Louisville Football: Game-by-Game Predictions Using ESPN’s FPI

With ACC Media Days and #talkingszn for just about every other conference in full swing, it’s really starting to feel like football season is right around the corner. And as the media make their predictions for each conference and begin to collect their Preseason Top 25 ballots, they are not alone as the computers are also collecting theirs.

We were lucky to have ESPN Football Power Index (FPI) rankings released recently, and with that also come game-by-game predictions from FPI. As we’ve discussed previously on this site, Louisville’s schedule is shaping up to be one of its biggest challenges yet, and the REIT doesn’t disagree. As Louisville ranks 18th return production and registers in 36th place overall in the FPI, the Cards have seven (7!) teams on their schedule ranked ahead of them. It’s going to be hard. This is probably why the REIT projects a record 6.3-5.7 and gives the UofL a 69% chance of reaching bowl eligibility, as well as a 3.9% chance of winning the Atlantic Division. .

Let’s take a look at each of Louisville’s opponents and the odds FPI gives the cards to win those matches. The results are based on 20,000 simulations.

Saturday, September 3 @ #60 Syracuse Orange

Odds of winning: 58.2%

Louisville will start the season with a decent test in the Carrier JMA Wireless Dome (it will always be the Carrier Dome, fight me). While the Cardinals have beaten Syracuse by a combined score of 127-27 in the last three games, Syracuse is bringing back 80% of their production from last year, which is good enough for 11th place in the nation. This usually means that we should expect a team to take a step or two forward, whether production has been very productive. And no matter how you paint it, opening the season with conference play is always going to be tricky. My favorite tidbit about this game is that it will be the first time Louisville has played in the non-Carrier Dome since air conditioning was installed in 2021.

Friday, September 9 @ #34 UCF Golden Knights

Odds of winning: 36.8%

Six-day period. On the road. Against a higher ranked opponent. This one should be tricky. UCF returns a good amount (69%, #41 overall) of a team that gave the Cards everything they could manage last year on their home turf. The Gus Malzahn and the Golden Knights hit the portal HARD this offseason and picked up 14 transfers, virtually all from SEC schools, and finished 15th overall in the 247 transfer recruitment rankings. Friday night in the “bounce house” is expected to be wild as revenge will surely be on the minds of almost anyone with a hotel management degree in Florida.

Friday, Sept. 16 vs. #33 Florida State Seminoles

Odds of winning: 52.4%

For what feels like the 43rd straight year, Florida State is looking to get back to winning ways. Louisville escaped Tallahassee with a win last year, and with a win this year, the Cards will set an ACC winning record against the ‘Noles. Not sure if this is something we could have expected when we joined the conference in 2014. Will FSU be better? Who the hell knows? Most likely? But I don’t expect FSU 2013 to walk through those doors anytime soon, so a victory in what should be a rowdy home opener at Cardinal Stadium on Friday night could put Louisville on a positive trajectory for the rest of the season.

Saturday, Sept. 24 vs. #86 South Florida Bulls

Chances of winning: 86%

I like having an old enemy of BIg East like USF back in the program. USF hasn’t been itself for quite a while now, but Jeff Scott at least seems to have the Bulls in the right direction. It also has Chad Morris calling plays on offense which adds some intrigue. But most impressively, USF ranks 2nd in the nation with 85% of its 2021 production returning this year. Win this game, y’all.

Saturday, October 1 @ #59 Boston College Eagles

Odds of winning: 57.5%

Jeff Hafley is one of the hottest names and with former Notre Dame transfer Phil Jurkovec leading the offense, the Eagles will be one of those teams that won’t leave for four full quarters. Jurkovec had bad luck with injuries last year, and the Eagles suffered, but when he was healthy, the Eagles offense was powerful. Wouldn’t be surprised if this one turns out to be a shootout.

Saturday, October 8 @ #55 Virginia Cavaliers

Odds of winning: 56.2%

I really hate when we play in Charlottesville. We always play weird games there, and I expect this year to be no different. Bronco Mendenhall is gone, but they brought in former Clemson OC Tony Elliot and they’re returning one of the best QBs in the conference in Brennan Armstrong. However, including Armstrong, the Hoos only bring back 54% of their production from last season, which ranks 104th in the nation. The passing offense wouldn’t be much of a concern as Armstrong has top receivers Dontayvion Wicks, Keytaon Thompson and Billy Kemp IV all back, except the Cavs need to replace all five starters on the o line from last year. This will be a tough act for Elliot to pull off in the first year. The defense, which has acquired a reputation for abandoning big plays, only returns 5 starters. Unless the defense can limit the damage and Armstrong can get some time in the pocket, Louisville should win this one.

Saturday, October 22 against #20 Pittsburgh Panthers

Odds of winning: 46.6%

Louisville gets a nice two-week break before heading home to play the defending ACC champions. I still can’t believe the last part is real. Honestly, I’m surprised to see Louisville approaching 50/50 odds to win this game given how strong Pitt was last year and the high expectations they have for themselves. Pitt returns 64% of last year’s production (67th overall) and will be without OC Mark Whipple, Heisman QB runner-up Kenny Pickett and Biletnikoff winner WR/now infamous USC transfer Jordan Addison. But USC transfer QB Kedon Slovis looks like a solid replacement, and both sides of the line are looking elite again. If Pitt’s offense can continue to evolve in life after Pickett, it should be a tough task in 2022.

Saturday October 29 against #30 Wake Forest Demon Deacons

Odds of winning: 52.7%

Another week, another draw game. The more I look at this schedule and how good Louisville should be, the more it looks like 2021 in the sense that most games seem to be 50/50 and the UofL could win up to 10 games or as little as 5. Wake brings back all-conference QB Sam Hartman as well as 72% of their production from last year (28th overall). Should see another shootout between these two offenses, but at least we’ll have our own clock operator on the board this time.

Saturday, Nov. 5 vs. #120 James Madison Dukes

Odds of winning: 93.8%

Trap game. Don’t let anyone talk you out of it, not even the REIT. I’m on Keith Wynn’s side of “why the hell did we schedule this game?” Scheduling an FCS opponent is a good idea when you schedule a local slouch like Murray State (no offense) and let your second and third strings beat them and rest your starters. It’s not smart, however, when planning a team that hangs around in the same circles as North Dakota State. You do not believe me ? Since 2016, the JMU Dukes have won an FCS National Championship, appeared in three FCS National Championship games, five National Semifinals, and won their conference every year. Not the kind of FCS opponent you’re supposed to schedule as your “well played” match. Oh, and the best part is that JMU isn’t even an FCS team anymore because they’ve moved to FBS and will be competing in the Sun Belt this fall. Please don’t fall asleep at the wheel and win this game.

Saturday November 12 @ #4 Clemson Tigers

Odds of winning: 9.7%

So FPI is giving us a chance! But seriously, despite Clemson’s decline last year, losing Brent Venables to Oklahoma and Tony Elliot to Virginia, Clemson is still a force to be reckoned with. Clemson has fielded an all-four and five-star squad once again, and their D-line looks scarier than ever. The big thing will be whether or not they can get QB DJ Uiagalelei to improve on his abysmal 9:10 TD/INT ratio from last year. And the hell, even if he can’t, it’s not like Dabo doesn’t have another five-star QB he can throw. This game will always be an uphill battle, especially in Death Valley. Please stay healthy.

Saturday, Nov. 19 vs. #28 NC State Wolfpack

Odds of winning: 51.6%

I was very surprised to see this figure above 50%. NC State returns 82% (8th overall) of its production from its 9-3 campaign last year. They’re the dark horse favorites to beat Clemson for the Atlantic Division title this year, and don’t be surprised if you see them getting a few Top 10 votes when the AP Top 25 preseason rankings come out. With all the talent and production returning from last year, it’s not hard to see why so many people are on top of what Dave Doeren and Devin Leary should be lining up for this year. It’s going to be a tough game, and with the season winding down and in the midst of a brutal streak, hopefully Louisville still has the legs to compete with a team of this caliber.

Saturday, Nov. 26 vs. #18 Kentucky Wildcats

Odds of winning: 29.1%

Yeah, don’t like this number. But I understand. Until we’re able to replay a competitive game against the Cats, I don’t blame anyone or any computer for doubting the Cards. Objectively speaking, though, I’m terribly curious to see how Kentucky tries to replicate its offensive production from last year. Of course, they return QB Will Levis and RB Chris Rodriguez (perhaps???), but they lose Wan’Dale Robinson single-season reception record holder OC Liam Coen and top returning receiver Izayah Cummings has just 14 catches. UK fans are hoping Virginia Tech will transfer Tayvion Robinson and the FCS All-American will transfer Ramon Jefferson. They should be able to cushion the blow, but it will be a difficult task to replace a player like Wan’Dale. And on top of all that, there remains uncertainty over the eligibility of RB star Chris Rodriguez, they’re bringing in their third OC in as many seasons and they’re replacing four of last year’s top six linemen.

That’s a lot of uncertainty, especially if you’re trying to get back to 10 wins. The defense loses star Josh Paschal, but should still be decent up front, and they have a strong LB body coming back. So it’s really the offense to get things done. Something I didn’t realize until today, and it’s certainly something to keep an eye out for, is that the UK will be hosting reigning national champions Georgia this week. former. Instead of the UK emerging as a well-rested FCS opponent for the Bourbon Bowl, we might see a more stoned team than usual.

So it turns out that Louisville is technically favored in 8 games this year, according to the FPI, but with all the draw games, it seems only fair that the FPI and Vegas put Louisville’s win total around the high mark. 6.5.

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