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What to read before the tears come

Pretty sure there isn't a breathing sports writer out there who didn't take a shot at Louisville this week, and that includes former C-J columnist Pat Forde, who believes the Cards are the biggest underachievers of the year.

* Louisville (13) loses as a 37-point favorite to Syracuse (14). Believe it or not, the biggest underachiever of 2007 is not the Wolverines, or even the Fighting Irish. The Dash says it's the Cardinals, who have plummeted from the top 10 after consecutive losses -- including a shocker Saturday that, by point spread, ranks as the biggest upset on the books. Ever. Before this game the Orange were in strong contention for worst team from a BCS league. Then they set eyes upon a jaw-droppingly bad defense that cannot wait to let receivers run scot-free behind the secondary. So far the Steve Kragthorpe Era in Louisville has been all about busted coverages and broken streaks: first a four-game winning streak over Kentucky; now a 20-game winning streak at home.

To make someone feel better, The Dash is advocating a weak-on-weak scrimmage: Notre Dame's offense against Louisville's defense. Winning unit earns the right to serve tailgating food to Dashette Sonya Kraus (15).

We all pretty much knew that Louisville was going to assume the dreaded five spot in ESPN's "Bottom 10," and sure enough there we are.

The fast-spreading rumor that Tom Jurich is considering taking all of his mantasticness to Florida State was the last thing that Cardinal fans wanted to deal with this week. Because of this, the commitment of Jurich's twin daughters - Haley and Lacey - to play field hockey at U of L may very well be the best piece of recruiting news Louisville has gotten since Samardo Samuels verballed in June. Florida State, in case you were wondering, does not boast a field hockey team.

It looks like after a tumultuous start, Steve Kragthorpe is scrapping his whole "I don't discuss non-season ending injuries" deal, or at least is loosening up the policy a bit. Koach said this week that Harry Douglas and Brock Bolen would be good to go against NC State, but that Sergio Spencer's status was still up in the air.

Keep in mind that our totally sucking ass coincides directly with Bolen's injury in the Middle Tennessee State game, so, yeah, go ahead and book those Fiesta Bowl tickets. I'm pretty smashed and I just bought like 40, so I'm pretty sure that means it's a good idea.

Kragthorpe also said this week that he was "opening up the position of 'X' receiver," which surely to God has got to mean more reps for Card Chronicle man crush Scott Long. I didn't expect to see Long get Urrutia or Douglas-type reps this season, but he's far too talented to be on the sidelines as much as he was against Kentucky and in the first half against Syracuse. Eighty-four is the second best pass catcher and route runner on this team (I'll give you one guess as to who's the first), and could be a great boon to this offense sooner rather than later.

It's almost like Kragthorpe and Stubbs are afraid of upsetting the trio of superstars they inherited, so they've limited the offense to basically those three guys and Allen. Mario needs to play because he's a threat to go the distance every time he steps foot on the field, but he's also a liability right now, and throwing a healthy dose of Scott Long into the mix at wide receiver would - in this humble blogger's opinion - provide a great deal of stability.

Of course the offense isn't the problem here, a cruel fact reminded to us by NC State blog Section Six.

Everybody seems to be taking shots at Steve Kragthorpe these days (like everybody, blog search Kragthorpe, it's like an infinity pool of one-liners), but a somewhat unexpected culprit was former UC head coach Rick Minter, who bashed Coach K and his staff Wednesday morning on the radio.

The college football analyst on 1530HOMER had this to say about the Cardinals on a show today with Lance McAlister:

"If you are going to be given the keys to the Rolls Royce then you better have a valid drivers' license and know how to drive the darn thing and I think that's what the coaching staff down there is finding out because that program was primed and ready to ascend to the next level. So, they have some regrouping to do."

Minter did say that Syracuse, which was a 37-point underdog and won the game 38-35, "caught Louisville at a good time" and he noted that the Cardinals "showed a lack of discipline and leadership" in the loss to the Orange.

"I talked to a friend of mine on the Kentucky staff he said look out over the Louisville football team and it looks a little different without the leadership of Bob Petrino. It just looks a little different."

If ever there was someone who could recognize inept coaching, it'd be Minter whose record was ten games under .500 over nine years at Cincinnati, and was fired as the defensive coordinator at Notre Dame after last season.

SMQ is still stunned by just how awful Louisville was last Saturday, and talks about it here, here and here.

Andy Katz spoke to Derrick Caracter (BASKETBALL!) earlier this week and then proved that he's totally hip by blogging about it.

Granted, it was one phone call, just a snapshot of a conversation, but Derrick Caracter actually sounded like he finally understands what he needs to do to be a productive member of the Louisville Cardinals men's basketball program.

Maturity can do that to a person.

Credit Louisville coach Rick Pitino for disciplining the highly touted Caracter during his freshman season at Louisville, for actually sending him home to New Jersey once in December. Pitino deserves the praise for not just disciplining Caracter, but also sticking with him.

Caracter's talent was too good to waste.

But he has changed, or at least he's saying the right things in the preseason.

"I've just grown up," said Caracter, who had knee surgery in June and played in just 18 games last season, averaging 8.1 points in 13.3 minutes a game. He did have a propensity for fouling, committing 52 personal fouls and fouling out of three games, two of them in less than 10 minutes.

"Just going home the whole month of May and understanding what's important in my life and get out the high school habits I had, that's why I was up and down," Caracter said.

What were these habits?

"Being on time, effort and body language," Caracter said. "Coach P saw my body language not always being positive and upbeat."

The 6-foot-8 Caracter has had weight issues the past year but doesn't seem to believe that will be an issue this season. He said he lost 10 pounds after his knee surgery. But more than the weight, he needs to be more intelligent on the court.

"That's part of maturity and understanding how to really play defense," Caracter said. "When I got in last year, I wanted to play hard for Coach Pitino [but] that I didn't get the fundamentals down. So I was aggressive on defense and fouled and make silly mistakes like reaching in. I need to play with composure and play smart and hard."

Caracter said he has been working on his quickness and foot agility drills while also guarding David Padgett during individual workouts.

If Caracter can stay on the court defensively, then the Cardinals should have quite a frontline with Padgett and possibly Earl Clark at small forward. Caracter said his dream lineup has Clark at small forward, Terrence Williams at shooting guard and Edgar Sosa at the point for the Big East title contending Cards. That would mean Juan Palacios would come off the bench to spell Padgett or Caracter.

The Cards desperately need Caracter to be productive, let alone stay on the roster, with the latest news that freshman center Clarence Holloway is out for the season with open-heart surgery to repair a wall of his aorta and valve.

The Cards should be a quicker bunch than if Caracter is lighter on his feet, too.

So, he's saying the right things and acting the appropriate way. And as practice approaches, if he can stay out of Pitino's doghouse, he has a chance to have a breakthrough season.

"I'm definitely playing a full season," Caracter said. "I've got a great relationship with Coach P."

Speaking of basketball (BASKETBALL!),'s "Big East ShootAround" is out, and none other than Jay Bilas has picked Louisville to capture the league crown this season.

Oh yeah, and we suck at football.