Examining Louisville’s path to a BCS National Title shot

NCAA Football: Sugar Bowl-Louisville vs Florida

By looking at the title, you may be saying “Come on Justin, 1 game at a time. We can’t worry about a possible National Title game right now.” For the players and coaches? Absolutely, they should take that approach. As fans? We can look ahead as much as we want to. A lot of us may think we are out there playing and we shouldn’t look past anyone, but does it matter at all how far down the road WE look? Nah. So let’s examine this possible path together, shall we?

Ok we all know that with our schedule this year, 1 loss pretty much gets rid of all of this talk and it is pointless. But isn’t that what pre-season rankings are for? Playing the “what if” game and not waiting until the games are actually played? If the Cards drop a game, there will be no shot of a National Title. But we could still settle for an Orange Bowl or another trip to NOLA for a Sugar Bowl. That would be kind of fun too, if you are into that sort of thing.

Red out on Bourbon!
Red out on Bourbon!

Realistically, the Cards need to go 12-0 and have teams in front of them lose 2 games, not just 1. We are pretty much Boise State this year. The schedule will keep a lot of people from thinking we are deserving of a shot. So we will need some help. Even though we return the majority of the team that dismantled the mighty SEC’s Florida Gators. I heard someone say the other day how we had 4 weeks to prepare for Florida. I suppose Florida was not allotted the same amount of time to prepare for us. But I digress…

So let’s take a look at the schedules for the teams in front of UofL to start the season. Remember, the Cards were ranked 9th in today’s USA Today Coaches’ Poll. Can we find 2 losses on these schedules?

Alabama

1) Alabama

Date Opponent / Event Location Time / Result
08/31/13 vs. Virginia Tech TV Atlanta, Ga. 4:30 p.m. CT
09/14/13 at Texas A&M * TV College Station, Texas 2:30 p.m. CT
09/21/13 vs. Colorado State Tuscaloosa, Ala. TBA
09/28/13 vs. Ole Miss * Tuscaloosa, Ala. TBA
10/05/13 vs. Georgia State Tuscaloosa, Ala. TBA
10/12/13 at Kentucky * Lexington, Ky. TBA
10/19/13 vs. Arkansas * Tuscaloosa, Ala. TBA
10/26/13 vs. Tennessee * Tuscaloosa, Ala. TBA
11/09/13 vs. LSU * Tuscaloosa, Ala. TBA
11/16/13 at Mississippi State * Starkville, Miss. TBA
11/23/13 vs. Chattanooga Tuscaloosa, Ala. TBA
11/30/13 at Auburn * Auburn, Ala. TBA

Unlikely that Alabama loses 2, but Texas A&M is obviously interesting, and you can never count out Auburn in the Iron Bowl when that game is played on the Plains. They get LSU and Arkansas at home, so those are big. But there is also the SEC Title game that could provide a loss. However, counting on the Crimson Tide to lose 2 is a long shot.

2) Ohio State

Date Opponent / Event Location Time / Result
08/31/13 vs. Buffalo TV Columbus, Ohio 12:00 p.m. ET
09/07/13 vs. San Diego State TV Columbus, Ohio 3:30 p.m. ET
09/14/13 at California TV Berkeley, Calif. 7:00 p.m. ET
09/21/13 vs. Florida A&M TV Columbus, Ohio TBA
09/28/13 vs. Wisconsin * TV Columbus, Ohio 8:00 p.m. ET
10/05/13 at Northwestern * TV Evanston, Ill. 8:00 p.m. ET
10/19/13 vs. Iowa * TV Columbus, Ohio 3:30 p.m. ET
10/26/13 vs. Penn State * TV Columbus, Ohio 8:00 p.m. ET
11/02/13 at Purdue * TV West Lafayette, Ind. TBA
11/16/13 at Illinois * TV Champaign, Ill. TBA
11/23/13 vs. Indiana * TV Columbus, Ohio TBA
11/30/13 at Michigan * TV Ann Arbor, Mich. TBA

It doesn’t look like Ohio State really plays a game of note until their 5th game, which is at home anyways against Wisconsin. The last game of the year at Michigan is obviously a toss-up, as I say with most rivalries no matter what. Other than that, looking at this schedule? Wow. Perhaps we should go back and just hope that Alabama loses two games! Phil Steele ranks Ohio State’s schedule as the 67th toughest in the country, which makes it the easiest schedule for anyone in the Top 8 of the Coaches’ Poll.  (He ranks Louisville’s at 98)

Oregon

3) Oregon

Date Opponent Location Time (PT) Results Media
  Sat, Apr 27  Spring Game Eugene, Ore.   11:00 a.m. 65 – 10 (W) 
STATS   QUOTES
Pac-12 Networks
  Sat, Aug 31  Nicholls Eugene, Ore.   1:00 p.m. FOX Sports 1
  Sat, Sep 07  Virginia Charlottesville, Va.   12:30 p.m. ABC/ESPN2
  Sat, Sep 14  Tennessee Eugene, Ore.   12:30 p.m. ABC, ESPN or ESPN2
  Sat, Sep 28  California * Eugene, Ore.   TBA Pac-12 Networks
  Sat, Oct 05  Colorado * Boulder, Colo.   TBA Pac-12 Networks
  Sat, Oct 12  Washington * Seattle, Wash.   TBA
  Sat, Oct 19  Washington State * Eugene, Ore.   TBA
  Sat, Oct 26  UCLA * Eugene, Ore.   TBA
  Thu, Nov 07  Stanford * Stanford, Calif.   6:00 p.m. ESPN
  Sat, Nov 16  Utah * Eugene, Ore.   TBA
  Sat, Nov 23  Arizona * Tucson, Ariz.   TBA  ESPN Radio
  Fri, Nov 29  Oregon State * Eugene, Ore.   4:00 p.m. FOX Sports 1

Oregon travels to Stanford and hosts Oregon State. Those are the only 2 chances I can see of the Ducks losing. At Washington could be tough. Then of course they would have the Pac-12 Title game against a solid team, maybe.

4) Stanford

DATE OPPONENT LOCATION TIME (PT) RESULTS MEDIA
Sat, Sep 07 San Jose State Stanford, CA 8:00 p.m. Pac-12 Network
Sat, Sep 14 Army at West Point, NY 09:00 a.m. CBS Sports Network
Sat, Sep 21 Arizona State Stanford, CA TBA
Sat, Sep 28 Washington State at Seattle, WA TBA
Sat, Oct 05 Washington Stanford, CA TBA
Sat, Oct 12 Utah at Salt Lake City, UT TBA
Sat, Oct 19 UCLA Stanford, CA TBA
Sat, Oct 26 Oregon State at Corvallis, OR TBA
Thu, Nov 07 Oregon Stanford, CA 6:00 p.m. ESPN
Sat, Nov 16 USC at Los Angeles, CA TBA
Sat, Nov 23 California Stanford, CA TBA
Sat, Nov 30 Notre Dame Stanford, CA TBA FOX or FOX Sports 1

Phil Steele says Stanford has the 8th toughest schedule, and that Oregon has the 58th toughest schedule. That would make it seem more likely for Stanford to lose 2 than Oregon. So maybe we will be cheering for the Cardinal when they meet the Ducks. I am sure we will know by then what will help us the most.

5) Georgia

Date Opponent / Event Location Time / Result
08/31/13 at Clemson TV Clemson, S.C. 8:00 p.m. ET
09/07/13 vs. South Carolina * TV Athens, Ga. 4:30 p.m. ET
09/21/13 vs. North Texas Athens, Ga. TBA
09/28/13 vs. LSU * Athens, Ga. TBA
10/05/13 at Tennessee * Knoxville, Tenn. TBA
10/12/13 vs. Missouri * Athens, Ga. TBA
10/19/13 at Vanderbilt * Nashville, Tenn. TBA
11/02/13 vs. Florida * TV Jacksonville, Fla. 3:30 p.m. ET
11/09/13 vs. Appalachian State Athens, Ga. TBA
11/16/13 at Auburn * Auburn, Ala. TBA
11/23/13 vs. Kentucky * Athens, Ga. TBA
11/30/13 at Georgia Tech Atlanta, Ga. TBA

There is always that chance that an SEC team can lose 2 games, simply because they beat each other. Georgia opens up with a tough game on the road at 8th ranked Clemson. They follow that up with a game against 7th ranked South Carolina. Sounds like fun! They also host LSU and Florida. If they get through that without 2 losses, well more power to them.

Johnny Manziel

6) Texas A&M

Date Opponent Location Time (CT) Results Media
  Sat, Aug 31  Rice Kyle Field (College Station)   12:00 p.m. ESPN
  Sat, Sep 07  Sam Houston State Kyle Field (College Station)   6:00 p.m. PPV
  Sat, Sep 14  Alabama * Kyle Field (College Station)   2:30 p.m. CBS
  Sat, Sep 21  SMU Kyle Field (College Station)   TBA
  Sat, Sep 28  Arkansas * Fayetteville, Ark.   TBA
  Sat, Oct 12  Ole Miss * Oxford, Miss.   TBA
  Sat, Oct 19  Auburn * Kyle Field (College Station)   TBA
  Sat, Oct 26  Vanderbilt * Kyle Field (College Station)   TBA
  Sat, Nov 02  UTEP Kyle Field (College Station)   TBA
  Sat, Nov 09  Mississippi State * Kyle Field (College Station)   TBA
  Sat, Nov 23  LSU * Baton Rouge, La.   TBA
  Sat, Nov 30  Missouri * Columbia, Mo.   TBA
  Sat, Dec 07  SEC Championship Game Atlanta, Ga.   TBA

Maybe this one is more wishful thinking on my part, but I am pretty sure the SEC defenses aren’t going to let Johnny Manziel run all over them this year. And I would love that. The Aggies face Alabama, which as Cards fans, we may want A&M to win anyway. Who really knows? They travel to Arkansas and LSU as well. Luckily for them, they have 8 home games, and all are winnable except maybe Alabama. So those road games will be big for them. I can see the Aggies doing their part and dropping 2.

7) South Carolina

Date Opponent / Event Location Time / Result
08/29/13 vs. North Carolina TV Columbia, S.C. 6:00 p.m. ET
09/07/13 at Georgia # TV Athens, Ga. 4:30 p.m. ET
09/14/13 vs. Vanderbilt # TV Columbia, S.C. 7:00 p.m. ET
09/28/13 at UCF Orlando, Fla. TBA
10/05/13 vs. Kentucky # Columbia, S.C. TBA
10/12/13 at Arkansas # Fayetteville, Ark. TBA
10/19/13 at Tennessee # Knoxville, Tenn. TBA
10/26/13 at Missouri # Columbia, Mo. TBA
11/02/13 vs. Mississippi State # Columbia, S.C. TBA
11/16/13 vs. Florida # Columbia, S.C. TBA
11/23/13 vs. Coastal Carolina Columbia, S.C. TBA
11/30/13 vs. Clemson Columbia, S.C. TBA

Another SEC team with a tough schedule. South Carolina travels to Georgia in week 2. So we do know that 1 team in front of the Cards will have a loss early on. They also have 3 road games in a row, which is tough. Add home games with Florida and Clemson to that mix, and it will be a big accomplishment if Steve Spurrier and the Gamecocks can get through with only 1 loss.

8) Clemson

Date Opponent Location Time (EST) Results Media
  Sun, Aug 18  Fan Appreciation Day Memorial Stadium   3:00 p.m.
  Sat, Aug 31  Georgia (Solid Orange Day) Clemson, SC   8:00 p.m. ABC
  Sat, Sep 07  South Carolina State (Family Weekend/Youth Day) Clemson, SC   12:30 p.m. RSN
  Thu, Sep 19  NC State * Raleigh, NC   7:30 p.m. ESPN
  Sat, Sep 28  Wake Forest (Homecoming) * Clemson, SC   TBA
  Sat, Oct 05  Syracuse * Syracuse, NY   TBA
  Sat, Oct 12  Boston College (Hall of Fame Day/Football Reunion Weekend) * Clemson, SC   TBA
  Sat, Oct 19  Florida State (IPTAY Day) * Clemson, SC   TBA
  Sat, Oct 26  Maryland * College Park, MD   TBA
  Sat, Nov 02  Virginia * Charlottesville, VA   TBA
  Thu, Nov 14  Georgia Tech * Clemson, SC   7:30 p.m. ESPN
  Sat, Nov 23  Citadel (Senior Day/Military Appreciation Day/Purple Out) Clemson, SC   TBA
  Sat, Nov 30  South Carolina Columbia, SC   TBA

As I stated earlier, Clemson starts the season hosting Georgia. Again, someone ahead of UofL will have an early loss. The other tough games will be Florida State and South Carolina obviously. Phil Steele has this as the 55th toughest schedule, so it isn’t too much better than Ohio State’s, which I laughed at. So we will likely need Clemson to stumble somewhere and get upset.

So what does all this mean? Not a thing right now! That is the fun of these polls and it gives us something to talk about until kickoff. As Cards fans, we know that we have the team that could compete with anyone in the country. It is just unfortunate that we will not get to see it against top competition. That makes our nationally televised games very important. With eyes around the country watching, the Cards have to put on a show and prove that we belong in the Top 10 and even the Top 5.

So the players and coaches can focus on 1 game at a time. Us fans can keep our eyes on these other teams, and hope for some upsets! Either way, it should be a fun season. Go Cards!

JR

Full top 25 poll here

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