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Is 2022 the Toughest Schedule Louisville Football Will Have Faced Since Joining ACC?

Bad timing for a coach on the hot seat

NCAA Football: Clemson at Louisville Jamie Rhodes-USA TODAY Sports

Yesterday virtually every sports book under the sun published their ACC win total projections for 2022, which is normally one of my favorite days of the year. However, what fans saw for Louisville wasn’t exactly inspiring as the majority of casinos have the Cardinals’ win totals set at 5.5 or 6.

Needless to say, 5 or 6 wins will likely have a majority of the fanbase calling for Scott Satterfield to be fired. And so with this news the big conversation of the day was once again “how many games does Satterfield need to win to keep his job?” It’s a valid one, especially with the new recruiting wrinkles thrown on top of everything, that I expect every local radio show and website to discuss endlessly this summer.

But what I’m more interested in is the why.

Many fans may already be groaning, “of course we’re only projected to win 6 games when Satterfield’s our coach.” Maybe there’s some truth to that, but let’s look at the numbers. It’s truly bizarre to see any college team who ranks 14th* in the country in returning production and is projected 29th overall* in the country projected to win only half of their games.

*Now, to be fair these numbers were published months ago, so I expect to see some movement once they get updated and all transfers have been accounted for. But nothing drastic.

The usual and easy answer is the schedule. But for a fringe Top-25 team, their schedule would have to be historically difficult for them to go .500, right?

Welp. Turns out, it might actually be.

To figure out if this schedule really is as daunting as everyone, including Vegas, is making it out to be, I took the average final SP+ ranking of Louisville’s opponents from each season and compared them against one another and this year’s preseason rankings. The results speak for themselves.

If the 2022 preseason SP+ rankings hold (they won’t), this schedule would comfortable sit as the most difficult that any Louisville team has faced since joining the ACC in 2014. And for this exercise I removed the FCS opponents from previous year’s averages, which would have only made the disparity even greater by weighing down all the other averages. Hell, even the FCS team were supposed to play this year, James Madison, who made the move up to FBS this year, isn’t the worst opponent on our schedule (Shoutout, USF Bulls. 90th and 94th, respectively).

And what’s really interesting about the schedule and its average is that it’s not top-heavy/bottom-heavy like we’ve seen in year’s past where we’re playing Top-10 FSU and Clemson alongside the Dukes and WKUs of the world. Instead, this schedule only has one Top-10 team, but FIVE Top-25 teams. That’s difficult. Even the worst opponents on the schedule, JMU and USF, rank inside the Top-100, which will be only the third time since joining the ACC that Louisville doesn’t face an FBS team ranked 100+.

Tough schedules happen, of course. And we knew things would get more difficult with the transition to Power 5 football. That’s not the problem. The problem, of course, is the one we addressed earlier: Scott Satterfield needs to win now, and to win big. But the schedule he’s been dealt isn’t doing him any favors, and only makes his uphill battle to save his job even more difficult.

This is why I haven’t been surprised to hear Louisville fans say they’ll take him back if he goes 7-5 this year and brings in a Top-25 recruiting class. Not sure many of us would have expected us to be okay with a coach in year four going 7-5 when we joined the ACC, but maybe this schedule really does shape up to be the gauntlet it appears to be and we give Satterfield a break for performing below program expectations, again.

Guess we have all summer to discuss it, don’t we?