The harsh reality of the 2016 college football season for Louisville is that unless Clemson loses two of its last 3 games--the Tigers face Pitt, Wake Forest and South Carolina--the best the Cardinals can do is finish second in the Atlantic Coast Conference Atlantic Division.
But, barring numerous upsets around the country, that won't get the Cardinals into the Final Four in football.
Granted, the consolation prize is a trip to the Orange Bowl, but it isn't a Top 4 finish, which guarantees a chance to win the national championship. Adding to the shine of the package is that Louisville QB Lamar Jackson will have to do something in the next few weeks to LOSE the Heisman Trophy.
Having acknowledged all of that, the status of the ACC as a top tier Power 5 conference is gaining momentum.
With Clemson sitting in the Top 5 in the rankings and Louisville tucked in at No. 7, the ACC Atlantic Division must be included in the discussion when the top of best division in college football is being examined.
If you follow the theory that Florida State's three losses this season are a speed bump on a highway which will have the Seminoles back in contention for the national championship next season, you have a trifecta that is the equal of any division in college football.
But the long range question is this: Is the ACC TOO top heavy in the Atlantic Division? A check around the ACC revealed there has been no talk at all about changing any team in the divisions because of a competitive imbalance, just as there has been little or no talk about making a change in the SEC where the SEC West is vastly superior to the SEC East.[membership level="0"] The rest of this article is available to subscribers only - to become a subscriber click here.[/membership] [membership]
The answer you hear in most cases is that football is cyclical and that the results will eventually balance themselves.
But for teams such as Syracuse, North Carolina State and Boston College beginning each year with Clemson, Florida State and most recently Louisville, stacked in front of you can not be a good feeling.
When the ACC expanded to 12 and, then 14, teams it tried to keep rivalries in mind. When Miami joined the ACC in 2004, the idea was to keep FSU and Miami in separate divisions, thus setting up a possible Hurricane-Seminole conference title game. Clemson's emergence as a power challenged FSU, but that didn't directly affect Miami.
Now Louisville, under the guidance of Bobby Petrino, has joined the club, replacing Miami, which has yet to recover from its probation-induced tumble in the standings. Miami fans hope that the hiring of former Georgia coach (and former Hurricane QB) Mark Richt last spring will speed up the Canes' revival.
In their stint in the Big East from 1991 to 2003, the Hurricanes won two national championships and 9 conference titles. In the ACC, the Canes have been shut out in both categories. They are still a few steps behind the pack in getting back to elite status.
If you throw in Notre Dame--which is having a terrible season--as a half member since it plays 5 ACC games each season, the continued high quality performance of Virginia Tech, and the steadiness of North Carolina, you have a solid base of teams.
The ACC will introduce the ACC television network starting in 2019, which means more money and more exposure.
What it can use, is more competition and more balance, in BOTH Divisions.
As a public service we at TMGCollegesports.com are always willing to give advice on how to make things better.
This is what we came up with and it involves a few minor tweaks.
Here is the current set up:
Clemson, Louisville, Florida State, Wake Forest, Syracuse, North Carolina State and Boston College
North Carolina, Virginia Tech, Pitt, Georgia Tech, Miami, Virginia and Duke.
TMG's solution for better balance is this: Move FSU and put Pittsburgh in the Atlantic.
The new Atlantic would have:
Clemson and Louisville, Pittsburgh, Syracuse and Boston College, and Wake Forest and North Carolina State.
The new Coastal would have:
Miami and Florida State, Virginia and Virginia Tech, North Carolina, Georgia Tech and Duke.
Under the present system each school has an annual "Crossover'' game to the other division.
The new crossover games would be:
Clemson vs. Miami, North Carolina vs. North Carolina State, Louisville vs. FSU, Pittsburgh vs. Virginia Tech, Syracuse vs. Virginia and Boston College vs. Georgia Tech.
Under this format, rivalries would be maintained either within the division or with crossover games, new rivalries could be developed (Georgia Tech vs. Boston College in an academic, urban rivalry) and the balance of power would be more even handed.
The ACC Atlantic could build on a Northeast connection with Syracuse, Pittsburgh and Boston College playing each other every season.
It should also help Rivalry weekend by keeping Pittsburgh vs. Syracuse in a Thanksgiving weekend slot and allowing Boston College to schedule an end of the year game against either UConn or UMass.
It's not perfect, but it would be better than the current system.
The race is on whether the ACC will fill all of its bowl slots (as many as 12 spots could open). Right now, Clemson, Louisville, Wake Forest, FSU, Virginia Tech and North Carolina have equaled or passed the 6 victory bowl minimum and Pittsburgh, Georgia Tech and Miami each have 5 wins. Syracuse, NC State and Boston College all must win two of their final 3.
There is a chance that an ACC team with a 5-7 record could become bowl eligible if there aren't enough FBS teams with 6 wins to fill the 80 bowl game slots. In that case, Boston College and Georgia Tech because of higher APR (Graduation Progress rates) figures become contenders[/membership]