As unbeatens keep rolling, devastating Jordan Travis injury gives 2023 its first major plot twist


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A few things folks in Louisville know without any doubt: Bourbon is delicious, horses are raised to race, and Papa John’s cinnamon pull-apart is an underrated addition to any pizza order.

Add this one to the list: Jeff Brohm knows how to coach some football.

When Scott Satterfield bolted after last season, the call among Louisville fans was loud, persistent and unwavering: Bring Brohm home. The demands for the Cardinals to hire their former QB and hometown hero were so ubiquitous that, during Brohm’s introductory press conference, AD Josh Heird all but said he’d had no choice in the matter.

On Saturday, Brohm repaid fans for that support by punching the Cardinals’ ticket to the ACC championship game, keeping the Louisville’s long shot hopes for a playoff berth alive, and, to top things off, won them a shiny bronzed pair of boots.

Louisville downed Miami 38-31 on Saturday behind three touchdown passes from Jack Plummer, securing a chance to play Florida State for an ACC title. The Cardinals did it with their top two offensive weapons — Jawhar Jordan and Jamari Thrash — battling nagging injuries. Louisville won by inverting the playbook that had served them so well all season, in yet another example of Brohm’s offensive brilliance.

With Jordan limited to just nine carries, Louisville still ran for 162 yards and two touchdowns against a stout Miami front.

With Thrash held to just one catch, the Cards turned to their tight ends — a unit that had just 17 catches all season — to the tune of nine catches for 110 yards and a touchdown.

Fourteen different players had an offensive touch, including a TD grab from O-lineman Trevonte Sylvester, and just a week after No. 4 Florida State struggled to a 27-20 win against Miami in which it mustered just 322 yards of offense, Louisville hung 38 points and 470 yards on the Canes.

The win earned Louisville possession of the Schnellenberger Trophy — a bronzed pair of the former Cards and Canes coach’s boots, given this year for the first time. They’re bound to look exceptional in the trophy case, though we would like to reiterate our calls for the Cardinals to begin playing a rivalry game against Arkansas with the winning team earning a silver-embossed Bobby Petrino neck brace.

More importantly, the victory punched Louisville’s first ticket to the ACC’s title game, where it will face FSU with an opportunity to, at long last, make a genuine national statement.

This, of course, has been Louisville’s blessing and curse in 2023. The Cardinals won the schedule lottery, missing FSU, Clemson and North Carolina in the regular season, and providing a smoother path to this point in the season. On the other hand, the light schedule — No. 84 nationally, according to ESPN — has meant there are still ample critics who believe Louisville is a paper tiger. Add in a loss to woeful Pitt, and the Cardinals have largely played the role of playoff footnote, despite the now 10-1 record. Never mind that Louisville now has five wins over bowl-eligible Power 5 foes, matching Alabama and Florida State for the most in the country.

It’s a fool’s errand to figure out the logistics of Louisville’s playoff path at this point. There is a path, to be sure, but it’s quite fuzzy right now.

So instead, enjoy a nice victory cigar — or, in Schnellenberger’s honor, a victory pipe — to celebrate this historic win. And when the next set of playoff rankings arrive Tuesday, we can start wondering how much more history these Cardinals can write.

Michigan survives a scare

It’s been a wild week in Ann Arbor. Jim Harbaugh declared Michigan to be “America’s Team,” which, honestly, is only a bit more disingenuous than the Cowboys using that moniker.

The school then abandoned its quest to absolve Harbaugh of any wrongdoing in the sign-stealing scandal, accepting the Big Ten’s three-game suspension, which began last week. An NCAA investigation continues, however, so we can expect that to be wrapped up some time around summer 2036. Then on Friday, the school fired linebackers coach Chris Partridge reportedly for obstructing the investigation and possibly destroying potential evidence.

The week concluded with Michigan surviving a scare from Maryland, defying the Terps’ late comeback and coming away with a 31-24 win.

That Michigan managed just 291 yards of offense, or that J.J. McCarthy looked frazzled at times in the pocket, or that the ground game that dominated Penn State mustered just 3.3 yards-per-carry all might seem like cause for concern ahead of The Game next week, but this is Michigan, and Harbaugh’s boys don’t worry about little things like offensive struggles.

After all, are we all naïve enough to assume Harbaugh spent five games this season just twiddling his thumbs while suspended? No, he only spent two of them thumb-twiddling and that was only to prove that no one on the planet could twiddle better than him. The rest of the time, he’s been secretly plotting against Ohio State, sewing a Ryan Day voodoo doll (and a nice set of mittens) and scheming up the perfect game plan to take down the Buckeyes for the third straight year.

Aggies win without Fisher

Jaylen Henderson racked up 287 yards of offense and two touchdowns to lead Texas A&M to a 38-10 win over Abilene Christian in the team’s first game after Jimbo Fisher was fired.

Moose Muhammad III may have taken a slight jab at Fisher during pregame warmups, when he appeared wearing sleeves — something he was supposedly once benched for doing under Fisher. The move apparently worked well, because he finished the game with four catches for 104 yards and a touchdown.

It was a strong start for the post-Fisher era at A&M, and if the school’s top boosters were all smart enough to wager $77 million on Abilene Christian +40.5, then pretty much all the Aggies’ problems have been solved.

Checking receipts

The bad news for Colorado? After Friday’s horrid 56-14 loss to Washington State, the Buffs’ bowl hopes are over.

The good news? Deion Sanders is going to have so many receipts after the way this season has ended, he’s gonna need to buy a new wallet.

After a 3-0 start to the season that made Colorado the talk of the college football world, things have unraveled faster than an F1 race in Las Vegas, with the Buffaloes dropping seven of eight, demoting their offensive coordinator and revoking DJ Khaled’s sideline pass because he refused to jump in on the O-line for a few series in hopes of finding anyone who could keep Shedeur Sanders upright.

Perhaps the lasting lessons of this Colorado story is that you can’t build a team overnight. Or maybe it’s that you shouldn’t jump to conclusions three weeks into a season. Or maybe it’s that any truly good story requires a little steak with its sizzle. The important thing is that none of us learn any of these lessons and when Coach Prime has the Buffs at 3-0 again next season, we completely buy-in all over again.

Quick hits

SMU narrowly edged Memphis 38-34 behind three touchdowns from QB Preston Stone, including this 43-yard bomb on fourth down in the first quarter.



Preston Stone throws 43-yard touchdown pass vs. Memphis

Preston Stone throws 43-yard touchdown pass vs. Memphis

LJ Johnson Jr. added 115 yards and a touchdown on the ground, and the Mustangs move to 7-0 in conference play. A win next week against Navy would assure SMU a trip to the AAC title game in its final season in the conference.

The Mustangs will play either Tulane or UTSA, both of whom won in Week 12 and remain undefeated in the league. The two face off in the regular-season finale next week.

Northwestern is officially bowl eligible after topping Purdue 23-15. The win follows the announcement earlier this week that David Braun would have the interim tag removed from his title (a process that involves a lot of white out and some of those Mr. Clean magic erasers) and become the team’s full-time head coach. The six wins are two more than Northwestern had in Pat Fitzgerald’s final two seasons there, and it marked Northwestern’s first back-to-back wins since November 2020.

Penn State parted ways with offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich after last week’s frustrating loss to Michigan, but the team paid a proper tribute Saturday by throwing for just 88 yards in a 27-6 win over Rutgers. Fun fact: There have been 13 wins by Power 5 teams this season when throwing for 90 yards or less. Seven of them are from Big Ten teams. It’s no wonder the league is getting more than $1 billion a year.

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