Louisville Cardinals Have Very Favorable Football AND Basketball Schedules
Every year, when the schedules are released, speculation runs rampant about which teams have the best chance to go undefeated. While it's difficult, it's still a far easier goal to accomplish in football than it is basketball.
I've heard many an analyst ponder the possibility of Kentucky running through its schedule without a loss. Not gonna happen. UK will be incredibly talented and a blast to watch, but it has a challenging schedule that no one in his or her right mind should expect can be handled so easily. Yes, last year's team featured nearly all rookies and we all know how that went. But word has it that this crop of newcomers is a far more mature bunch. And there are highly skilled players for every position. But with a schedule that includes Michigan State in early November, a talented Baylor squad in a neutral court game in Texas, and a road game at North Carolina, not to mention a home date with fellow title contender and hated rival Louisville AND a couple of games with conference foe Florida, Kentucky will have its hands full. And the 'Cats shouldn't fold like a cheap suit in any of those games. In fact, they could have a winning record in those five match-ups.
Now, Louisville is a different story altogether. And, again, I think it's incredibly difficult to go undefeated in college basketball and I don't think Louisville will. BUT, the Cardinals' schedule makes it a lot easier to label them a possible perfect-record team than just about anyone else. Same goes for football.
The Cards' gridiron lineup features no one spectacular in the non-conference--football non-league schedules seldom do. Sure, Kentucky will be a better team than last year, but I think Louisville could take them, even at Commonwealth. But that's Louisville's lone non-league loss in football if it has one, I believe. Since the Cardinals are playing this season in the brand American Athletic Conference, they just don't have league opponents that, I believe, can present a truly stiff challenge...save for the possible exception of Cincinnati, with whom they'll close the season. Louisville's ranked 9th in the pre-season football polls with Cincy the only other conference opponent showing up anywhere--they received 3 votes in "others receiving votes" in the AP Poll.
Then, when you move to basketball, you see that the 'Ville doesn't have a very strong non-conference schedule. They play Kentucky at Rupp Arena on December 28th and that is where they have the greatest chance of losing before the conference season begins. The Cards' are a veteran club coming off a national title and the Wildcats will be very young, but I would still consider it an extraordinary accomplishment if Louisville were to pull off that road victory. The team will be pumped. The crowd will be apoplectic. And I can't imagine John Calipari being able to stomach the concept of losing to Rick Pitino at home.
There is a potential game against North Carolina for the Cards if things fall correctly at a tournament at Mohegan Sun in Connecticut. But I think Louisville could handle the Tar Heels rather easily, actually.
Once league play begins for Louisville, it's all round robin. Every team will play every other team twice. And that means the Cardinals will be on the road for Connecticut, Cincinnati, Memphis, and Temple...the four teams that will likely be their toughest competition. Because after those guys in the AAC, it's a HUGE drop-off. The UConn and Memphis road tilts will prove toughest, but I think Louisville will win at least one of those.
So, while I think it would be very hard for the Cardinals to go undefeated, talk of a blemish-free season isn't outrageous. I really think they could enter the NCAA Tournament with just two losses.
Let's see what happens.