BOZICH | Ranking Louisville's football opponents -- from Twinkies to Barbed Wire
By Rick Bozich
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) — The ESPN football power index gives the University of Louisville football team a win probability of 95 percent or more in two games this season.
Here is the flip side: The FPI also places Louisville’s win probability at 15 percent or less for two games.
If you can’t guess which four games I’m talking about, you owe me 25 pushups.
Here is the rest of the story: The Cards’ win probability is listed between 40 and 65 percent in six other games. I believe those are called Swing Games.
I also believe that with the lag in the sports calendar, this is the perfect day to rank the games on Louisville’s football schedule from Twinkie (easiest) to Barbed Wire (most difficult).
12. Indiana State, home, Sept. 8, 7 p.m. — The Sycamores have lost 14 straight. The Sycamores ranked 120th (among 123 teams) in total defense among FCS programs last season. The Sycamores lost their final seven 2017 games by at least 21 points.
Even Larry Bird has none.
ESPN Win Probability: 99.2 percent.
11. Western Kentucky, home, Sept. 15, 7:30 p.m. — No Jeff Brohm. No Brandon Doughty or Mike White. No defending Conference USA champions. No prominent former Louisville players on the WKU roster.
I’ll need better material to create reasons why Louisville should stress over this one. Pass some along, Hilltoppers’ fans.
ESPN Win Probability: 95.3 percent.
10. Virginia, away, Sept. 22, TBA — Virginia coach Bronco Mendenhall created a healthy debate about the future of the Cavaliers’ program when he said there were “27 ACC-caliber” players on his roster this spring. I’m not sure if that includes Bryce Perkins, the Cavaliers’ new quarterback who transfers in from a junior college after washing out at Arizona State.
ESPN Win Probability: 73.6 percent.
9. Syracuse, away, Nov. 9, 7 p.m. — Dino Babers appears to have the Orange trending in the right direction, and some predict a major step forward for his third season. Eric Dungey is a solid quarterback who has played for three seasons, but there is chatter that he will be unseated by freshman Tommy DeVito, who is a better fit for Babers’ spread offense. But it’s difficult to forget the gap between the Louisville and the Orange has grown from 22 to 24 to 34 to 46 points over the last four seasons.
Doesn’t scream Upset Alert to me.
ESPN Win Probability: 59.5 percent.
8. Kentucky, home, Nov. 24, TBA — Speaking of difficult to forget, it’s difficult to forget how easily Louisville handled the Wildcats in the 2017 season finale. Yes, Kentucky did win on its last trip into Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium, but Bobby Petrino’s record of success against Kentucky is difficult to question.
ESPN Win Probability: 73.2 percent.
7. Wake Forest, home, Oct. 27, TBA — This has become a nice little rivalry and we all know the reasons. Dave Clawson might be the most under-appreciated coach in the ACC. Winning eight games at Wake, including a bowl victory over Texas A&M, is nothing to dismiss. Uncertainty at quarterback is the big issue for a Demon Deacons’ team that returns 14 starters.
ESPN Win Probability: 65.6 percent.
6. Georgia Tech, home, Oct. 5, 7 p.m. — You know what they say about playing the Yellow Jackets? Or maybe you don’t. Georgia Tech is the only ACC program Louisville has never played. Well, here is what they say: The Yellow Jackets are a difficult preparation game because their run-to-pass ratio was 632 to 119 last season. Check the calendar. This will be a Friday night game. Subtract one day of preparation. Add a post-Florida State letdown.
ESPN Win Probability: 50.5 percent.
5. Boston College, away, Oct. 13, TBA — The Eagles’ jarring, 45-42 win at Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium last October powered BC to victories in five of their last six regular-season games — and a solid performance (but 27-20 loss) against Iowa in the Pinstripe Bowl. With halfback A.J. Dillon, quarterback Anthony Brown and three top receivers returning, BC is a trendy pick as a surprise team in the league.
ESPN Win Probability: 40.3 percent.
4. Florida State, home, Sept. 29, TBA — I know Jimbo Fisher won a national championship and got a billion dollars to fix football at Texas A&M but he massively underachieved with the Seminoles the last two seasons. Willie Taggart inherits several solid running backs, two experienced quarterbacks and a string of questions on defense.
I think FSU will benefit from a fresh voice and diminished expectations.
ESPN Win Probability: 44.1 percent.
3. North Carolina State, home, Nov. 18, TBA — Ryan Finley threw for 367 yards when the Wolfpack beat Louisville last season. ProFootballFocus ranks him the second-best returning player in the ACC. Kelvin Harmon was the first 1,000-yard receiver at NC State in 14 seas. Dave Doeren is an excellent defensive mind, which was one reason Tennessee tried to hire him.
ESPN Win Probability: 63.0 percent.
2. Clemson, away, Nov. 3, TBA — Clemson or Alabama? Alabama or Clemson? Flip a coin to pick the toughest team on the Cards’ schedule. You won’t be wrong if you pick the Tigers, especially when you look at the three likely first-round draft picks on the Clemson defensive line, guys who have been around since Refrigerator Perry.
ESPN Win Probability: 7.9 percent.
1. Alabama, Orlando, Sept. 1, 8 p.m. — I’ll take the Crimson Tide over the Tigers as the toughest opponent because I don’t want to give Nick Saban and Alabama bulletin board material — and asking Jawon Pass to make his debut as the Cards’ starting quarterback against the Alabama defense is like asking the guy in your neighborhood who shoots off bottle rockets to direct Thunder Over Louisville.
The Crimson Tide are holding as a 25 1/2-point favorite.
ESPN Win Probability: 13.5 percent.
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