After an 0-3 start, we mapped out a “Road Map to Success” for Louisville Football and identified several key areas of why the Cards are where they were after the first 3 games of 2015.
Before we get to the map, I thought it would be important to highlight a few things from that article that were “Why We Are Here” and what changed Saturday vs. the Bulldogs. 1) Tough Schedule: Got a lot easier vs. Samford. 2) JUCO Offensive Lineman Didn’t Win Jobs: Kelby Johnson started vs. Samford, Kiola Mahoni got some meaningful snaps as well. 3) Wide Receiver Injuries: James Quick returned and led the Cards in receiving as well as put together a few outstanding plays after the catch. 4) Tackling & Containing: Louisville played Louisville Defense on Saturday. 5) No Quarterback Won the Job: Lamar Jackson was outstanding and Petrino said that moving forward the job was Lamar’s.
Road Map For Success
Step #1: Beat Samford -> COMPLETED (1-3)
Step #2: At Least Split N.C. State & Florida State Road Tests (2-4)
Winning on the Road is going to be much tougher vs. NC State or Florida State than beating Samford at PJCS. These two road games are in TOUGH ACC environments in Raleigh next week and Tallahassee in October. The nice thing is that the Cards get an OFF week between NC State and Florida State.
For NC State, Louisville will be the Wolfpack’s 1st real test. Thus far NC State is 4-0 with wins over Troy, Eastern Kentucky, Old Dominion and South Alabama….so basically the opposite of Louisville’s early schedule. NC State is expected to be a good team in 2015, but we don’t really know a lot about them (and they probably won’t know a lot about themselves) until Saturday when the Cards come to town.
Florida State is always talented and winning in Tallahassee is going to be a CHORE. FSU’s defense is playing outstanding and will give the Cards fits. UofL should show some growth vs. NC State and will get a BYE week to work on things before heading to Doak Campbell Stadium. UofL may be able to catch FSU napping unlike last year as Louisville is sandwiched between Miami and Georgia Tech on the schedule.
Step #3: Protect What’s Left of the Home Schedule & Beat Wake Forest (6-4)
Wake Forest (2-2) just lost to Indiana 31-24 and still have a limited offense with a pretty nice defense. Things may be better than they were a year ago in Winston-Salem, but Louisville should be able to go in there on Halloween Eve (for a Blackout) and get a win.
Louisville plays 3 of 4 home games starting with Boston College on 10/24 with the lone exception being the Wake Forest match-up. THEY ARE ALL MUST WIN: Boston College 10/24, Syracuse 11/7, and Virginia 11/14.
Boston College (3-1) just squeaked by Northern Illinois 17-14 (NIU took Ohio State to the final minute last week). The Eagles are playing outstanding defense with an impressive defensive line…there are some offensive limitations. BC plays at Clemson the week before the Cards and the trip to Louisville will be the 2nd road game in a row for the Eagles. Also the next week, BC will be facing Virginia Tech. If BC doesn’t fix its offense Louisville has a shot here, but it will be tough to move vs. Boston College.
For Syracuse (3-1) the Louisville game is sandwiched between Florida State and Clemson and will once again be the second road game in a row for the Orange. Syracuse currently owns wins over Rhode Island, Wake Forest, and Central Michigan, but this week played LSU tough 34-24 in the Carrier Dome. Syracuse is playing good football at the moment…this one will not be easy.
Lastly, the final game of Louisville’s home schedule will be a revenge match-up against the Virginia Cavaliers (1-3). The Cavs seem to be unraveling after two tough games to start the season when UVA took Notre Dame down to the wire and lost to UCLA in their opener. Virginia barely made it past William & Mary and were destroyed at home this week by Boise State. Virginia is surrounded by fertile recruiting ground Mike London may be fighting for his job at this point in the season. Louisville needs to win this game.
Step #4: Beat PITT at Heinz Field (7-4)
Pitt (2-1) is coming off a BYE and will face Virginia Tech on the road this week. The Panthers a week ago lost in overtime to Iowa in Iowa City and the Panthers have suffered a series of key personnel losses. This is going to be a tough one for the Cards, but if Louisville wants to have a successful season they will need to find a way to steal this game….but to evaluate this one in September would be unfair. It’s a LOOONNNGGG way from now.
Step #5: Beat Kentucky at Commonwealth (8-4)
Best case scenario Louisville wins every game remaining on its schedule. That’s not likely. Even coming into the Governor’s Cup at 7-4 would be a TERRIFIC turnaround. So more than likely this game could be for a great deal of relevance and perhaps even a bowl appearance. Kentucky (3-1) beat Missouri this week to add to wins over Lafayette and South Carolina. The Cats one loss (as you know) is to Florida. Louisville will be coming into this game off the PITT game while Kentucky will be coming off games vs. Charlotte & Vanderbilt.
Also as we saw from last year, Kentucky puts a great deal of emphasis on this game and it may mean as much to UK as it does Louisville.