Cards' toughest games on new ACC schedule will come early

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (KT) -- We will know by midseason, and maybe before, what the prospects are for Louisville's football team this upcoming season -- assuming there is one. And if the Cardinals can make it to November without incurring much damage, they'll be set up for a strong closing rush.


Those are two of my initial reactions to UofL's new schedule released Thursday by the Atlantic Coast Conference. (Opponents and sites, but not dates, were announced earlier).


Other features of the revised slate include three Friday night appearances and an opening game on Sept. 12 in Cardinal Stadium against Western Kentucky, which was the only in-state foe among three on the original schedule to survive the ACC's 10-plus-one format adopted in response to the Covid-19 pandemic.


Murray State and Kentucky were dropped, the latter because the SEC decided to limit its teams to 10 conference games. This will mark the first time since the modern Governor's Cup series began in 1994 that it hasn't been played, snapping a string of 25 consecutive games.


The new schedule works in the Cardinals' favor since they were initially set to open against an ACC team, NC State, and then travel to national title contender Clemson the following week. Now  they get a tuneup before hosting Miami on Sept. 19 in their league opener, and won't play Clemson.


"We're excited about being able to play a non-conference game before we get into conference play, but Western Kentucky is not a pushover," UofL defensive coordinator Bryan Brown said after practice Thursday morning. (Head coach Scott Satterfield wasn't made available to the media). "Those guys were 9-4 last season playing in Conference USA and they have most of those guys coming back. So we've got our hands full.


"It's awesome to finally see teams with actual dates. Our guys are excited. They saw the schedule before we went out to practice and it added a little extra oomph. Guys are excited opening with Western and then being able to stay home to play Miami the next game."


After the Hilltoppers leave town, UofL will face 10 straight ACC rivals, including three on the road after Miami -- at Pittsburgh, Georgia Tech and Notre Dame. The Cards will be tested throughout September and October because their conference schedule is frontloaded with the best  teams compared to November and December. October will draw to a challenging close with back-to-back home games against Florida State and Virginia Tech, both of whom will probably be ranked at that time.


But if UofL can get into the last five weeks of the regular season with a solid record, they should be in great shape because their last four games are against teams picked to finish near the bottom of the conference -- at Virginia, Syracuse, at Boston College and Wake Forest, which will close the regular season on Dec. 5, the first time UofL has finshed that late since 2013 when it played at Cincinnati on the same date.


"The new schedule is definitely different, but we actually like it," redshirt junior defensive back Anthony Johnson said. "We like the fact that we get to compete against an ACC opponent almost every week and get to go out and showcase how really good we are. Looking forward to the competition."


The first Friday night game will be on Oct. 9 at Georgia Tech. The other two are against Syracuse at home on Nov. 20 and at Boston College on Nov. 27. Bye weeks are Oct. 3 and Nov. 14.


CARDS NAMED IN POLL


UofL was among the teams listed as "also receiving votes" in the preseason Amway Coaches Poll released Thursday, getting the eighth most nods. Four ACC teams were included in the top 25: No. 1 Clemson, No. 10 Notre Dame, No. 19 North Carolina and No. 24 Virginia Tech.


The Cards had 62 votes. Ahead of them were Tennessee and Boise State, with 111 each; Arizona State (88); Kentucky (73); Memphis (71); Baylor (66); and Washington (65). Satterfield is one of the 65 head coaches on the Amway Board of Coaches who will vote in the poll this year, but coaches can't vote for their own team. The AP poll hasn't been released yet.


 THREE SOCCER PLAYERS BOOTED


Three members of the University of Louisville men's soccer program have been dismissed from the team and three other team members have been suspended as a result of disciplinary measures related to events from last weekend.
 
The three student-athletes being dismissed have each had prior team violations and were primarily responsible for organizing a party on Saturday which led to the temporary shutdown of voluntary activities and preseason practice sessions for four Cardinal sports.
 

"I'm extremely disappointed in these young men and particularly with the three that have been dismissed," said UofL men's soccer head coach John Michael Hayden.  "They have demonstrated with their actions now and previously that they do not echo the culture of this program. Our student-athletes are held to a high standard of conduct as representatives of our program and university."
 

The men's soccer program is one of four UofL fall sports which has temporarily paused team-related activities, along with the Cardinals' field hockey, volleyball and women's soccer teams. Several members on the four teams tested positive for the COVID-19 virus and multiple additional student-athletes are a part of the quarantine after contact tracing.


Russ Brown, a former sportswriter for The Courier-Journal and USA Today, covers University of Louisville sports and college football and basketball for Kentucky Today. He can be contacted at 0926.russ.brown@gmail.com.

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