Brown: Jeff Brohm raised bar for Louisville football. ACC title game is just the beginning

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Louisville won at least 10 games for just the seventh time in program history and reached the ACC championship game for the first time since joining the conference in 2014. And what did that get head coach Jeff Brohm?

Fever blisters in the mouth.

Gout in the foot and elbow.

Brohm attributed those breakouts to the stress of navigating a season as a coach because those things didn’t used to happen when he was a player.

Thing is, he doesn’t expect to be stress-free anytime soon and he’s not complaining “one bit.” Consider it the weight of raising expectations for Louisville football.

“If we don’t win, it has to bother me — and it does,” Brohm said Friday at Bank of America Stadium. “It really eats at me. And I’d like for it to bother my coaches too.”

And the players too.

Brohm is not only obsessed with winning, he’s driven to represent his alma mater and hometown of Louisville to the fullest in a way previous head coaches at U of L would not understand.

That’s the culture he is building for the Cards football program. And the results are evident this season.

Louisville will face Florida State on Saturday at Bank of America Stadium, aiming to win its first conference championship since wining the Big East in 2012.

“It's got to mean something to you,” Brohm said. “And I knew coming back, it’s going to mean something to me. And it better, because if not, it’s going to be a lot of people to tell me about it.”

What Brohm accomplished in his first season doesn’t happen often in major conference football.

His counterpart across the field on Saturday is just now making the title game for the first time and it’s Mike Norvell’s fourth season at FSU.

Both Nick Saban, at Alabama, and Kirby Smart, at Georgia, needed two seasons to reach the Southeastern Conference title game.

Dabo Swinney, in his first full season as Clemson’s coach, advanced to the ACC title game as the Atlantic Division champions in 2009. The caveat to his achievement, he took over for the last seven games in 2008 as the Tigers’ interim head coach.

Brian Kelly had LSU in the SEC title game last season, his first in Baton Rouge. And like Kelly, Brohm heavily utilized the transfer portal to fill needs he saw on the roster.

That’s part of why what Brohm has done is sustainable. The portal offers an opportunity each season to bring in veteran players and help compensate for recruiting misses.

Louisville head coach Jeff Brohm looked up at the scoreboard as his Cardinals participated in a walkthrough on the field on Friday afternoon at Bank of America Stadium
. Dec. 1, 2023
Louisville head coach Jeff Brohm looked up at the scoreboard as his Cardinals participated in a walkthrough on the field on Friday afternoon at Bank of America Stadium . Dec. 1, 2023

U of L once needed the benefit of having high-level, hometown players like both Brian Brohm and Michael Bush two decades ago to achieve wild success. With the portal and name, image and likeness (NIL), that’s not necessary.

Now to be clear, Louisville’s roster isn’t stocked with NFL talent that overwhelms its opponents. The coaching aspect is important in this too.

It was not a complete rebuild from coach Scott Satterfield’s last season. But there’s no doubt, with the same personnel, Satterfield would not have the Cards playing at Bank of America Stadium on Saturday.

Brohm and his staff have developed players like defensive lineman Ashton Gillotte, who enters Saturday with a league-leading 11 sacks and put them in position to be successful.

Louisville isn't even running the pass-happy offensive style that is trademark Brohm. That will come in future seasons when he has the personnel to do so. Instead, he adapted to what was best for this roster and has the Cards on the verge of a title.

U of L's appearance in the ACC championship game is something Brohm could get used to, even if it that means a gout flare up comes with it.

C.L. Brown: U of L football can erase all doubts by beating Florida State in ACC title game

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This article originally appeared on Louisville Courier Journal: ACC championship game: Jeff Brohm raised bar for Louisville football