Louisville sits at No. 7 in the first College Football Playoff Rankings of the 2016 season. But Bobby Petrino says his Cardinals aren’t paying attention.
The 12-person College Football Playoff selection committee released its initial top 25 on Tuesday night, and Alabama checked in as the best team thus far in the 2016 college football season.
It wasn’t too surprising that Clemson and Michigan placed at No. 2 and No. 3, respectively, but there were a few things that caught the eyes of college football observers.
Despite having a loss on the year, Texas A&M ended up at No. 4 over undefeated Washington, which finished fifth. The committee clearly rewarded the Aggies for their tough schedule and their lone loss being to the nation’s No. 1 team.
But another one-loss team, Louisville, could be considered one of the losers of Tuesday night. The Cardinals checked in at No. 7 despite having just one loss, which was the thriller a few weeks back at Clemson.
Of course, this is the first of six sets of rankings, with none of them really mattering until the final one, which is released on the Sunday after the regular season ends. Still, though, it does not bode well for Bobby Petrino’s squad that it sits at No. 7 in the CFP despite being No. 5 in the latest AP Top 25 poll, considering there are not many tough contests left to help its strength of schedule cause.
During Wednesday’s weekly ACC coaches teleconference, Petrino was asked if there is pressure on head coaches to win the so-called “style points” battle in the playoff era. Has the selection committee been a bit unimpressed by how the Cardinals won a couple of their recent games?
“I think what we need to do is not worry and go out and play good, hard, Cardinal football, and play the way we know how to play,” Petrino explained. “Execute at a high level the way we have shown throughout most of the season. And it is hard to win games and everyone that goes on the road understands that and knows that.
“We’ve just got to keep playing football. And you’ve seen that history shows these four teams that come out at this time of the year usually aren’t the ones that end up in the playoff.”
Petrino has a point.
In the first year of the CFP, Florida State was the only team to be in the Top 4 of both the first and final rankings, while Clemson and Alabama were the only teams to do it in 2015. Further, Ohio State was No. 16 in the first set of rankings in 2014, while Oklahoma was No. 15 last year. Both teams ended up in the national semifinals. Of course, the schedules for the Buckeyes and Sooners were beefier than what Louisville faces the rest of the way.
The Cardinals have road games against Boston College and Houston along with home games versus Wake Forest and Kentucky. Washington does not have to worry because a conference championship game is potentially still on the horizon for the Huskies, and the committee highly values conference champions. Petrino and Co., however, need Clemson to lose twice in order to win the ACC Atlantic division, which doesn’t look too likely unless the Tigers’ turnover problems lead to losses to Syracuse, Pitt or Wake Forest.
While Texas A&M is currently No. 4 and may be on the outside looking in for a league title game (and would very likely get passed by an unbeaten Washington), the committee has been more impressed with the Aggies than the Cards. The same can be said of Ohio State, which could essentially replace Michigan with a win over the Wolverines.
Even two-loss teams like Wisconsin, Auburn and LSU are primed to ascend with wins because of more difficult schedules than Louisville, which not too long ago as a member of Conference USA would have killed to be in the position it currently holds right now. But after so much early season buzz as well as the Lamar Jackson Heisman Trophy train, it would be a little bittersweet if the Cardinals do not have a chance to compete for a national title.
There is still a full month of football left to be played. But the Cardinals were always going to need a lot of help to get into the playoff following the loss to Clemson. Even with FSU having three setbacks, there may not have been a more impressive performance all season than Louisville’s 63-20 win in September. However, the loss to Clemson may be insurmountable, so all the Cards can do now is continue to win impressively and see how the process plays out.
While Petrino was proud of his team’s two-minute drive and ultimate game-winning scoring pass with 13 seconds left last week against Virginia, it didn’t exactly help its cause in college football’s beauty contest. But rankings are the furthest thing from his mind right now.
“We’ve just got to go out and play and enjoy the game and not worry about [the rankings],” he said. “Worry about taking care of our business, playing one play at a time, each player working hard to have their game of the year and their best performance of the season and see how it all falls.”