Louisville football now awaits its bowl season fate before beginning to prepare for the postseason. We examine the best and worst-case scenarios for the Cardinals this bowl season.
It’s the most wonderful time of the year. College basketball is starting to get rolling, NFL and NBA are in full swing and if you’re a Louisville football fan, your team is awaiting its bowl game announcement for the 9th time in 10 seasons.
Though the Cardinals ended their 2019 regular season on a sour note by losing in blowout fashion to Kentucky, the season as a whole was an overwhelming success.
Now, Louisville football awaits the announcement of its bowl game opponent. Though there should be some movement during conference championship weekend, we have a pretty good idea of what bowl the Cards may wind up in, and subsequently who their opponent may be.
Recently, BRL’s Jacob Lane broke down Louisville’s options, and as a point of reference, this is every bowl game associated with the ACC in 2019:
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)
And as a reminder, here is the way the regular season standings ended:
The Cardinals finished alone in second place in the ACC Atlantic, and fourth overall in the conference behind Clemson, Virginia, and Virginia Tech.
However, because Clemson appears destined for the College Football Playoffs, there’s a bit of a wrinkle in the way everything could play out.
The ACC champion goes to the Orange Bowl, but if the champ is in the playoffs the league’s second highest-ranked team would head to the Orange Bowl. At this point, that would be Virginia. But if Clemson wins by the margin they are expected to in the ACC title game, the conference very well may have only one ranked team.
With only one ranked team in the final standings, the Orange Bowl committee has the right to invite its own choice. Right now, all signs point towards Notre Dame snagging the Orange Bowl bid, thus relegating UVA to the “other” bowls.
With UVA in the mix with the “others”, it still seems likely that the Cavaliers would end up in the Camping World Bowl against an Alabama or Auburn. With that said, we still won’t rule the Camping World Bowl out quite yet.
So, what does that leave Louisville football with? The answer is a myriad of options. The Cardinals could climb as high as a bid to the Camping World Bowl and fall as low as Pinstripe Bowl.
So, let’s take a look at the Cards’ most likely bowl options and their best and worst possible opponents.
Most likely bowl options
3. Pinstripe Bowl
It’s not the flashiest option, but Louisville could very well end up in one of the more unique games of bowl season.
Played in Yankee Stadium in New York City, Cards fans would have the opportunity to experience a bowl game like never before in the big apple.
Aside from the cold weather, poor sightlines, and travel expense to the most expensive tourist city in the country, the Cards may not wind up with the most attractive opponent in the Pinstripe Bowl. While Wisconsin, Penn State, and Notre Dame have played in the game throughout its 9 year history, it more often sees names like Northwestern and Iowa.
This year, the most likely opponents for the Cards, if they were to land in this game, would be Illinois or Indiana.
2. Belk Bowl
Cards fans are familiar with the Belk Bowl but likely don’t have too many fond memories from years past. In their last two appearances in the Belk Bowl, Louisville sputtered to the finish against NC State and was trampled by Georgia.
Still, the Belk Bowl is among the most well-run bowls that the Cards have played in, and though the drive is a little further than most would desire, Charlotte is a city that is well worth the trip.
The Belk Bowl has some fun vibes in a cool stadium in a great city for a New Year’s Eve showdown against what would be a solid SEC opponent.
Consider this option B for the Cards, who would most likely face Texas A&M, Tennessee, or Mississippi State.
1. Music City Bowl
If I’m Vince Tyra, this is option No. 1. Regardless of the season, the Music City Bowl is among the most attractive for Louisville fans.
A short drive to a city that Louisvillians are obsessed with to a stadium and game that are insanely fun. Who doesn’t love ditching tailgating for bar-hopping during pre and post-game?
Oh, and an attractive SEC opponent like Tennessee or Texas A&M likely in the fold? Sign me up for that any year!
It should still be mentioned that there’s a slim chance that the Cards end up at the Camping World Bowl in Orlando. Given that CWB will have their first choice and whoever they want, and considering the fact that Notre Dame very well may be off the table, the Cardinals would be an attractive option.
The committee would be wise to first extend an invite to in-state Miami, but if things work out perfectly, Louisville could still be in the mix. The only issue here is that the Cards would likely face a really tough SEC opponent, and I’m not sure they wouldn’t rather play a game they have a better chance of winning closer to home.
Opponents the Cards least want to face
Regardless of what pundits are projecting, this writer highly doubts that Louisville will even sniff the Military Bowl. But if there’s some crazy circumstance where the Cards are relegated to Annapolis, it would be highly likely they’d be paired with a run-heavy Navy team.
We will get a chance to see the Midshipmen in action against Army this weekend, but I’ll go ahead and tell you now- Louisville does not match up well with Navy at all. They play hard-nosed smashmouth football and run the ball down your throat. That’s exactly what Louisville doesn’t want in a postseason game with a thin and rebuilding defense.
Remember the super unlikely scenario where the Cards could wind up in Orlando? Well, did I mention they could be playing freaking Alabama?
Yeah, the Tide has two losses, but it’s still Alabama and Louisville is hurting desperately in the trenches. No, thank you for a thousand reasons.
Many are projecting UAB to the Music City Bowl. And while the Conference USA Champs are having an excellent season, that’s about the most “meh” opponent I can think of.
Opponents we’d love to see Louisville face
How about a rematch of the 2015 Music City Bowl? This time, two teams would meet at completely different places than four years ago. However, a match-up with a historically solid program with a big-name coach would be huge.
The Aggies are still rebuilding under Jimbo Fischer, but they have some elite talent and pushed some of the SEC’s best teams this season. It would be a more than adequate test for Louisville.
If the Cards drew Tennessee in their home state, it would lead to a huge turnout against a historically great football brand.
Obviously, the Tennessee of old is nowhere to be found, but that doesn’t matter at this point. If you want a fun opponent, the Vols are near the top of the list.
Louisville has beef with Mississippi State in all sports. That’s something I never thought I’d say prior to 2017, but the Bulldogs owned the Cards in every sport throughout the course of a calendar sports season and it’s time for some payback.
Obviously, MSU is not nearly as attractive as an SEC opponent as A&M and UT, but they appear destined for the Belk or Music City Bowl and I’d be totally fine with that.