Throughout Louisville’s 100-plus year history of playing football, they have played some pretty remarkable teams and programs. That includes a monster 2018 slate that saw the Cardinals face two national championship teams in Alabama and Clemson. And while they have faced some top flight programs since their move up to the ACC in 2014, there are still some programs that Louisville has yet to face on the gridiron.
Here is a list of FBS programs that have yet to play Louisville in football, entering the 2019 season.
Big XII: Iowa State and Texas Tech
The Louisville Cardinals have played 80% of the current Big XII teams, and even used to play TCU (Conference USA) and West Virginia (Big East) in their former conferences. They’ve also hosted both Texas and Oklahoma in Louisville, dominating the Longhorns in 1993 (and hosted Oklahoma at
Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium in 1999). Louisville does hold an undefeated record against both Kansas and Kansas State, most notably beating a K-State team in 2006 that had future NFL players Josh Freeman and Jordy Nelson (Louisville also beat Freeman in 2008 when Kansas State came to Cardinal Stadium). Louisville played Baylor in 1996, and last played Oklahoma State in 1982.
But the two that haven’t played Louisville yet? That would be Iowa State and Texas Tech. The Cyclones are currently a rising power in the Big XII under head coach Matt Campbell, starting the 2019 season as a top 25 team. The Red Raiders are sort of a parallel to the Cardinals in their athletics program right now. Texas Tech, like Louisville, has had an insane run in college baseball, reaching the College World Series in four of the previous six seasons. Their men’s basketball program is coming off a national runner-up finish, and the Red Raiders are lining up to face Louisville in one of the most anticipated non-conference games of the 2019 college basketball season.
How Louisville Plays Them
Among the two schools, I would say Texas Tech is more likely to get Louisville on their schedule than Iowa State is.
However, it might be awhile before Louisville is likely to schedule a Power Five opponent in the regular season. Louisville’s out-of-conference schedule is locked in through 2022, with the Cards playing Kentucky (2019-22), Ole Miss (2021), and Notre Dame (2019 & 2020) as their notable non-conference games. Louisville is also set to play Indiana from 2023-25, and heading to Notre Dame once again in 2026. Assuming that Louisville will likely play Kentucky for the foreseeable future in football, that leaves at least one spot for a Power Five opponent from 2027-29, 2031, 2034, and 2036 onward. Those would be years that Louisville could have two Power Five opponents on their schedule (Kentucky being one, the other being whoever), which is usually the limit for every Power Five school.
As for Texas Tech, the earliest they can get a Power Five team in is likely 2030. The Red Raiders have at least one Power Five opponent booked through 2029, setting up home-and-homes with Arizona (2019-20), NC State (2022, ‘27), Oregon (2023-24), Oregon State (2025-26), and Mississippi State (2028-29). Getting a home-and-home with Louisville in the 2030s is, in my opinion, one of the more likely “first-time” matchups to happen in our given timeframe.
Iowa State, however, will be much more challenging. The Big XII requires nine conference games out of its teams. With the Cyclones playing nine games in the Big XII and also playing intrastate rival Iowa every September, that leaves Iowa State with just two games to schedule for every season. Unless Louisville and Iowa State were to meet in the Camping World Bowl (the only ACC v. Big XII bowl game), the likelihood for a Cardinals v. Cyclones football game is slim.
Big Ten: Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska, Northwestern, Wisconsin
When I gathered the list of teams yet to face Louisville in football, I wasn’t surprised to see that the Pac-12 led all Power Five conferences with nine.
What was surprising, though, was that the Big Ten had six teams, which is second among all Power Five conferences. Five of the six are in the Big Ten West, where Louisville has only played Illinois (last played in 2001) and Purdue (last played in 2017) in that division. Louisville played two games in Bloomington against Indiana in 1985 & 1986, and will play a three-game series against the Hoosiers from 2023-25 (2023 in Indianapolis, 2024 in Louisville, 2025 in Bloomington). Louisville played against Maryland (1995), Michigan State (1993, 95-96), Ohio State (1991-92), and Penn State (1996-97) throughout the 1990s, and was a former Big East (turned American Athletic Conference) rival of Rutgers from 2005-2013.
That leaves Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska, Northwestern, and Wisconsin as the six remaining teams. Among all the conferences evaluated, some of these teams are obviously the strongest, in terms of star power. Everyone should have Michigan, Nebraska, and Wisconsin at the very top of their list. All three boast some of the best gameday experiences in football, from Ann Arbor and Hail to the Victors, to Camp Randall and doing the Jump Around rally in the fourth quarter. Iowa isn’t too far behind, as Kinnick Stadium always has the potential to be one of college football’s loudest crowds.
How Louisville Plays Them
Which leads me to talk about how these Big Ten teams get on Louisville’s schedule. The Big Ten also has a nine-game conference schedule for all 14 teams, which has put Iowa in the same predicament as their in-state rival, Iowa State. The Hawkeyes’ non-conference schedules are set through 2023, but even though they have openings starting in 2024, it’s doubtful Iowa will schedule a Power Five opponent with their rival on top of it. I would love to go to Kinnick Stadium and be able to participate in arguably the most heartwarming tradition in college football. But a Louisville v. Iowa home-and-home schedule isn’t likely to happen anytime soon, especially if their series with Iowa State is (very likely) extended.
Michigan has a Power Five team scheduled through 2027, which includes two top-tier programs in Texas (2024, 2027) and Oklahoma (2025-26). They do have an opening in 2022 and 2023, but a home-and-home with UCLA during that stretch likely means the Cardinals won’t get Michigan until at least 2028.
Minnesota also has room to add Louisville on their schedule, starting in 2028. After this season, the Gophers have a Power Five team on their schedule every year except 2020 and 2025, when Minnesota is set to host — and travel to — BYU during those years, respectively. Even this season, which is the only one in the immediate future for Minnesota without a Power Five opponent, the Gophers are set to face Fresno State and Georgia Southern, two of the better Group of Five schools in the FBS.
If Louisville fans are wanting to get Nebraska on their schedule, it’ll be a while before that opportunity presents itself. The Huskers have a Power Five opponent in their non-conference schedule from 2021-24, and 2026-31. That includes another two-game series with Colorado (2023-24) and two separate home-and-homes with Oklahoma (2021-22, 2029-30). There are openings starting in 2023, and Nebraska doesn’t have a Power Five opponent currently lined up in 2025. Unless Nebraska and Louisville can arrange a neutral-site game for the 2025 season, it’s doubtful the Cardinals and the Huskers can get a home-and-home set up in the immediate future.
The most likely team to get Louisville on their schedule, though, is Northwestern. After the Wildcats travel to Stanford this season, they have a four-game series with Duke from 2021-24. After that, the only Power Five team on Northwestern’s schedule is a home-and-home with Colorado in 2026 and 2027. Assuming that we follow the trend of Big Ten teams getting at least one Power Five school on their schedule, Northwestern has availability in 2025, and from 2028-31. Louisville and Northwestern could definitely make a home-and-home series happen in that 2028-31 window, with the possibility of a third “neutral-site” game at Soldier Field or Wrigley Field in Chicago in 2025, similar to what Louisville has scheduled with both WKU and Indiana in recent years.
Wisconsin is another team that I’d love to see Louisville get a home-and-home with, mainly so Louisville fans could experience the Jump Around. But much like every other team (except for Northwestern), a Cardinals v. Badgers matchup is tough to imagine happening in the foreseeable future. After this season, Wisconsin has a Power Five opponent in their non-conference schedule almost every year until 2032, which includes: two neutral-site games against Notre Dame (2020 in Green Bay, 2021 in Chicago), and home-and-homes against Washington State, Alabama, Pitt, UCLA, and Virginia Tech from 2022-32. A neutral-site game against Wisconsin at Lambeau Field would be a legendary gameday experience.
If none of these workout, the best chance for Louisville is likely a matchup in either the Quick Lane or Pinstripe Bowl, as those are ACC v. Big Ten bowl games.
Pac-12: Arizona, California, UCLA, Colorado, Oregon, Stanford, USC, Washington, Washington State
The Pac-12 leading the Power Five with nine teams having yet to play a football game against Louisville isn’t surprising at all. But the fact that Louisville hasn’t played any of the marquee California schools (or Washington) is one of the most fascinating finds on the list.
The three Pac-12 teams that have played Louisville up to this point are Arizona State, Utah, and Oregon State. Louisville currently rides a two-game winning streak over the Sun Devils, taking two-of-three in their three-game series from 1992-94. Louisville is tied 1-1 with Oregon State, having met the Beavers in 2005 and 2010. Louisville is winless against Utah all-time (0-4), but all four meetings came before the Utes were invited to the Pac-12.
That leaves a staggering nine teams that Louisville has yet to face from the Pac-12. Those teams are: Arizona, Cal, UCLA, Colorado, Oregon, Stanford, USC, Washington, and Washington State.
How Louisville Plays Them
The ACC does have a bowl tie-in with the Pac-12 in the Sun Bowl. If Louisville is going to El Paso at some point in the near future for that game, there’s a 75% chance the Cards will play a first-time opponent.
Arizona does have openings starting in 2024, but has a Power Five opponent scheduled almost every season up to 2032. The Wildcats have home-and-homes lined up with Texas Tech (2019-20), Mississippi State (2022-23), Kansas State (2024-25), Nebraska (2028, 2031), and Virginia Tech (2029-30), as well as BYU (2026-27).
A Louisville v. Colorado or Louisville v. Oregon home-and-home series likely won’t happen until at least 2031. The Buffaloes have their out-of-conference schedules filled from 2020-28, and also have SEC teams Florida and Missouri scheduled in 2029 and 2030, respectively. Oregon has an opening in 2025 and 2027 onward, but the Ducks have Power Five opponents lined up until 2030 (Auburn ‘19, Ohio State 2020-21, Georgia ‘22, Texas Tech 2023-24, Oklahoma State 2025-26, Baylor 2027-28, Michigan State 2029-30).
Among all the teams that have yet to face Louisville, Cal is one of the programs that could schedule the Cards the earliest. The Golden Bears have an opening in 2023 and from 2025 onward; but due to Louisville’s three-game series with Indiana from 2023-25, that means the earliest these two could meet is in 2027. Both teams have openings from 2027-29, so the possibility of Louisville getting a marquee non-conference game in that window is definitely there.
UCLA has been one of the most active Power Five teams in terms of scheduling, as they have their out-of-conference schedule set until 2027. The Bruins do not have a Power Five opponent in 2020, but will from 2021-30 when they play LSU (2021, 2024), Michigan (2022-23), Georgia (2025-26), Auburn (2027-28), and Wisconsin (2029-30). After 2030, UCLA and Louisville could always try scheduling a home-and-home, giving Louisville fans a chance to make the long journey out to Los Angeles.
As for UCLA’s in-town rival USC, Louisville has a better chance to add the Trojans to their schedule, but it’s still not great by any means. USC has openings from 2024 onward, but with rival Notre Dame up on their schedule until 2026, the most likely opportunity starts in 2027. Even if USC likely continues their series with Notre Dame past 2026, it’s not impossible to suggest USC could schedule a Power Five opponent; the Trojans have both Alabama and Notre Dame on their schedule in 2020. However, with west coast teams more likely to schedule teams closer to their side of the country, and with USC only seemingly interested in marquee matchups for its out-of-conference slate, that might make a USC v. Louisville home-and-home tough to imagine happening.
A team that Louisville should consider adding to its out-of-conference schedule is Stanford. The Cardinal and the Cardinals have a chance to add each other on starting in 2027. Stanford is perhaps the biggest outlier of the teams that have yet to face Louisville, as they have three Power Five opponents in out-of-conference play during 2021 (K-State, Vanderbilt, Notre Dame), and 2024 (TCU, Vanderbilt, Notre Dame). Stanford also has Boston College in a home-and-home during 2028 and 2029. If Louisville and Stanford are going to play each other, the most likely scenario would be a home-and-home series in 2027 and 2031.
The two teams from the Evergreen State, Washington and Washington State, might be likely candidates for Louisville in the future. Washington has a chance to add Louisville on their schedule during 2027 and 2029, when both the Cards and the Huskies don’t have a Power Five opponent currently lined up. There is an opening for both teams in 2023 as well, but we’re going to assume that both Louisville and Washington will have games lined up with their respective in-state rivals.
Speaking of Washington State, the earliest the Cardinals could get the Cougars on-board is likely 2031. Washington State has openings starting in 2024, and they have Wisconsin (2022-23), Kansas State (2026, 2029), and Kansas (2027-28) as out-of-conference opponents up to 2031. A home-and-home series with Washington State for 2031 and 2034 would be appealing, especially if head coach Mike Leach is still around at that time.
SEC: Arkansas, Ole Miss, South Carolina
Due to Louisville’s membership in the ACC, the Cardinals have faced several SEC teams in recent years. Louisville plays Kentucky every year, so nothing else needs to be said there. But since 2013, the Cardinals have played Florida, Georgia, Alabama, Auburn, LSU, Mississippi State, and Texas A&M. They’ve also played Missouri (1981), Tennessee (five times, last in 1993), and Vanderbilt (1941 & 1974) throughout their program’s history.
Despite the recent influx of Louisville’s newfound SEC opponents, the Cardinals still have three SEC schools left to face: Arkansas, Ole Miss, and South Carolina.
How Louisville Plays Them
Louisville and Ole Miss are set to face-off for the first time in the 2021 Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game in Atlanta. So really, this will focus on the actual teams Louisville will have yet to face after the 2021 season: Arkansas, and South Carolina.
One advantage to the SEC is that they, along with the ACC, currently don’t have a nine-game conference schedule. This gives them more flexibility in terms of scheduling possible out-of-conference opponents. Add in the proximity of Louisville to some of these SEC schools, and that makes it justifiable for U of L to go ahead and get some of these teams onboard for a game.
Louisville’s best chance to get Arkansas in a home-and-home series would be 2029 and 2031. The Razorbacks have Power Five opponents lined up as far out as 2033 (Notre Dame 2020 & 2025; Texas 2021; Oklahoma State 2024 & 2027, 2031 & 2033; Utah 2026 & 2028).
South Carolina, however, isn’t as likely. The Gamecocks have openings in their 2021 schedule and 2024 onward, and thanks to their in-state rivalry with Clemson, they have a Power Five opponent guaranteed through 2037. But South Carolina hasn’t necessarily scheduled a ton of marquee home-and-homes in recent years. Maybe Louisville could break that mold with a home-and-home series during 2027-29, but the possibility of a neutral-site game at Charlotte with the Gamecocks is also there. South Carolina kicked off the 2017 season with a neutral-site game in Charlotte against NC State, and will do so in 2019 and 2023 against North Carolina.
Top Group of Five Schools: Appalachian State, Ball State, Air Force, Hawaii
Instead of evaluating all Group of Five conferences one-by-one, I’ve taken some teams from all the conferences that would probably be most appealing to Louisville fans. Some of these may be more likely to happen in the regular season, as Louisville might be able to schedule a one-off with some of these teams they have yet to play.
To start, Louisville has played every team in the American Athletic Conference. But, Louisville is set to have a home-and-home with UCF (2021-22), and a three-game series with USF (2022, 2024, 2026) in the near future. I would say there is still an interest in the fan base to revive either the Cincinnati or the Memphis rivalry at some point, but as far as timetables goes on either, that is a mystery. Assuming that the Louisville-Kentucky series continues on after 2022, the Cardinals have openings from 2024 onward for a Group of Five school. Cincinnati has openings starting in 2022, and Memphis in 2023.
As for the Sun Belt, the most appealing option is Appalachian State, if only because head coach Scott Satterfield is from there. The Mountaineers have openings starting in 2024, but Satterfield has made it clear that he has no interest in making that series happen.
Louisville has played Indiana, Purdue, and Notre Dame, but one team from the Hoosier State it has not played yet is Ball State. It does present an interesting scheduling idea; both teams have openings in 2024, and with three hours separating Louisville from Muncie, IN (where Ball State is located), that would make scheduling a Cardinals v. Cardinals matchup entirely possible. Ball State does open the 2019 season against Indiana at Lucas Oil Stadium, so it might not be ridiculous to suggest Louisville and Ball State could have a neutral-site game there as well.
Could Air Force make its way on Louisville’s schedule anytime soon? The Falcons are the only Division I military academy that has yet to play Louisville; the Cardinals regularly played Army in their Conference USA days throughout the 90s and early 2000s, and Louisville beat Navy in back-to-back games in 1993 and 1994. Air Force v. Louisville would likely happen as soon as 2024, even with Air Force guaranteed two out-of-conference games against rivals Army and Navy.
By far, the most appealing road trip Louisville could make with a first-time opponent is Hawaii. The Rainbow Warriors and Cardinals would happen as early as 2025. Even if it is concerning about the long trip to Honolulu, Hawaii has managed to schedule home games against Vanderbilt (2022) and Wisconsin (2025). If Louisville managed to get a home-and-home scheduled with Hawaii, it would certainly be a once in a lifetime gameday experience for fans.