In four weeks, the 2013-14 season will kick off for the most anticipated season I can ever remember for the Louisville Cardinals. Their schedule is weak; and, as long as they are healthy, the Cards will probably be favored in every game they play during the regular season. Unfortunately, the harsh reality that flows from this logic is that winning every game on their schedule will not be enough to punch a ticket to Pasadena for the BCS Championship game. At least not without a few things outside of their control breaking their way.
As is the case with any team full of big dreams and goals, handling their own business is priority number one. That said, in the world of College Football perception is reality, and therefore the slate of games on the schedule make the road to glory far more convoluted than treacherous. Still, unless Louisville goes undefeated, and wins every game convincingly, there is no shot at a trip to the Rose Bowl this year. This is a given. The numbers used for the BCS computer formula won't add up with a loss, and there can be no doubt in the minds of potential voters. No thoughts of last second victories at FIU or Southern Mississippi. There can be no head scratching losses to UConn.
My lone criticism of any recent decision made by the athletic department is that it didn't bend the "only home and home" scheduling policy for this season. Given that Louisville is heading into the ACC next year, if there was ever a season to do it and not have it hurt your image/ schedule down the road, this was it. There, I said it. Please don't tell Tom or Charlie.
In looking at the schedules of all the teams on Louisville's schedule, there are several opportunities for those teams to help Louisville's chances with strength of schedule boosts, and most of them are early in the year.
- Kentucky: I'm not really counting on the Wildcats to make any noise in the SEC this year. Their new staff is doing good things on the recruiting trail, but that team has lost a lot of players to transfer, and they will be very young for the next two seasons. I'd say that the most we could hope for is that UK doesn't crap the bed against Western Kentucky, Miami (of Ohio), or Alabama State. After that, you'd like to think they can beat Missouri at home and anything else is icing for the Cards' SOS.
- Temple: The Owls begin their season with a road game at #11 Notre Dame on 8/31/13.
- Rutgers: The Scarlet Knights will host Arkansas on 9/21/13.
- Central Florida: The Fight'n Brandon Benders will travel to Penn State on 9/14/13, and then play host to # 7 South Carolina on 9/28/13.
- South Florida: The Bulls will play at Michigan State on 9/7/13 and then host Miami (Fla.) on 9/28/13.
- UConn: The Huskies will Maryland on 9/14/13, and #17 Michigan on 9/21/13.
- Cincinnati: The BearCats will host Purdue on 8/31/13, and Illinois on 9/7/13.
These are the games that matter in terms of Louisville's opponents creating a little buzz for the games they will play with the Cards. You'll notice that all of those games are games against teams from the "Power 5" (*GAGS*). Outside of these games, the games to pay attention to will be far too many to list. I say that because Louisville will need every team ahead of them to lose at least once, if not twice. I really wish there was another game against a team from one of these leagues on Louisville's schedule, but that just isn't the case.
Having an undefeated season, in any league, is a lot to ask of a team. The world of College Football is still a world where a team can win every game and not get a chance to prove that they are the best of the best. It's a world where a team from the SEC can lose to another team from the SEC, not win their division or league championship, and still play for a National Title because it's a world where perception is reality.
Louisville can only do so much to help their perception, in terms of championship worthiness, the rest is in the hands of voters, computers, and other teams succeeding or stumbling. If the Louisville Cardinals find themselves in Pasadena at the end of the year, it would be a tremendous statement on the quality of the program and how far it's come in a very short amount of time. There's no shame in landing back in New Orleans, Miami, or in Glendale for the Fiesta Bowl, but the real reward for this program will come in 2014 when it can control it's own destiny.