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You Have Three Days, Soak It Up

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Never have the annual autumn holidays of Halloween and the first Cardinal basketball exhibition been so overshadowed in the city that knows no region.

Indeed, the world's most accepted Pagan Holiday takes center stage on Tuesday and the always anticipated premier of Rick Pitino's boys in Freedom Hall will follow the night after, but for many anxious souls who bleed bright red (figuratively...and literally), satisfaction this week will require more than a knock on a door and a three-word question.

It's the week of The End Game, The Battle for the Big East, The Clash in the Commonwealth, the week the reverie of the summer and early fall becomes reality.

And amazingly the plot has thickened.

The release of the BCS standing yesterday afternoon confirmed the rumors started by the human polls earlier in the day; the Louisville Cardinals are one of the top five football teams in the country.

It will be #3 vs. #5 at Papa John's Cardinal Stadium in Louisville, Kentucky on Thursday night for all the world to see. A #3 ranking and the inside track to a birth in the national championship game, in football, is at stake.

Why is it so hard to wrap our minds around this?

Ohio State, Michigan...Louisville. This is the dream. This is the "some day" we spent the '90s talking about.

The inside track to the national championship.

This is no longer the misguided dream of a Conference USA team led by a group of major college rejects and coaches hoping after each win that some big conference school had taken notice, no, this is reliable mathematical conjecture, this is the actual result of a single win on a single night.

On the first day of 1991 we beat an average Alabama team in a big name bowl that invited us only because others had already passed. In 2002 we beat Florida State after we'd already suffered two losses, including our only defeat to Kentucky in the last nine years. If Kerry Rhodes wraps his arms around that Brock Berlin pass in October of 2004 at the Orange Bowl, Louisville probably finishes the regular season 11-0 and plays in a BCS game. They're still left out of the national title picture and finish the season no higher than fifth.

West Virginia is the real deal, and this game is the biggest one in the history of this program. It's really not even close.

Three vs. Five, how unbelievably fantastic is that? This is what that guy who looked kind of like Santa Clause was talking about all those years ago.

So how can any of us possibly be expected to remain attentive at work, in class, or in conversation with loved ones who "don't understand," when such a landmark event is merely double-digit hours away?

We beg of you, relish these next few days. We know it's hard not to be counting down the minutes at this point, but please, for the sake of all those who attended a home game in 1997, do not take this feeling for granted.

Though it's unsettling to think about in this blissful state, the possibility most certainly exists that Louisville will fall on Thursday night to a team that could ultimately go down as one of the best the program has ever taken the field against. In the aftermath of this presently unspeakable event, we would all undoubtedly yearn for the days when we could picture Trent Guy returning the opening kick for a touchdown on the night of Jan. 8 as hundreds of thousands of Cardinal fans across the country lose their minds.

It seems that many a Louisville fan has bought into the false belief that being a top-level program means you're competing for the national championship each and every year. This is rare guys, for anyone, expecting to be undefeated heading into each and every November is foolish. An unblemished record and a top five ranking as the temperature dips into the 40's is a marvelous achievement regardless of preseason expectations.

There's no way of knowing when it will be this good again.

Embrace the next three days boys and girls. Doodle the names of the starting offense and defense in class, confirm official tailgating plans with your friends through email at work, acclimate yourself with the 3-3-5 defense on your lunch break, but whatever you do, make sure to secure a small place in your brain where you can store the feeling of excitement you have right now, forever.