I'm going to say this before I say anything else: I know that there are a few people reading this who are already preparing to roll down to the comments section, make your "Who cares? All we can do is worry about ourselves. Let's destroy all the teams we play and then let everything else play out. It's all we can do." commend and then watch the recs flow like wine.
Don't do that. I understand that this is the case, you understand that this is the case, we all understand that this is the case. Here's the thing: we don't play on the team. We're allowed to be focused on things other than beating Duke next Friday. If we spend five minutes wondering how the Florida State/Miami result might effect U of L's chances of making the College Football Playoff in a couple months, it does absolutely nothing to change the outlook of the Cards' game against the Blue Devils.
All I've heard this entire week are questions about what needs to happen for U of L to be one of the four teams picked for the national semifinals. That being the case, why not explore it? This whole thing is a lot of fun, and so long as the Cards playing in the Peach or Fiesta Bowl is a realistic possibility, I say we enjoy every angle.
Of course all this comes with the understanding that none of this matters if Louisville doesn't finish the regular season 11-1.
Here's what we're rooting for to happen in week six:
Boston College to beat Clemson or Clemson to beat Boston College badly (Friday - 7:30, ESPN)
There are two schools of thought here that make this the only game this weekend where it's not clear what the best result for Louisville would be. Most people seem to agree that winning the ACC title would be a huge boost to U of L's chances of making the CFP playoff, but I think people might be putting just a tad too much emphasis on that (maybe I wind up being totally wrong about that, but whatever).
Winning a conference title is not a prerequisite for being selected to play in the national semifinals. I think it's important to remember that we're working with an extremely limited sample size (two years), so the committee appearing to "buck protocol" and doing something that seems to go against its M.O. of the past two years wouldn't be as shocking as some people are making it out to be.
Having said all that, would winning the ACC title and having gone through that 13th game work in Louisville's favor in a couple months? Yeah, probably. But there's also a disaster scenario at play that we probably need to address.
What if Clemson does lose twice to seemingly inferior opponents, Florida State never gets its issues figured out, and Houston drops a game to an AAC team that has them out of the top 10 (or top 15) come mid-November. Suddenly Louisville almost winning in Death Valley isn't as much of a checkmark in the "pros" column, the shine is almost totally off the FSU win, and if you beat Houston badly enough, you put yourself at risk of ending the regular season with no top 25 wins. In that case, U of L would need to beatdown an undefeated or one-loss Coastal champion (Miami?) to even have a shot.
I know that's a lot of "ifs," but all I'm saying is that I'm not sure "Clemson losing twice >>>> Clemson going 13-0" is the stone cold lock that people are making it out to be. What I do know is that the worst thing for Louisville would be for the Tigers to lose once and still win the Atlantic, which leaves us with just two rooting interests tonight.
On to the Saturday games
No. 20 Oklahoma beating Texas (Noon - FS1)
Oklahoma continuing to look good makes Houston look better, and Houston looking good makes a potential Louisville win at TDECU Stadium look better.
NC State beating Notre Dame (Noon - ABC)
A 33-30 road loss to East Carolina is the only thing keeping NC State from being 4-0 and at least knocking on the door of the top 25 right now. Beating Notre Dame doesn't mean a whole lot right now, but it certainly means more than losing to the Fighting Irish. The Wolfpack have to head to Death Valley next weekend before they visit Louisville on Oct. 22.
Duke beating Army (3:30 p.m. - ACC Network)
There's nothing Duke can do in this game that would put Louisville in a position where they'd earn significant respect by hammering the Blue Devils a week from tonight. That said, a home loss to Army by David Cutcliffe's team would make the risk/reward situation U of L's facing on Oct. 14 significantly more lopsided.
No. 6 Houston beating Navy (3 p.m. - CBS Sports Network)
This is one of the trickiest games on the Cougars' conference slate. The Middies and Memphis -- a team Houston faces on the road the week after they play Louisville -- appear to be the Cougs' top two threats in the AAC.
Indiana beating No. 2 Ohio State (3:30 p.m. - ESPN)
Long shot, of course, but this is a rooting guide. It would behoove Louisville for Ohio State or Michigan (or both!) to get nicked up with a loss before they meet on Thanksgiving weekend.
A blowout in the No. 8 Texas A&M vs. No. 9 Tennessee game (preferably with A&M winning) (3:30 - CBS)
The game of the week in college football features a pair of teams that no one seems to really believe in, but who are undefeated in October, ranked in the top 10, and play in the SEC. That makes both of them a threat to our interests here.
Both of these teams still have to play Alabama, and they both seem destined to finish the regular season with at least two losses. Still, it'd be nice for whichever one of them goes down Saturday to so in embarrassing fashion (a la Stanford last week). If we're choosing, I think we'd choose for that team to be Tennessee, since A&M plays in the same division as Alabama which eliminates the possibility of them going 11-1 and springing an upset of the Tide in the SEC title game and sending everything into a whirlwind. That possibility exists if Tennessee wins.
USC to beat No. 21 Colorado (4 p.m. - Pac-12 Network)
As unlikely as it may be, there's still a chance right now that the Buffs could finish 12-1 with their only loss coming on the road against a very good Michigan team. That's a scenario that wouldn't be awesome for us, so let's go ahead and nip it in the bud now.
No. 16 Arkansas beating No. 1 Alabama (7 p.m. - ESPN)
A one-loss SEC champion Alabama still makes the playoff (we know because we keep seeing it happen), but a loss here would make a two-loss 'Bama a realistic possibility.
Rutgers beating No. 4 Michigan (7 p.m. - ESPN2)
The Wolverines would also be asked to drop their football program if this actually happened.
Oregon beating No. 5 Washington (7:30 p.m. - Fox)
The Huskies seem to be the one team that Louisville fans are focused on. There's no way to know how the whole "one-loss Pac-12 champion vs. 11-1 U of L" debate would play out, but there's zero question that an undefeated Pac-12 champion makes the playoff. Washington is the team that appears most likely to make that happen. They gotta fall.
No. 23 Florida State beating No. 10 Miami (8 p.m. - ABC)
The Seminoles have been all but eliminated from the Atlantic race, and now they're one loss away from no longer being a top 25 team. That wouldn't be the best look for Louisville's signature victory up to this point. The Cards need FSU to figure some things out, and you get the sense that if that doesn't happen this weekend, it's not going to happen at all in 2016.
Arizona beating No. 24 Utah (10 p.m. - FS1)
Washington State beating No. 15 Stanford (10:30 p.m. -- ESPN)
Obviously not the top priorities on our radar, but we're trying to cover all our bases here.
Charlotte beating Florida Atlantic (Sunday - Noon)
Because whatever, maybe the committee is completely insane and will utilize some ridiculously obscure formula that will make this game matter. There's no way to know. That's why we're doing this.