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Louisville Has Talent, Belief

By BJ Bennett
SouthernPigskin.com
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In addition to rare athleticism and skill, there was one more defining trait helped boost the program's profile: confidence.

Expectations this fall are to make it to the national championship. I definitely expect that. And it starts with leadership.
~Jaire Alexander

Louisville, as last season validated, is one of the most talented teams in the country. That ability helped vault the Cardinals all the way to number three in the national polls. In addition to rare athleticism and skill, there was one more defining trait helped boost the program's profile: confidence.

After winning six of seven to end the 2015 season, Louisville entered last year with a powerful conviction and belief. When quarterback Lamar Jackson scored eight first-half touchdowns in a 70-point week one outburst, the Cardinals were officially off-and-running. One month into the season, they were averaging 63.5 points per game, a 63-20 thumping of ACC Atlantic Division rival Florida State included.    

"Especially early on in the year, we carried ourselves as if we were the reigning national champions," cornerback Jaire Alexander explained on the Southern Pigskin Radio Network. 

For Alexander, that attitude was nothing new. The Charlotte-native tied for second in the league with five interceptions, picking off Deshaun Watson twice in Louisville's all-time classic game at Clemson. Alexander's aggressiveness, validated, of course, by his play, helps set a tenacious tone for the Cardinals.  

"At corner, you have to have the mindset that you're the best one on the field," he added. "A lot of people can't do that. Being at corner on that island, you have to know and always say 'I'm the best, nobody is getting me, I got this'."

Jackson, now the youngest Heisman Trophy winner of all time and the first player ever with 3,300 passing yards and 1,500 rushing yards in a single season, helps give Louisville a resonating swagger. The Cardinals feed off of his energy and excitement. Furthermore, there is a trust that Jackson will lead Louisville forward.    

"We have all the confidence in Lamar. That's Lamar. 'Lamarvelous', that's what we call him sometimes, he doesn't like that though," Alexander smiled. "We know he'll get the job done."

The big-picture goal, for Alexander, Jackson and the Cardinals, is a straight-forward one.

"Expectations this fall are to make it to the national championship," Alexander stated. "I definitely expect that. And it starts with leadership."

At times last year, Louisville played and thought like the best team in the country. Now, that is the team-wide standard.

BJ Bennett - B.J. Bennett is SouthernPigskin.com's founder and publisher. He is the co-host of "Three & Out" with Matt Osborne and Kevin Thomas on the Southern Pigskin Radio Network and is the sports director for multiple ESPN Radio affiliates based throughout southeast Georgia. @BJBennettSports