(Photo by Scott Satterfield: Jeremy Brevard – USA TODAY Sports)

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – As the 2020 season approaches, Louisville’s football schedule was generating quite a bit of hype. First-year head coach Scott Satterfield, who inherited a team that was 2-10 before arriving, guided the Cardinals to an 8-5 campaign in 2019. It not only included a win at the Music City Bowl against Mississippi State, but led to Satterfield won the ACC Coach of the Year award.

Many thought Louisville could be a dark horse contender to reach the Atlantic Coast Conference Championship in 2020, but they haven’t seen the success they had the year before. Thanks mainly to an atrocious turnover margin and an at times predictable attack, the Cardinals only went 4-7 and 3-7 in the ACC game.

Not only that, but rumors started to emerge towards the end of the year regarding Satterfield and the vacant head coach position in South Carolina. Said rumors became more concrete when Satterfield himself admitted to having spoken in person with the South Carolina brass, but categorized it as more of a “conversation” and less of an “interview”.

Louisville was able to generate positive momentum by winning its regular season final against Wake Forest, as well as signing one of the best scouting paper classes in school history, but the program is heading for a pivotal season. Fan buzz is apparently non-existent due to the disappointing 2020 campaign coupled with Satterfield’s flirtation with South Carolina, and Satterfield himself is heading into a pivotal third year with the program.

There is some pressure to be successful in 2021, both for him and for the program. But what would be a benchmark for this success? Former UCLA head coach, NFL head coach and current ESPN analyst Jim Mora Jr. recently spoke to Louisville Report and gave his take on what Satterfield needs to accomplish next season.

“I think he needs to get into a bowl game, and I think he needs to bring back that electrifying offensive style of play that we are used to seeing Louisville play with,” he said. “I think that’s what the fans want. They want that energy. You’ve got cool uniforms, you’ve got a reputation for being an electrical offense, and they want to see that.”

At this point, Louisville appears to be favored to reach a bowl. The SP + College Football Predictive Metric currently has Louisville with 6.99 “projected wins,” and ESPN’s Football Power Index gives Louisville a 74.6% chance of hitting six wins – the normal requirement to reach a bowl game.

The last part might be a little more difficult given the offensive talent Louisville lost in the NFL Draft. In the 2020 season, wide receivers Tutu Atwell and Dez Fitzpatrick, along with running back Javian Hawkins, totaled 2,327 yards, or 46.7 percent of the Cardinals’ total offense.

While Mora considers hitting a bowl as the benchmark for Louisville’s success next season, that’s only part of the equation. Deep down, he thinks Satterfield needs to work on the “potential erosion of trust” between himself and the players and the administration, and that winning is the first step in addressing it.

“These players and their families need to know he’s with them,” he said. “So I think he has to show it, be dynamic on offense, and let’s get into a good bowl game and win it. Then I think people will say, okay, you know what? good football coach. Remember what he did in 2019. “

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