ESPN.com writers Andrea Adelson and Matt Fortuna each chose an ACC team that they feel has the toughest football schedule in 2015 (among ACC teams of course). Andrea chose the Miami Hurricanes, who I wish we played every season by the way. Matt went with Louisville, and the first part of the schedule is the main factor.
Louisville will open the season in Atlanta against Auburn, a popular preseason pick to win the SEC and make the College Football Playoff. What’s more, the Cards return home a week later to face a Houston team that went 8-5 last season and brings in a new coaching staff, headed by QB maestro Tom Herman from Ohio State. That’s a stellar nonconference coup on its own for Louisville, but it becomes even more difficult when folded in between its Week 1 opponent (Auburn) and its Week 3 opponent, likely ACC favorite Clemson, which the Cards will have just five days to prepare for. Can anyone say “trap game” against the Cougars?
FCS Samford after that is a nice reprieve, but Louisville can hardly relax: It travels to Atlantic darkhorse contender NC State a week later, before a bye gives way to a trip to three-time defending ACC champion Florida State. Always-tough Boston College comes to Louisville after that.
And that really, in a nutshell, is what gives Louisville the degree-of-difficulty edge here over several other worthy contenders (Georgia Tech and Virginia in particular) for the “toughest schedule” crown: The Cards play in the Atlantic, the tougher of the two ACC divisions. Sure, the same is true of Clemson, which has a pair of tough nonconference tests in Notre Dame and South Carolina, but the Tigers’ Week 3 trip to Louisville is their only road game in the first half of the season — and it comes after facing a pair of FCS opponents at home. Clemson also has 16 days between that trip to Louisville and its home game against Notre Dame.
Louisville’s schedule eases up a bit down the stretch — at Wake Forest, vs. Syracuse and vs. Virginia from Oct. 30-Nov. 14 — but those are still league games, far from layups. And trips to Pitt and improving rival Kentucky await at the end of the season.
A 3-0 start to the season would be incredible, but I think that if Louisville can get out of those first three with at least a record of 2-1, you take that all day. The Houston game is clearly that trap game that is sandwiched between two of the biggest games on the schedule. Not to mention Houston is also a decent team, so that doesn’t help.
Then if the Cards can steal a win in Atlanta or beat Clemson at home, that is a solid start for the rest of the season. Just thinking about it as I type this, hopefully I will get time soon to do a post about which games are the most important of the season.
One thing is clear: we will know a lot about the Louisville Cardinals early on in the 2015 season!