At No. 6 in CFP, Louisville fighting battle it may not be able to win
Bobby Petrino was vocal about the mixed messages the College Football Playoff selection committee seemingly placed on Louisville in its first rankings, knocking it for a lack of style points and strength of schedule.
A week later, the Cardinals coach may need to continue to speak up. Louisville did move up, but still came in sixth with Tuesday's release of the committee's second Top 25, the Cardinals sitting a spot behind fellow one-loss Ohio State.
And it would seem the gap between those two teams is larger than one spot i the rankings.
Committee chairman Kirby Hocutt took part in a teleconference after the rankings' release and was asked about the decision to put the Buckeyes and No. 5 and Washington at four.
“Yeah, we spent considerable time over the last two days talking about No. 4 Washington and No. 5 Ohio State,” Hocutt said. “It was a small margin between No. 4 and No. 5.”
The ACC Atlantic Division title has been all but wrapped up by No. 2 Clemson, and with the Buckeyes and No. 3 Michigan meeting in the regular-season finale (and No. 8 Wisconsin in line to face the winner in the Big Ten title game) that conference is seemingly guaranteed a spot.
Even if the Cardinals were fifth right now, they would likely be leapfrogged. The committee's emphasis on conference titles would seem to exclude a team that doesn't have a division championship, let alone a league one.
The Coastal Division's leaders face long odds too, with Virginia Tech at 14th, followed by North Carolina at 17 and Florida State 18th.
Louisville, though, is fighting a battle it doesn't appear that it can win.
It seems to be paying the price for the non-Clemson/Florida State portion of its schedule, which hasn't given the Cardinals a single Top 25 win. Further hurting their case is the carrot it was expected to be dangling over the final weeks (even after the loss to the Tigers) was Houston, and that team is 7-2 with a week to go before facing Louisville.
But if the CFP panel is measuring the here and now, is Louisville truly getting enough credit?
The Buckeyes are fresh off a dominant 59-point win over No. 10 Nebraska, while the Cardinals beat four-win Boston College 52-7. Ohio State's win, given the opponent most certainly carries more weight, and it also has wins over the Badgers and now No. 11 Oklahoma.
Granted, Louisville has just one victory over a team above .500, but it's also arguably the most shocking win of the season when it hammered No. 2 Florida State by 43.
If we're debating losses: Louisville's came by six points on the road against the committee's second-ranked team; Ohio State's was by three vs. the current No. 10 in Penn State, but the Nittany Lions were 4-2 and not ranked in any polls when they pulled that upset. That team also lost to Michigan by 39.
A schedule ranked 86th based on past opponents' winning percentage compared to 12th by Ohio State doesn't help the Cardinals' chances. Neither does not having another Top-25 team on the regular-season schedule.
Upheaval — at least in the form of the Huskies dropping multiple games — and the other three playoff teams winning out the only thing that could help Louisville. But even then, if the Sooners, with two ranked teams remaining (No. 16 West Virginia and No. 13 Oklahoma State) could have a Big 12 crown and enough momentum to bypass the Cardinals.
Louisville has issues in its bid to make the playoffs, and right now, it doesn't seem to be in control of any of them.
Follow Cory McCartney on Twitter @coryjmccartney and Facebook. His book, 'Tales from the Atlanta Braves Dugout: A Collection of the Greatest Braves Stories Ever Told,' is out now, and 'The Heisman Trophy: The Story of an American Icon and Its Winners' will be released Nov. 22, 2016.
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