2016 record: 9-4, 7-1 in the ACC (1st in the Atlantic Division)

Head coach: Bobby Petrino (8th season)

After winning nine of its first ten contests, including a 63-20 drubbing of Florida State and a heartbreaking, nail-biter loss to eventual national champion Clemson, Louisville stumbled to the finish— the Cardinals lost three straight with two defeats by 20 or more points. However, with reigning Heisman trophy winner Lamar Jackson returning, if the preseason No. 16 Cardinals can put together a complete season, they may be able to sneak into this year's playoff.

Jackson is one of the most electrifying players in college football, throwing for 3,543 yards, rushing for 1,571 yards and accounting for 51 touchdowns last season. If Jackson is to be effective, though, the offensive line must step up its performance. By giving up 47 sacks and 83 tackles-for-loss, they often left Jackson under duress, which contributed to his 56.2 percent completion average. If the offensive line can keep Jackson upright, especially considering the imposing defensive fronts of Clemson and Florida State, the Cardinals' quick-strike offense should thrive.

On the other side of the ball, nine starters return to a unit that finished 14th in the nation. However, a new coordinator will be calling the shots after the departure of Todd Grantham to Mississippi State. Grantham was replaced by the Georgia's defensive coordinator Peter Sirmon. Although top tackler Keith Kelsey is gone, Louisville will still be able to generate pressure from linebacker James Hearns, who led the team in sacks last season. In the secondary, the Cardinals feature All-ACC preseason selection Jaire Alexander, who tallied five interceptions and nine pass breakups.

Louisville’s ability to play consistently throughout the season will determine its success this season. With a relatively weak non-conference slate, the Cardinals must play their best at home Sept. 16 against No. 5 Clemson and on the road Oct. 21 at No. 3 Florida State.