Not the toughest slate, but the showdown in Tallahassee could have major College Football Playoff implications
You can make an argument that the ACC might be the toughest conference in the nation. You cannot, however, make the argument that Louisville will bear the brunt of its might.
When you look over what the Cardinals have to face in 2017, the schedule is hardly daunting. Sure, there are some land mines, and the top two games are as tough as it gets. However, this is not the type of gauntlet that will overwhelm head coach Bobby Petrino's team.
With Heisman Trophy winner Lamar Jackson back for his junior year, a plethora of restocked skill positions and a secondary that matches up with most of its ACC peers in terms of skill and depth, the teams laid out below don't seem to be a murderer's row.
Then again, everything always changes in September, but for now, here's how Louisville’s 2017 opponents rank in degree of difficulty.
12. Sept. 30 vs. Murray State
Coming off what should be a relatively easy win over Kent State at home, the Cardinals face their only FCS opponent. This should be over at halftime.
11. Sept. 23 vs. Kent State
The Golden Flashes finished just 3-9 in 2016. Perhaps if they catch Louisville suffering from a hangover off the Clemson game the week before, this could be a contest, but that's not likely.
10. Sept. 2 vs. Purdue (Indianapolis)
This opener in Lucas Oil Stadium, home of the Indianapolis Colts, should make for an interesting battle between former Louisville player and Western Kentucky head coach Jeff Brohm. He's one of the brightest offensive minds in the game, but won't have an answer for Jackson.
9. Nov. 11 vs. Virginia
Even though the Cavaliers threw a major scare into Louisville last season, this game comes after a bye week, and you can bet the Cardinals have it in their minds to make sure this one isn't as close.
8. Nov. 18 vs. Syracuse
The Orange return their quarterback and enough skill talent to make this interesting from a shootout perspective, but don't look for them to be able to come up with enough stops on Jackson and Co.
7. Oct. 28 at Wake Forest
This will come the week after a trip to Florida State that could potentially have major College Football Playoff implications. Depending on how well that goes for the Cardinals, this game might pose some trouble.
6. Oct. 14 vs. Boston College
It didn't happen last year in Chestnut Hill, but the Eagles have enough players returning on defense to theoretically slow down the Cardinals' offense. With one of the best front sevens in the ACC, Boston College could make it interesting.
5. Nov. 25 at Kentucky
The Wildcats handed Louisville one of its four losses a year ago at Papa John's Stadium, so it would not be out of the realm to see them do it again on their home turf. Also, any rivalry game breeds upset potential.
4. Sept. 9 at North Carolina
A year ago, this would have been a much more dangerous game. However, the Tar Heels lost a boatload of starters to graduation and the NFL, so although this should still be a test, look for the Cardinals to pass it.
3. Oct. 5 at NC State
Ah, yes, the dreaded Thursday night road game. At least for the Cardinals, it comes on the heels of the Murray State matchup. Still, the Wolfpack nearly beat Clemson last year and are a dark horse to make some serious noise in the ACC Atlantic Division.
2. Sept. 16 vs. Clemson
The beginning of the year is exactly when you want to catch Clemson, where the Tigers struggled last season. This time around, they will be breaking in a new quarterback. This game was close in 2016 and Louisville will be at home this time. Even though the Tigers will have a terrific defensive line going up against a Louisville O-line that struggled mightily last year, this game is winnable for the Cards.
1. Oct. 21 at Florida State
There is a very good chance that the Cardinals come into this game undefeated with a chance to make a major statement to the College Football Playoff committee members. Remember, last season Louisville rolled to a 63-20 romp over the Seminoles that seemed even more lopsided than the score indicated. However, Florida State brings back nearly everyone and will be thirsting for revenge in Tallahassee. Expect a classic.
— Written by Adam Kurkjian, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and is a reporter for the Boston Herald. He has covered the World Series, Super Bowl, Stanley Cup playoffs, Boston Marathon and Little League World Series, among other events from the high school, college and pro ranks. Follow him on Twitter @AdamKurkjian.