Louisville long shot in title race
We are the sum total of our accomplishments. Fair or not, judging a football team by these criteria is precisely the college climate we’ve been exposed to for years.
For the basketball-fervent fan base, the dream of winning both a national title on the hardwood and on the gridiron in the same calendar year may be near impossible.
Before everyone jumps down my throat, I’ll admit Louisville has an elite talent in Teddy Bridgewater, a frontrunner for the Heisman Trophy. However, for those Cardinal football faithful that believe a national championship is attainable this season, I remain skeptical.
Much fuss has been made about the schedule facing Charlie Strong’s team in 2013. Despite a surplus of starters returning from last season’s Sugar Bowl championship roster, there was nothing that could be done to add a marquee non-conference opponent to the docket.
Louisville finds itself in a predicament akin to what Boise State has dealt with for years: An address in a conference that keeps you from getting a seat at the big boy table.
Louisville’s fall weekends are littered with more cupcakes than your corner bakery — and even the most devout fan can't argue with that assessment. Within the conference slate, only a road date at Cincinnati keeps the Cardinals from being listed as double-digit favorites every time they hit the field.
Based on our power numbers, here are projected point spreads for Louisville's 11 remaining regular-season games adjusted accordingly to include home-field advantage.
Eastern Kentucky: Louisville -41
@ Kentucky: Louisville -12.5
FIU: Louisville -37.5
@ Temple: Louisville -27
Rutgers: Louisville -14
UCF: Louisville -19
@ South Florida: Louisville -17.5
@ Connecticut: Louisville -15
Houston: Louisville -25
Memphis: Louisville -29.5
@ Cincinnati: Louisville -4
It’s not fair to blame Louisville. Charlie Strong has built a deep roster highlighted by the aforementioned Bridgewater. That doesn’t make this statement any less compelling; there are 26 teams in the country by our numbers that would also be favored in every game on the Cardinals' schedule.
Outside of the elite teams, programs such as Wisconsin, Northwestern, and North Carolina would be at worst a PK (virtually 50/50 in betting terms) against Cincinnati at Nippert Stadium while assuming favorite status in every other game.
Every game won’t play out like it looks on paper — but it’s impossible to ignore the fact the Cardinals don’t play anyone of national relevance this entire season. The only other schedule for a national title contender that comes close to resembling this list would be Alabama. However, the Tide still have to navigate through LSU and Texas A&M before a potential conference championship game — so any comparisons there are quite the reach.
Regardless of margin of victory or dominating efforts, I can’t see pollsters moving Louisville into the top 2 of the BCS unless a perfect storm on the college football landscape unfolds around Strong and his squad.
Too many potential one-loss teams — Oregon, Stanford, Texas A&M, LSU and Alabama — will be given consideration for national title inclusion long before the Cardinals.
Of course, this isn’t the fault of the players on the field, given Louisville's roster is equipped with Top 15 talent — but there isn’t the slightest possibility the team's resume will bring about a trip to Pasadena.
The Cardinals' lone hope is that UCF, Rutgers and Cincinnati find ways to improve their overall profiles. What will be fascinating to monitor is how interconnected Bridgewater’s individual accomplishments are to Louisville's national title aspirations. Bridgewater remains the key cog in keeping his team at the forefront of media consciousness and the national title dreams of an entire program alive.
Remind me again why we don’t need an eight-team playoff where conference champions can all be included and actually have a chance to win a title on the field?