardinals fell behind early and a late rally came up short. Bridgewater had a strong game that bodes well for his future. He threw for 274 yards and two touchdowns. Bridgewater also rushed for another touchdown.
Offensive starters lost/returning: 3/8
Defensive starters lost/returning: 2/9
Key losses: LB Dexter Heyman, DE Greg Scruggs, DE William Savoy, WR Josh Bellamy, TE Josh Chichester, P Chris Philpott.
Top returnees: QB Teddy Bridgewater, CB Adrian Bushell, S Hakeem Smith, RB Jeremy Wright, C Mario Benadvides.
Strengths: Louisville returns nine starters on defense. The unit, anchored by first team 2011 All-Big East selections CB Adrian Bushnell and S Hakeem Smith, ranked No. 23 nationally in total defense (327.92 yards allowed per game) and No. 10 in rushing defense (100.54 yards allowed per game).
After a tough introduction to college football his freshman year, Bridgewater seems to have the momentum and experience needed to be successful running the Louisville offense. He can work with a variety of weapons, including strong running back Jeremy Wright. While Louisville was breaking in an inexperienced offensive line and quarterback last season, this season both position groups should reap the rewards of their hard work.
Weaknesses: Louisville's offense struggled to put up numbers needed to support its stout defense. The team ranked No. 103 nationally in total offense (333.00 yards per game), No. 98 in scoring offense (21.92 points per game), No. 93 in rushing offense (121.54 yards per game) and No. 74 in passing offense (211.46 yards per game).
While most of the defense returns, linebacker Dexter Heman was a true playmaker for Louisville and led the team in tackles. Louisville will need other players to step up and fill that role.
Outlook: Louisville surprised a lot of people last season by winning a share of the Big East title. This year, the Cardinals are expected to be Big East title contenders thanks to a strong group of returning players.
Sept. 2 Kentucky
Sept. 8 Missouri State
Sept. 15 North Carolina
Sept. 22 At FIU
Sept. 29 At Southern Mississippi
Oct. 13 At Pittsburgh
Oct. 20 USF
Oct. 26 Cincinnati
Nov. 3 Temple
Nov. 10 At Syracuse
Nov. 24 Connecticut
Nov. 29 At Rutgers