Saltines, Steak Dinners, and Changing Perceptions

To quote Eddie Murphy, "If you're starving,... and somebody throw you a cracker, you gonna be like: Goshdamn (licks fingers), that's the best cracker I ever ate in my life! That ain't no regular cracker,.. was it? What was that, a Saltine? Damn, that was delicious. That wasn't no Saltine. That was... That was a Ritz. That wasn't a Ritz? God, that was the best cracker I ever ate in my life. Can I have another one, please? Please, one more."

We, as Louisville football fans, wandered in the desert for three years; starving. Not knowing if we would ever eat again....

Then, we found our oasis. Tom Jurich delivered our salvation. In year one we were so happy, to not be on the verge of starving to death for a decent brand of football, that all we could do was slobber on our Cardinal gear and stammer "more please." Players were no longer out of position. They played hard until the final whistle. Opposing receivers weren't running through the secondary with eyes wide open and hands raised, like the dumb kid who finally had an answer for the teacher.

7-6, who cared? Not me, not you, and not anyone else who had remained faithful through the Kra... I'm not even going to mention his name. Then, at the end of last year, to be 7-6 again with a share of the Big East title? With a true freshman under center? A share of the Big East title with so many freshmen and sophomores accounting for so much of the team's production?

There wasn't a Saltine in sight. There were steaks sizzling on the grill and ice cold beer in the cooler. We couldn't dig in just yet, but we could see it coming. Now the table is set. This is the year. This has to be the year. This needs to be the year that Cardinal fans get their steak dinner.

With the newly minted college football playoff, and the bowl deals that followed, the path to elite status has become a near impossibility for a Big East program to attain. Not completely impossible, but very close. I find it hard to believe that an undefeated Big East team would get a spot in the top four this year, or next, if the playoff was to begin right away. I just can't see any way in the world that a Big East team would earn a spot in the top four with the current perception of the league being what it is. To those on the outside, those with votes, those who will sit on the selection committee,.... the Big East is nothing more than an island of misfit toys. A final resting place for those with grand aspirations who were left behind.

Like it or not perception is reality. I still believe that the fate/ conference of Louisville athletics is yet to be determined. One thing, however, is for sure in all of this. Whether Louisville ends up in another league or stays right where they are the next two years are crucial for the future of the football program. The next two years may be the most important two years in the history of the program; and, I don't think I am exaggerating one bit when I say that. Why?

Because the three years prior to Charlie Strong's arrival almost completely erased Louisville Football from the national consciousness, and the next two years can repair a lot of that damage. The next two years must end with appearances in the Orange Bowl, and outstanding performances against whichever team from the ACC ends up on the other sideline. Why? Because good luck getting an invitation to a "BCS Bowl" once the playoff begins in 2014. Especially if you haven't worked your way back into the national conversation.

Big East, Big12, Big whatever. It's never going to be easy for Louisville football to be in the conversation for one of those four spots. It's just not; but, if the next two seasons are a glorious maximization of the team's potential and perception,.. well? Then the path to glory suddenly becomes a possibility, no matter what conference we're in.

"We are on a collision course with the national championship. The only variable is time."

-Howard Schnellenberger, 1985


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