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Countdown To Kickoff: The Case For Louisville as ACC Champions

Scott Satterfield had Louisville well ahead of projections after Year 1.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: DEC 30 Music City Bowl - Mississippi State v Louisville Photo by Jeffrey Vest/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

If the ACC manages to get through the whole season then the top two teams regardless of division will meet in the ACC Championship on either December 12th or 19th. The next few days we’re going to take a look at which teams could make a case for being king of the ACC. Now most would assume Clemson will make their annual appearance in the title game but anything can happen in one game to knock the Tigers from their perch.

Louisville could be one of those teams this year. Normally, they would have to beat out Clemson to claim the Atlantic Division but with the new schedule model it raises their chances. Finishing second in the standings will be good enough to get a chance to claim it and all, so let’s take a look at three reason why Louisville can get it done.

Reason 1: Schedule

When the ACC modified the schedule to drop divisions Louisville turned out to be a winner in this regard. They were originally scheduled to play Virginia and Virginia Tech from the Coastal and will keep them in the rotation but will also pick up Miami, Pitt, and Georgia Tech. However, two of their usual Atlantic foes they won’t face this year will be NC State and Clemson. Not only will Louisville not have to fight Clemson for the division but it gets to avoid a very possible loss against their conference record. Louisville will face Notre Dame in South Bend but home field advantage will be dampened with little or no fan attendance this year. The rest of the teams on their schedule are at best Louisville’s equal but most fared worse than the Cardinals last year.

Reason 2: Coach Scott Satterfield

Outside of Georgia Tech, Coach Satterfield had one of the most difficult teams to try to rebuild last year. Louisville’s final season with Bobby Petrino was a disaster as they finished 2-10 and allowed seven teams to score more than 50 points. It seemed with Lamar Jackson gone all the talent had vanished from Louisville with a team that was already thin on depth.

When Satterfield took over Louisville most predictions had his Cardinals finishing last in the Atlantic division. It would seem this was going to be a long rebuild with a team short on top talent. In his first year though Louisville would finish 8-5 (5-3) which was good for second in the Atlantic and the third best overall record in the ACC. Satterfield was also awarded the ACC Coach of the Year.

Talking about changing the “Culture” in the locker room has become a common go-to for coaches in the first year at a new program but for Louisville it was widely reported that Coach Petrino had lost the team with some players saying they didn’t feel welcome to talk to coaches. Satterfield brought in a new energy and was open to players that brought a renew focus to the team.

Reason 3: Solid Foundation

Satterfield and the coaches he brought from App State found a way to utilize the talent on the roster to make the 6-win leap. His staff spent several years together building one of the better “Group of 5” teams that also had success at giving some ACC teams a bad day. Keeping that continuity at Louisville gave the Cardinals an advantage installing new schemes in the first year.

In 2018, Louisville averaged only 19 points per game but increased to 33 points under the direction of quarterback Micale Cunningham (2065 passing yards and 22 TDs). The defense still allowed 33 points per game but was an improvement over 2018 where they allowed 44. The team brings back 16 starters with 8 on each side of the ball including QB Micale Cunningham. The defenses will lose quite a few guys up front but will return their defensive coordinator, Bryan Brown, for the first time in 5 years. Expect the defense to improve again as Brown will have his guys in positions to make plays this year in his 3-4 defense.