After a preseason of practices and scrimmages with his teammates, L.J. Scott is eager to face an opponent.
“It’s very exciting, you go through camp for three weeks straight and you’re hitting the same guy every play, and he’s starting to know your tendencies, and he’s starting to know how you’re going to hit him, so he starts playing you a little different,” he said.
Scott is a sophomore running back for the Louisville Cardinals. He and his teammates will have their work cut out for them Saturday in Atlanta, where they’ll open the season against the sixth-ranked Auburn Tigers.
Last season marked the return of coach Bobby Petrino and U of L’s entry into the Atlantic Coast Conference. Petrino’s Cards went 9-4, finishing with a loss to Georgia in the Belk Bowl.
The big question swirling around the Cardinal camp this summer has been who will be Petrino’s starting quarterback on Saturday. Will Gardner, Reggie Bonafon and Kyle Bolin all saw action last season.
Gardner is back after a season-ending injury at Boston College. They’re joined on the roster by freshman Lamar Jackson, who was a high school standout in Florida.
Petrino won’t tip his hand until game time.
“I know who’s starting, yeah,” he said. “I think we’re good with it, we’re comfortable with it. There’s just no advantage to announce it.”
U of L and Auburn will kick off at 3:30 p.m. on Saturday in the Georgia Dome.
In Lexington, there are high expectations for the Kentucky Wildcats.
Coach Mark Stoops begins his third season in a newly renovated Commonwealth Stadium, leading a UK program that went 5-7 last year but is beginning to reap the rewards of Stoops’ strong recruiting efforts.
“I feel really good about the amount of work that we were able to get done this summer,” he said. “It’s nice to be able to practice a little more physical and have a little bit of depth, and just have those practices where you could really work it, and you feel like you’ve got a good chance.”
Junior Patrick Towles returns as the Wildcats’ starting quarterback when UK opens play against Louisiana LaFayette at 7 p.m. on Saturday.
Stoops hasn’t always been happy with his team’s effort this summer. Last month, he brought them back to the field for an unprecedented Saturday night session after what he thought was a lackluster scrimmage.
Stoops made his point. He said his players are excited about taking the field Saturday night.
“I would imagine we would have to tell them ‘whoa,’” he said. “I’d rather tell them ‘whoa’ than ‘giddy-up.’”
In Indiana, this could be a season of reckoning for Hoosiers coach Kevin Wilson.
He’s 14-34 after four seasons in Bloomington. Last year’s team finished 4-8 after making steady progress in his first three seasons.
Wilson said the preseason has left him optimistic.
“I think we’re in good health, I think we’re in good shape,” he said. “We’ve got more depth than we had. We’re stronger.”
Indiana opens play Saturday at 4 p.m. at home against Southern Illinois.