Luckily for Louisville, strength of schedule will weigh fairly heavily. We don’t know how the Seminoles will respond after the most crippling loss in recent program history, but a win over the BR-2 squad will certainly pay dividends for the Cardinals. It’s important to note the Cardinals only have a few chances to build a resume against the nation’s top teams. They must take advantage. It’s hard to imagine a scenario where Louisville sneaks into the Playoff without going undefeated. As an ACC team, an undefeated record is the only guarantee.
But so far the Cardinals have looked unbeatable. Especially under the leadership of quarterback Lamar Jackson — who may be the most dynamic play maker in college football since Michael Vick. (Even Vick thinks so).
Lamar Jackson 5x better than what I was at V-Tech….Enough said!! #future
— Mike Vick (@MikeVick) September 17, 2016
High praise. If we gave out the Heisman in September, Jackson would be a lock. But we're only a quarter of the way through the season. He has to continue to play at a high level for his squad to have a chance at a national championship. Here's a look at Louisville's remaining schedule.
|Sept. 24 at Marshall||1-1|
|Oct. 1 at Clemson||3-0|
|Oct. 14 vs. Duke||1-2|
|Oct. 22 vs. N.C. State||2-1|
|Oct. 29 at Virginia||0-3|
|Nov. 5 at Boston College||1-2|
|Nov. 12 vs. Wake Forest||3-0|
|Nov. 17 at Houston||3-0|
|Nov. 26 vs. Kentucky||1-2|
Louisville vs. Clemson, Oct. 1
The Tigers had a slow start to the year, but don’t be deceived. This is a squad laden with weapons and will surely be in the conversation come December.
The Clemson defense wasn’t great against the two reputable teams it played this season. After the two games against Auburn and Troy, the Tigers ranked No. 9 in the ACC in total defense, allowing 324 yards per game. No offense to Auburn or Troy, but they don’t have a weapon even close to Jackson — nobody does. No one has found an answer for Jackson yet, and Clemson hasn’t given any indication they have one.
The Louisville defense caught the eye of the nation in their stifling of the Seminoles. What does this have to do with Clemson? Florida State entered Saturday's game with the No. 15 passing offense in the country. The Seminoles were limited to 113 yards through the air, and covered just two of 13 third down attempts. Clemson relies heavily on quarterback Deshaun Watson, but as Louisville has shown, it can limit explosive offenses. Clemson will undoubtedly put together a better performance than Florida State, but the numbers point to Louisville getting an edge.
Louisville vs. Houston, Nov. 17
BR-5 Houston is good, but not great. BR-6 Oklahoma isn’t as good as it was last season, as evidenced in Saturday's loss to Ohio State. So the Cougars' Week 1 win over the Sooners doesn't look quite as great now as it did last week. Houston also showed vulnerability early against Cincinnati. They rank No. 4 in the American Athletic Conference in both total defense and total offense.
Houston QB Greg Ward. Jr. is similar to Jackson, just not as dynamic, which bodes well for the Louisville defense. This a unit that practices against Jackson on a daily basis. They understand how to handle running quarterbacks, as they showed against Florida State. Seminoles dual-threat QB Deondre Francois had nine carries for 59 yards against a strong Mississippi defense in the opening game of the season. The result on Saturday was much different. Francois was blanketed by the Louisville front seven the entire game, and finished the game with 12 rushing attempts for -34 yards. Ward plays the best when he has both options available, but Louisville is built to make him one dimensional.
This doesn’t seem like a Louisville squad that will take any opponent lightly. Petrino’s group isn’t like BR-1 Alabama, BR-3 Ohio State or BR-18 Michigan State. They haven’t experienced a whole lot of success, and therefore constantly play with a chip on their shoulder. If you watched the fourth quarter against Florida State, this was glaringly evident. The Louisville offense continued to press hard on the gas, while the defense continued to wreak havoc. Sure, teams like Marshall, Duke and N.C. State could put up a valiant effort, but it’s hard to see the Cardinals losing those games. The path is there for the Cardinals to run the table. And if they do, they will play for college football’s ultimate prize.