Is 2022 the toughest schedule Louisville football will face since it joined the ACC?

Yesterday pretty much every sports book under the sun released their ACC earnings predictions for 2022, which is usually one of my favorite days of the year. What fans saw for Louisville wasn’t exactly inspiring, however, as most casinos put the Cardinals’ total wins at 5.5 or 6.

Needless to say, on 5 or 6 wins, the majority of the fanbase will probably want Scott Satterfield fired. And so, with that news, the big talk of the day was once again, “How many games does Satterfield need to win to keep his job?” It’s a valid statement, especially with the new recruiting folds being cast over all I expect that every local radio show and website will be endlessly discussing this summer.

But what interests me more is that why.

Many fans may already be moaning, “of course we’re only going to win 6 games with Satterfield as our coach.” Maybe there’s some truth to that, but let’s look at the numbers. It’s really bizarre to see that a collegiate team that is ranked 14* nationally on return to production and is expected to be 29* overall nationally is only likely to win half of their games.

*Well to be fair these figures were released months ago so I expect some movement once they are updated and all transfers settled. But nothing drastic.

The usual and simple answer is the schedule. But for a top 25 team on the fringes, their schedule would have to be historically difficult to hit .500, right?

Good. Turns out it actually might be.

To find 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 to each other and to this year’s preseason ranking. The results speak for themselves.

If the 2022 preseason SP+ rankings hold up (they won’t), that schedule would comfortably rank as the toughest a Louisville team has faced since joining the ACC in 2014. And for this exercise, I’ve removed the FCS opponents from last year’s averages. which would have only increased the disparity by weighing on all other averages. Heck, even the FCS team should play this year, James Madison, promoted 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 his average is that he’s not top-heavy/bottom-heavy like we saw last year as we compete alongside the Dukes and WKUs of the world against the top-10 FSU and Clemson. Instead, this schedule only has one top 10 team but FIVE top 25 teams. This is difficult. Even the worst opponents on the schedule, JMU and USF, rank in the top-100 in what will be only the third time Louisville has not faced a 100+-ranked FBS team since joining the ACC.

Of course there are tough schedules. And we knew that as we transitioned to Power 5 Football, it was going to be more difficult. That is not the problem. The problem, of course, is what we addressed earlier: Scott Satterfield needs to win now, and big. But the schedule he’s been assigned doesn’t do him any favors and only makes his uphill battle to save his job even more difficult.

So I wasn’t surprised to hear Louisville fans say if he goes 7-5 this year and brings in a top 25 recruit class, they’ll take him back. I’m not sure many of us expected that we’d be okay with a fourth-year coach when we joined the ACC, but maybe this schedule is really turning into the gauntlet it seems and we’re giving Satterfield paused for renewed performance below program expectations.

I guess we’ve got all summer to discuss this, right?

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