The Louisville Football Cardinals
begin their continue on their long road to the first football national championship with the first practice of Spring Football. There's a lot going on here, and unfairly or not, the Louisville Cardinal men's basketball team continuing on their road to a national championship tomorrow is getting most of the attention. But because there are enough Goode Feelings to go around, here's a quick preview of the forces at work both on the field and off the field that will take up much more of your attention in April and hopefully no sooner.
1. Louisville's Place In The Broader College Football Landscape
This is the last season of the BCS as we know it. Starting next year, some sort of committee will use some sort of criteria to double the amount of teams eligible to win the national championship and likely quintuple the amount of controversy. This is also our last season as not-members of the ACC (assuming nothing changes between now and the summer of 2014, natch) but any discussion of our team's chances to make the Chosen 4 in 2014 is about as speculative as predicting the 2014 basketball starting 5. So, with our blog's governing rules in mind (Rule No. 54: it all matters; Rule No. 29: precious present) all of my energy (Rule No. 7: you do you) will be focused on the 2013 season as our best chance to win a national title in football since 2006. Which is highly correlated with....
2. Louisville's Terrible, Terrible Football Schedule
In two respects: (1) it will be seen (mostly correctly by home fans paying for tickets) as incredibly easy and boring with no real tough games and (2) it actually has a couple very tough road games, specifically at Tommy Tuberville's Cincinnati squad and against Willie Taggart's USF Bulls. Those games would be tough for any college football power (which is why very few schedule them out of conference) but in terms of in-conference road games against two teams who have been left behind and against proven coaches with decent talent, well, those games are tougher than people think. Oh, and we play UK on the road in a game that will be likely circled in blood on many iCals in the state (I'm not a Mac guy but they have a "circle in blood" app right?)
But the national perception is going to be that our schedule is insanely easy, which means....
3. Louisville Performance v. Louisville Expected Performance
I wish someone would ask the coaches this and get an honest, not-for-media response, but why on earth shouldn't we try to blow everyone we play out by 50 this year? The Sugar Bowl, a high preseason ranking, Teddy, all of the buzz around the program right now means we will enter the season within striking distance of a top-2 finish, but it will take complete and utter domination of our schedule to even have a chance to "pass the eye test" or whatever, and with the offensive weapons we have, there's no one I would both rather be and feel terrible for than Shawn Watson. The job he has done has been amazing, but within the context of our overall game plan: run the ball, control the clock, score enough to win, defense first. That served us well in the Sugar Bowl because that's an SEC style, but in whatever the hell our conference is called next year, beating Houston and Memphis by scores like 27-14 or 21-10 or even 17-3 aren't going to be enough.
So anyway, Shawn Watson, no pressure or anything, but seriously, with Teddy, the WRs (now featuring TWO hometown heroes), the speed at running back and the quality tight ends (see below), there will be little patience for ball control and short fields and punting at ay point anywhere near midfield and generally not scoring a touchdown every time we have the ball.
The only other group that may have more pressure on it than Shawn Watson is.....
4. Louisville Fans
The Sugar Bowl and post-Sugar Bowl fandom has been amazing, but the "our fans aren't good enough to keep Charlie Strong here" thing is not dead and buried. I'm not going to weigh in on our fans but I think it is going to be incredibly difficult to sustain the energy level against our home schedule, especially if the coaches are treating games as "won" with 10 point leads early in the 3rd Quarter and calling the offense accordingly from then on. I think we get a bad rap (very few colleges really have sell out crowds that stay in their seats the entire game, every game of the season) but there will be some pressure this season to provide and sustain excitement and energy from August to December in what should be 4-5 easy home games with 1-2 close ones possible. If more than 2 or close, Houston, we have a problem (see what I did there?)
5. Enough of All That, Let's Get Excited
Here are some things I'm excited to see this Spring in no particular order:
Teddy throwing to DeVante Parker.
DeVante Parker catching the football when thrown by Teddy.
Gerald Christian, a tight end transfer from Florida who
insiders people I follow on Twitter have been hyping.
Charles Gaines at corner.
The running backs. From Dom Brown's return to Corvin Lamb's increased touches to Brandon Radcliff's first carries, there is a lot to like here in theory.
Who makes the sophomore leap. It seems like every year a couple true sophomores who had quiet freshman years on defense make a huge leap their second year, and there are a few obvious candidates this season like the LBs Keith Brown and James Burgess and defensive linemen D'Angelo Brown and Sheldon Rankins. Interested to see who gets the most buzz from the true sophomores during spring practice.
Redshirt freshman, mostly in the secondary and whatever class or year Holliman is now.
The backup QBs. Part of the "dominate every team" thing means more snaps for Teddy, although I'm also fine with bringing in redshirt freshman Will Gardner and JUCO transfer Brett Nelson to throw the ball around some in 3rd and 4th quarters to get some real game experience, protect Teddy and in general keep things moving. Life after Teddy will happen one day. Okay that's all I can say about that let's move on.
Really there's a ton more but basically I'm excited about All of the football Things.
One last thought: Mike posted that ESPN graphic last night about how Louisville always leaves their basketball league by winning the regular season and post-season tournaments. That's obviously a good omen going into our last year in whatever this league is called.
But, and this may be a stretch, considering that we just won what the ESPN guys started referring to as "the last season of the Big East as we've known it", and it's very possible that this upcoming season starts getting called "the last season of the BCS as we've known it"......
Naw. This is real life, after all.
The train starts rolling today. Practice 1— Vance Bedford (@CoachBedfordUL) March 20, 2013