Ranking The Power Conference Opponents Louisville Has Yet to Face

Louisville Report decided to rank the 16 power conference teams that the Cardinals have never played by quality of a potential home-and-home series.
Louisville's Jamari Thrash scores a touchdown against Notre Dame game at L&N Stadium
Louisville's Jamari Thrash scores a touchdown against Notre Dame game at L&N Stadium / Scott Utterback/Courier Journal / USA
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LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Over the course of their over 100-year history, the Louisville football program has played a multitude of different teams across the college football landscape. This has a lot to do with the fact that they have played in five different conferences since the early 1960's, but at this point in time there aren't many power conference teams left that the Cardinals have not played.

In fact, of the 68 teams that will be in the four power conferences (plus Notre Dame) starting with the upcoming 2024-25 season, Louisville has played all but 18 of them. Two of them will soon be removed from said list, as the Cardinals will travel to Stanford this upcoming season then host Cal in 2025.

That leaves 16 power conference teams that Louisville has yet to face. So I got to thinking... of this group, who would be some of the better potential matchups for the Cards?

That being said, I decided to rank all 16 teams in terms of who would make the best home-and-home series for Louisville. These games would likely not get scheduled until close to 2030 and potentially beyond, so for this hypothetical exercise, I ranked them as if they were being played in 2024 and 2025.

I took into account a few factors: recent success, overall history and tradition, potential projections over the next few years, and quality of road environments/trip as a whole for fans. Surely everyone will agree on my rankings based on these reasonable parameters.

Let's begin.

16. Northwestern

Chicago is a manageable drive for the road leg of a potential home-and-home, but... that's really about it. Northwestern seems to have made the right hire in keeping interim head coach David Braun, but the Wildcats won't likely be a serious contender in the new Big Ten, not to mention they arguably have the least history of any power conference opponent that Louisville has yet to play.

15. Washington State

Sure, Washington State might be a de facto member of the Mountain West, but the Pac-12 (as we know it) doesn't officially die until the end of the month, so I'm counting them. The Cougars haven't made a ton of noise post-Mike Leach, as they've been middle-of-the-pack in the Pac-12 under Jake Dickert. Not to mention they also don't have a super rich football history and tradition, and Pullman isn't a super memorable trip.

14. Iowa State

If this was during the height of the Matt Campbell era at Iowa State, you could make a case that the Cyclones should be a much higher draw in a potential home-and-home. But not only have things started to tail off in Ames over the last couple years, quite frankly, Iowa State doesn't have much of a successful history to fall back on and boost their status in the sport. At least the tap water there is good, which Louisville fans would appreciate.

13. Arizona

I'll be honest, this ranking is primarily based on Arizona's overall placement in the grand scheme of college football. While the Wildcats are coming off of a 10-win season, it was only their second in this century - plus their head coach just left. However... a hypothetical matchup *this* season would be exciting. 'Zona should be one of the top players in the new Big 12 this season, primarily because of Heisman Trophy dark horse Noah Fifita returning.

12. Texas Tech

If this was a matchup slated for this season, Texas Tech would probably be ranked higher because of the storylines surrounding Tyler Shough. But while the Red Raiders were an exciting program in the 2000's, they have been mostly treading water since, and get largely overlooked in the state of Texas. That being said, Joey McGuire seems to have things in the right direction, and Jones AT&T Stadium is an underrated venue.

11. Arkansas

There is very, very obvious storyline in a potential home-and-home with Louisville. As long as Arkansas offensive coordinator Bobby Petrino wouldn't jump ship beforehand, him making a return to L&N Stadium alone would pack that stadium full. Other than that, while the Razorbacks do have a lot of history from the 1960's to the 1980's, they currently are one of the worst teams in the SEC.

10. South Carolina

If Scott Satterfield was still the coach at Louisville, it would be tempting to make this the No. 1 choice on this list for obvious reasons. While a road trip to Williams-Brice Stadium would be an excellent one for Louisville fans, the Gamecocks risk falling out of relevance in the new SEC, and Shane Beamer has been an... *okay* hire. Though Carolina does have a handful of top-25 and top-10 finishes over the last three decades to help keep them somewhat relevant in the modern landscape

9. Minnesota

Historically, Minnesota actually cracks the top-30 in several all-time college football categories, such as wins, conference championships, All-Americans and national championships. But since the 1960's, the Golden Gophers' place in the Big Ten has dropped significantly, not to mention that P.J. Fleck's star isn't shining quite as bright as it once did when he was hired. They could risk getting lost in the shuffle of the modern Big Ten.

8. UCLA

Sure, UCLA plays second fiddle in their own city, and they've been very up-and-down in this century. But the Bruins have a lot more history and overall success than they get credit for (mainly because of rival USC). Plus, while UCLA might struggle to sell out home games and create a raucous atmosphere, any Louisville fan - or college football fan in general - needs to visit the Rose Bowl. We'll see how new head coach DeShaun Foster guides them moving forward.

7. Iowa

Iowa might be a (justified) punching bag because of their recent offensive ineptitude under Kirk Ferentz, but the Hawkeyes would still one of the better home-and-homes that Louisville could schedule. They'll still be an upper half Big Ten team because of their smother defense, they've had very few down years since the 1980's and have largely been a successful program, and Kinnick Stadium can get loud.

6. Colorado

Two words: Deion Sanders. Given that he doesn't leave Colorado as soon as his sons declare for the NFL, a home-and home with the Buffaloes would be great for both schools. For starters, a game against Prime Time and Co. would dominate college football headlines and pack L&N Stadium. But on top of that, some younger fans forget how good Colorado once was during their first stint in the Big 12, and Folsom Field (and Boulder in general) is an underrated venue.

5. Wisconsin

Wisconsin might not be the first team you think about when discussing the top teams in the Big Ten (old or new), but they're up there in terms of some of the more successful programs, and would be a fun home-and-home for Louisville. They've had just two losing seasons since 1992, and Camp Randall is one of the best stadiums in all of college football. While Luke Fickell might not have things quite where he wants them yet, he's a proven head coach.

4. Washington

Washington has a good overall mix of both recent success and overall history. For starters, the Huskies were the national runner-up this past season, and new head coach Jedd Fisch should help them remain one of the top teams in the new Big Ten after Kalen DeBoer left for Alabama. Additionally, UW has historically been one of the best programs on the West Coast, and up until 2023, Husky Stadium held the record for the single-loudest game in college football history when they played Nebraska in 1992.

3. Nebraska

Speaking of Nebraska... sure, they have been wandering in the wilderness for the last decade, but make no mistake: the Cornhuskers are one of the few true blue bloods in college football. They're top ten all-time in wins, winning percentage, conference championships, national championships, All-Americans, bowl games and Heisman Trophy winners. Time will tell if Matt Rhule is the guy to bring Nebraska back to national relevance, but regardless, Husker fans are going to pack Memorial Stadium and make it loud.

2. Oregon

Does Oregon have the type of history and sustained success that a few other programs on this list have? No. But since the early 1990's, the Ducks have been one of the best programs in all of college football. No matter who the coach is, Oregon has become synonymous with high-flying offenses that can score nearly at will. That trend is sure to continue moving forward head coach Dan Lanning, as the Ducks enter the 2024 season as a top-five team. On top of that, uniform matchups involving Oregon are always a sight to behold, and Autzen Stadium is one of the most raucous environments in the sport.

1. Michigan

I mean... this was an easy choice for the No. 1 spot. Michigan is one of the bluest of college football blue bloods, ranking No. 1 all-time in wins and the only program to crack 1,000 wins. Their 12 national championships, 88 All-Americans and 45 conference championships all rank top-five in college football history. Of course, the Wolverines are also the defending national champions as well, and the Big House in Ann Arbor is the biggest stadium by capacity in the sport, and the third-biggest in the world. A home-and-home with Michigan would be a phenomenal opportunity for Louisville in a multitude of ways.

(Photo of Jamari Thrash: Scott Utterback - Courier Journal / USA)

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Matthew McGavic

MATTHEW MCGAVIC

McGavic is a 2016 Sport Administration graduate of the University of Louisville, and a native of the Derby City. He has been covering the Cardinals in various capacities since 2017, with a brief stop in Atlanta, Ga. on the Georgia Tech beat. He is also a co-host of the 'From The Pink Seats' podcast on the State of Louisville network. Video gamer, bourbon drinker and dog lover. Find him on Twitter at @Matt_McGavic