LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- The University of Louisville opened at No. 16 in the first Bowl Championship Series ratings released this season.
It's roughly where the Cards find themselves in the human polls (No. 16 in the Harris Poll, No. 14 in the USA Today coaches' poll). In the computer rankings, U of L finds itself anywhere from No. 20 to No. 16 in the various ratings used -- except for the compilation by Richard Billingsley, where the Cards are outside the Top 25.
Alabama and Florida are ranked No. 1 and No. 2 in the BCS ratings, and that's where most of the attention, and coverage, has been aimed, with two SEC teams atop the index.
But what can be learned from this poll given U of L's situation, conference and otherwise? A few thoughts:
1). What about Rutgers? The Scarlet Knights debut one spot above U of L in the initial ratings. It's easy to look at U of L's non-conference schedule and blame it for that, but actually Rutgers' spot owes as much to it having played three Big East games as any particular strength in the non-conference. Certainly, a road win over Arkansas is worth more than a home win over UK, but the good news for U of L is that the Big East, even if it gets little respect from national pundits, is quite well represented in the BCS ratings.
2). Take a look at the Big East. Do the math. The Big East has three teams in the current ratings, plus one that will be, plus one that used to be, plus one that was going to be. The Big Ten has zero (wait, let me count again, yes zero) in the Top 25. The ACC has two.
3). What's the upper end of possibility for U of L? The good news for the Cardinals is that wins over Cincinnati and/or Rutgers (provided the Cards can get them) is probably good for a bump. And placement in the human rankings takes priority. Still, even with a perfect slate, it's hard to see U of L climbing much higher than No. 8 in this index, with a one-loss team likely destined for the 10-12 range.
4). So what does that mean for the future? The expanded Big East, depending on schedule, could mean a bit more punch in the computer rankings for U of L. The conference, despite all the pounding it is taking, is getting better with the addition of Boise State and some of the others. But it's also clear that, with UK in a down cycle, that game alone isn't going to be enough if U of L is looking to crack a higher ceiling than the top 10. These ratings, remember, go away when the playoff is implemented, but some substitute, like a football RPI, certainly will take their place. And when it comes to a playoff, while it won't be impossible for an outsider to crack, it will be threading a needle. And it won't happen with the kind of non-conference schedule U of L plays this season. If there's good news in this rating, it's that a Big East team can almost get there. But that last step is a doozy.
5). Will there be another all-SEC final? Highly doubtful. Unless teams from other leagues fall off the map. Still, take a look at the SEC. With four of the top seven teams and six of the top 12, it clearly is the league of preference.
6). The human rankings still reign. Say what you want about computers, the most important thing is to be in the right place in the human polls. This means perception AND performance both matter. It also means that U of L missed some early season opportunities by not scoring more emphatic victories. No way around it.