Examining the bowl options and latest projections for Louisville football

After pulling off a road victory against North Carolina State the Louisville football program is officially bowl eligible. We take a look at some of the bowl matchup predictions being tossed out for the Cards.

What a feeling it is to be bowl eligible with two games to go. After taking a beatdown against Miami a week ago, Louisville football bounced back strong on the road against North Carolina State – becoming bowl eligible along the way.

Behind Scott Satterfield and his coaching staff, the Louisville program currently sit tied for the most wins over their previous year result, having four more wins than they did in 2018 with two games left to go.

In his first season, Satterfield has his team ready to hit the eight-win mark with games remaining against Syracuse and Kentucky positioning the Cards for an upper-echelon bowl birth. Think about it. This time a year ago Louisville was just days removed from firing their head coach while sitting at 2-9 with all eyes set on a big run at Jeff Brohm.

In a matter of months, things changed drastically, all for the better.

Appalachian State head coach Scott Satterfield was hired to replace Bobby Petrino in the wake of Jeff Brohm’s tough decision to stay in Purdue (Louisville definitely dodged a bullet there) and the rest was history.

Now Louisville has claimed its spot in a bowl, doing so in rather impressive fashion if you ask me. This season the Cards have earned the right to go bowling by winning a handful of games that they weren’t supposed to, including on the road at no. 19 ranked Wake Forest and likely ACC Coastal winner, Virginia. Not to mention they’ve clinched their first trip to a bowl game since 2017 in just under 10 weeks of play, meaning there’s still time to improve standing.

The bowl matchups for Louisville will vary based on their standing in the ACC Atlantic Division, where they currently sit in second place. Assuming the Cards are able to knock off Syracuse, who currently is in second to last place, they’ll clinch the second-place spot and will more than likely finish behind Clemson, Virginia, Pittsburgh, and Miami in the College Football Playoff.

With Virginia likely headed for the Orange Bowl, that will leave eight other bowls available to be filled with bowl-eligible teams for the ACC, including Notre Dame and excluding Clemson – who is all but locked into one of the four spots in the CFB Playoff.

According to Stewart Mandel of The Athletic (Subscription required), the bowl games with ACC tie in’s are as follows:

  • Orange Bowl (ACC no. 1 or 2)
  • Camping World (ACC no. 3/Notre Dame)
  • Sun Bowl (ACC no. 3-6)
  • Belk Bowl (ACC no. 3-6)
  • Music City Bowl (ACC no. 3-6)
  • Pinstripe Bowl (ACC no. 3-6)
  • Military Bowl (ACC no. 7)
  • Independence Bowl (ACC no. 8)
  • Quick Lanes Bowl (ACC no. 9)

As of now, the bowl-eligible ACC teams in order of standings are:

  1. Clemson 11-0
  2. Virginia 7-3
  3. Pittsburgh 7-3
  4. Virginia Tech 7-3
  5. Wake Forest 7-3
  6. Miami 6-4
  7. Louisville 6-4
  8. Florida State 6-5

Other teams who could become eligible:

  • Boston College 5-5
  • NC State 4-6
  • North Carolina 4-6
  • Syracuse 4-6
  • Duke 4-6

There are plenty of outlets out there with bowl predictions, but for the sake of this recurring piece, we’ll look at three major outlets. CBS (Jerry Palm), ESPN, and Sporting News.

 

No. 1 – ESPN

Mark Schlabach: Military Bowl vs. Navy (December 27th)

Kyle Bonagura: Sun Bowl vs. Arizona State (December 31st)

Reaction: To still see Louisville projected in the Military Bowl is rather confusing to me, but it’s a game I want no part of. With Louisville currently sitting in second place in the Atlantic and sixth overall in the ACC (if you go by winning percentage), the math suggests that ESPN analyst Mark Schlabach believes that the Cards would drop one more game this season.

Both matchups would be challenging for Louisville, but both are winnable. Against Navy, Louisville’s defense would be tested with a unique triple-option style offense in what would essentially be a home game for the Midshipmen, while Arizona State brings NFL caliber coaching behind Herm Edwards and his mix of former NFL staffers with NFL caliber stars in Eno Benjamin at running back and freshman quarterback Jayden Daniels.

I’d feel more comfortable with Louisville having to tackle matching up with the more traditional style offense in Arizona State, but with over a month to prepare I think Louisville could exploit Navy’s defense while being able to bend without breaking against the high-powered offense.

However, the trip to El Paso is one I do not wish upon anyone.

No. 2 – CBS

Jerry Palm: Music City Bowl vs. Tennessee (December 30th)

Reaction: If there was an option to stop the season today and be selected for whatever bowl Jerry Palm predicted, I’d take it in a heartbeat and not look back. How could you not?

First off, Louisville would get a matchup against an SEC team in a game that they could and should be in favored in. Secondly, an opportunity to take the 2 hour drive to Nashville for the second time in the same season is one too good to pass up.

Bowl games are hard to attract fans too, especially ones that are in cities that aren’t especially exciting (sorry, El Paso). To get a matchup with a traditional SEC school that is winnable and in driving distance (not to mention Louisville has said they are going to eat costs in the name of fans traveling) is a win-win (pun intended).

Tennessee started their season on a rather rough note losing in back-to-back games to Georgia State and BYU. Since then they’ve managed to pull out wins against teams they should beat including Mississippi State, South Carolina, and Kentucky.

This year’s UT team is not what you’d expect from other years past (albeit, not recent) but they are still made up of mostly high-level four and five-star players which could only help in the building of the program down the road and in recruiting.

No. 3 – Sporting News

Bill Bender: Pinstripe Bowl vs. Illinois (December 27th)

Reaction: Illinois is another matchup that is out there, via the Pinstripe Bowl at Yankee Stadium in New York City, that I feel pretty comfortable with. While it’s not a game that would probably attract many fans, due to the cold weather, the cost of flying and staying in New York, as well as falling just two days after Christmas, it is one that I think would be really cool for the players and the program.

Illinois is also a pretty formidable opponent. After being at the bottom of the totem pole in the Big Ten for the last five or so years, head coach Lovie Smith has brought the Fighting Illini back to relevancy again by pulling off wins against no. 6 Wisconsin, Purdue, and Michigan State this season.

They’ve shown to be able to stop run-heavy teams like Wisconsin while also being able to win games in shootouts like they did this past weekend against Michigan State.

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With Louisville having explosive playmakers outside and a dynamic dual-threat QB in Micale Cunningham, I think this would be another game where the offensive of the Cards shines.

 

 

 

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