Clemson and Louisville played an instant classic on Saturday night.
While Saturday’s loss to Clemson did put a dent in Louisville’s playoff hopes, it did not end the Cardinals chances of reaching college football’s promised land. The Cardinals are still ranked 7th in the AP Poll and 8th in the Coaches Poll. We know those polls have no bearing on who makes the playoffs, but they give us an indication that the Cardinals are still in position to reach the playoffs.
They Cardinals don’t completely control their own destiny, but the path is there with a little bit of help.
Here’s what needs to happen for Louisville to make the playoffs.
1) Louisville must win out and win out impressively.
With a remaining schedule of Duke, NC State, Virginia, Boston College, Wake Forest, Houston, and Kentucky, the Cardinals should roll. Houston is the obviously the key. The Cougars are a top 10 team, and the only remaining hurdle on the schedule. It also is an opportunity for Louisville to make one last major playoff statement. The Cardinals need to roll against the rest of their schedule. A 24-17 win over Boston College isn’t going to impress anyone.
2) The Big 12 Champ needs to have a loss.
The Big 12 has been a disaster this year, and is by far the nation’s worst conference. The problem is even though I think Louisville would be favored by by 10-17 points over West Virginia or Baylor, I don’t think the committee is prepared to put a 1 loss non-power 5 champ over an undefeated power 5 champ even from a conference as weak as the Big 12. I’m ok with this. Winning a conference championship, and going undefeated should still count for something.
That said Baylor and West Virginia will play each other so that’s one loss. One more loss by the winner eliminates the Big 12. Neither Baylor or West Virginia played a decent OOC team. Sorry West Virginia, Missouri is awful. It’s is unlikely that either runs the table.
3) The Pac 12 Champ needs to have a loss
Louisville would most certainly be picked over a 1 loss Big 12 Champ, but a 1 loss Pac 12 Champ would be more difficult. The Pac 12 has little depth, but it not as bad as the Big 12. That said Washington like Baylor or West Virginia will not have have any quality OOC wins to point to. A loss by Washington will drop the Huskies behind Louisville in the polls, but by how much? Will a conference championship elevate the Huskies back in to the picture. This one could go either way.
4) It would help if Clemson goes undefeated, and Florida State stops playing like it’s 2008.
Louisville fans should starting rooting for Clemson like they are Louisville lite. The committee probably won’t give the Cardinals the benefit of the doubt if Clemson loses a game along the way. Clemson winning the ACC with 1 loss doesn’t eliminate Louisville, but it looks better for the Cardinals if Clemson wins out.
The Cardinals signature win of the season looks less and less impressive with each Florida State loss. If the Noles get their act together that will give Louisville a boost. Right now FSU is to Louisville as Oklahoma is to Houston.
5) Anything else?
Outside of this scenario, counting on Ohio State or Michigan to lose twice isn’t likely. A 1 loss SEC Champs makes the playoff, but I can’t see Texas A&M, Tennessee, and Alabama losing twice. Could the loser of Michigan and Ohio State be a 2nd team from the Big 1o? It’s a consideration, but you’d rather lose early than late like Louisville.
Realistically all it would take is the Big 12 and Pac 12 champs to have 1 loss and Louisville is right in the middle of playoff consideration.