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Prediction Time: We Have Come To The End Of The Beginning

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The football off-season is so long.  Once spring practice is done and college sports are over, time slows down to a crawl and the littlest things mean so much.  August comes and there's a few days of open practices, and then nothing for weeks.  And then the season starts, and you blink, and it is Senior Day. 

Many players in this year's senior class showed up reading about the "most accomplished Senior class" in Louisville football history.  The 2006 senior day group had a record of 41-9 and two huge bowl wins, including the school's only BCS bowl, and two near-miss perfect seasons.  The players who we will say goodbye to tomorrow for the most part joined this program to keep that tradition going.  And then of course.....

But this year's senior class has a chance to be remembered in the years to come as the beginning of a new era of Cardinal football success.  We didn't know what this season promised, but despite a record close to what we thought we'd have, the product on the field has been leaps and bounds beyond what many predicted or even hoped for. 

So tomorrow we say goodbye to fan favorite Doug Beaumont, defensive mainstays Johnny Patrick and Brandon Heath, almost all of the offensive line, the most emotionally expressive and offensively reliable third-down-target Cameron Graham, Burns Island, Troy Pascley, Adam Froman......and perhaps saddest of all, Bilal Powell.  I imagine I will be able to hear Mike's sobbing and wailing from the top of the upper deck.  That is, if I can hear anything over my own sadness.

So it's time to rely on some sort of coping mechanism.  And I think it's realizing that honoring the departing group of seniors tomorrow shouldn't be looked at as a sad goodbye to the end of an era.  In the years to come, we will be able to look back and thank Doug, Bilal, Froman, Graham, Patrick, Gnat and the whole crew for all they've done for the program through some dark years.  And we will recognize how the 10-2, 9-3, 11-1 type of seasons we will have in the next few years would not have been possible without their contributions to the program.  So, tomorrow's senior day is not just about thanking the seniors.  It's about marking the end of the beginning. 

Some quick predictions.

Offensive Star Of The Game:  Bilal Powell.  I don't care that West Virginia's defense ranks 7th, their scoring defense ranks 3rd and their overall defense ranks 4th.  Well, I do care.  But all that means is that Powell's 100+ yards and 2 TDs will be that much more impressive.  If there's any group that will play out of their minds on senior day, I imagine it is this group, especially after last week.

Defensive Star Of The Game:  Rondey Gnat.  As badass as Noel Devine is, Geno Smith throwing the ball all over the field will be the fastest path for us to lose badly.  That's how they beat Cincinnati, but he didn't throw touchdown passes in their two losses to UConn and Syracuse.  Well, he did throw a 6 yard TD pass against Syracuse, but he also threw 3 INTs.  So, a 6 yard pass is basically a run. 

First Play From Scrimmage:  Triple reverse flea-flicker with Will Stein and Dom Brown both in along side starter Justin Burke.  Well, that or a stretch play off left tackle.

Second Play From Scrimmage:  Bellamy long.  Finally connects.

Specific Prediction:  We do a trick play in the 2nd quarter involving Brown throwing.  Can't have his only pass of the season be that INT.  

Final Score:  Louisville 17 - 14 - West Virginia.  A defensive struggle marked by just enough scoring to win. 

So this is the end of the prediction thread thing for the season.  We've had some laughs, a lot of skimming and reader confusion, one or two comments and literally no correct predictions.  Sounds like it is more like the end of my blog-based prediction career.