A preview of Alabama football’s season opener


Photo by Hannah Saad

Cody Estremera, Sports Desk Editor

No. 1 Alabama looks to defend last year’s national championship starting in Orlando against an experienced Louisville team. The Cardinals lost four players to the NFL draft, including Heisman winner Lamar Jackson and first-round pick Jaire Alexander. I talked with Matt Bradshaw, the sports editor of the Louisville student paper, The Louisville Cardinal, to get a different look at the matchup.

The biggest question mark offensively is the quarterback position for both teams. How do you think Jawon Pass will do replacing Lamar Jackson?

It’s nearly impossible to replace the numbers of a Heisman winner like Jackson, but Pass may be up to the challenge for a couple of reasons. One, the 6-foot-4 redshirt sophomore has a pass-first mentality that has been missing in prior seasons. Lamar could certainly throw, but his ability to run was most valuable (1,601 rushing yards in 2017). Pass won’t run the ball that well of course, but his ability to throw the ball anywhere on the field and a knack for making plays on the run still make him a great quarterback. The second reason? Receivers. Louisville returns their top three wide receivers from 2017 in Jaylen Smith, Seth Dawkins and Dez Fitzpatrick. Arguably, the trio form one of the best receiving groups in the nation and make the transition for Pass much easier.

Lamar is a big loss, but both of the leading running backs are also gone. How do you think Louisville will replicate that running game?

I don’t think the Cards can replicate last year’s running game. They can try, but ultimately it just won’t happen with the loss of Jackson, Malik Williams and Reggie Bonnafon. However, it’s not out of the question for one of Louisville’s tailbacks to step up and have a solid year. Those candidates are Trey Smith, Dae Williams and Colin Wilson. The only problem is their lack of game-time experience. I see Smith getting better as the year comes along, but I don’t see him getting near last year’s rushing statistics.

How do you feel Louisville’s offensive line will be able to hold up against Alabama’s pass rushers, especially Raekwon Davis?

Louisville has a clear starting five for the offensive line, comprised of veterans and returning starters that seem up for the challenge. Along with the wide receivers, the O-line is one of the strongest position groups on the team. I don’t think they’ll completely stop the Alabama pass rushers, with the Tide first in the nation last season in rushing defense. They’ll put up a fight though, and they’re confident in their abilities. When asked if Louisville can match up with Alabama’s defense, fifth-year senior guard and team captain Lukayus McNeil had this response: “Definitely. I definitely think we’re capable of going out, starting off fast and dominating their D-line.”

Do you feel that special teams will have an impact in the game? Why or why not?

The Cards have solid kickers, punters and return specialists that all return as veterans, but I don’t think they’ll have a big impact on the game. At the moment, most place Alabama as a 20-plus point favorite over Louisville. If the matchup was predicted to be closer, then yes, I might say that special teams could tip the scales. With the way things are, I believe the game will be decided on how effectively Louisville’s untested defense can work together, and how efficiently Pass can run his offense to find the end zone against the Crimson Tide’s defense.

What do you think is Louisville’s biggest strength in this game?

Receivers. As I previously stated, Louisville’s wide receivers are the most exciting position group to watch on the team. If Pass can hit his targets, and if the receivers can find a way to gain significant yardage after their receptions, then the Cardinals can be strong on the offensive end.

And finally, who do you think will win, and could you predict the final score?

Alabama will win 38-10.