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Projecting Louisville's 2021 Schedule Using SP+

Kickoff might be seven months away, but we have some idea of how the 2021 college football season will pan out for the Cardinals thanks to the SP+ metric.

(Photo of Cardinal Stadium: University of Louisville Athletics)

LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Following a college football season which was undoubtedly one of the most odd and unpredictable we've ever seen, the 2021 season hopes to be one with a restored modicum of normalcy around the sport.

After going 8-5 in 2019 in his first year at the helm including a bowl win, head coach Scott Satterfield and the rest of the Louisville football program saw a drastic difference in the win column in year two. Powered primarily by their horrific turnover margin, the Cardinals finished just 4-7 in 2020, including 3-6 in Atlantic Coast Conference play.

But how well will Louisville perform in year three of the Satterfield era? It is a little early to tell, considering spring practice has only just started, but we already have some idea thanks to the predictive college football metric SP+.

SP+, according to its creator Bill Connelly of ESPN, is a "tempo- and opponent-adjusted measure of college football efficiency". He has made several tweaks to it over the years since creating it in 2008 while at Football Outsiders, but the current iteration takes into account three primary factors: returning production, recent recruiting and recent history.

With an SP+ rating of 7.6, Louisville is ranked No. 41 out of 130 FBS teams. Even after a year filled with turnovers, SP+ still likes the offensive side of the ball for the Cardinals, giving it a rating of 38.9, or 16th in FBS. Conversely, the metric still is not sold on the defensive side of things even after a noticeable uptick in production, giving it a rating of 31.3, or 93rd in FBS.

Using SP+, we can plug in the rating from each team on Louisville's schedule and take a deep dive into how the 2021 season might transpire. We can figure out the win percentage in each game (accounting for home vs. away), the expected wins mark at the end of the season, as well as the statistical likelihood of every outcome during and concluding the season.

Louisville's 2021 SP+ Chart

Louisville's 2021 SP+ Chart

SP+ is higher on Louisville than what many might think, at least according to the recently released February preseason numbers. The Cardinals have a win probably of over 50.0% in nine of their games currently on the schedule, and are underdogs only against Ole Miss (33.36%) in the season-opener, at NC State (43.00%) and against Clemson (13.82%).

By regular season's end, Louisville will have an expected wins mark of 6.99, and they have a 25.55% chance to finish the season with seven wins, the highest out of any other win mark. For all intents and purposes, as of right now, SP+ is projecting the Cardinals to go 7-5 in 2021.

A lot can happen between now and Monday, Sept. 6 when Louisville travels down Atlanta to face the Rebels in the annual Chick-Fil-A Kickoff Game But for the time being, it seems that Louisville could be in good shape to have a bounce back year after their disappointing 2020 campaign.

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