Any late-October home game against a ranked opponent is going to demand attention, but you can't help but feel like tomorrow's game against South Florida is especially significant because it might present the final opportunity for the fan base to get excited about the 2008 season as a whole again.
Cardinal fans will be up for individual rivalry games against West Virginia and Cincinnati whether the home team wins or loses this afternoon, but a victory provides opening lines for romantic conversations about a Big East championship, it all but guarantees Steve Kragthorpe's first postseason appearance in red, and it gets folks outside of the city talking - however briefly - about Louisville football in a positive light again. A loss and, well, basketball officially takes center stage for good about 24 hours later.
Before the season, I had U of L going 3-4 in the Big East, with one of those victories coming in this game. I'd be lying if I said I was as confident now as I was then, but I really and truly do believe that we have much more than a puncher's chance this afternoon.
Papa John's Cardinal Stadium
They hate the train whistle.
As noted throughout the week, this brief series has been dominated (like, completely dominated) by the home team. South Florida has crushed U of L the last two times the pair have met in Tampa, and two years ago the Cards returned the favor with a 31-8 shellacking that left everyone this side of Matt Grothe impressed. Despite its modest size and occupants' lack of a reputation for being particularly unruly, Papa John's Cardinal Stadium can be an intimidating place to play, and it's on us to create that atmosphere today.
Obviously the advantage would be heightened were the game being played in December, but still...
Cool with a shot at precipitation would not have worked in Louisville's favor in any of the last 18 or so years, but things are different in 2008. The Cards own the nation's 18th best rushing attack and are actually throwing for about 50 yards less per game than the Bulls.
It might make tailgating a bit less fun, but let's try and remember why we're here and go ahead and pull for rain. It'll be worth it once the night rolls around.
Louisville's Defensive Preparation
Neither Arkelon Hall or Dwight Dasher bring quite as much to the table as Matt Grothe, but both have forced Ron English to be preparing his troops to handle athletic quarterbacks working out of the shotgun for nearly a month now. USF isn't going to run the same modern spread stuff that Memphis and Middle Tennessee threw at the Cards, but the similarities are enough to make U of L's schedule playing out the way it did extremely beneficial for the home team.
The Cardinal Air Attack
It's safe to say that Louisville's passing game has been a far cry from what we've all come to expect, but there's still enough potential there - especially with the return of Scott Long - to expose a South Florida secondary that isn't what it was with Trae Williams and Mike Jenkins. The Bulls were abused by the only potent passing attack they've faced thus far (Kansas and mighty mite Todd Reesing), and even though he's struggled in recent weeks, Hunter Cantwell has consistently shown the ability to throw an accurate deep ball when provided with ample time. So as long as blocking George Selvie isn't a big deal, we're cool. What's that?
We Have Victor Anderson
And he's good.
This can be done. It's time to bring the buzz back.