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Louisville Football And Big East Openers: A Hate Story

Conference openers have not been kind to Louisville since the Cards joined the Big East in 2005, a trend they'll hope to break on Saturday.

Louisville is the only member of a BCS conference that has yet to begin league play, a fact which will change on Saturday when the Cards face Pittsburgh at Heinz Field.

Though U of L was billed as the potential "savior" of the Big East by some when it joined the conference in 2005, the Cards are remarkably just 1-6 in Big East openers. That's even more astounding when you consider that those years include four bowl appearances and two conference titles.

Here's a quick look at the negative trend Charlie Strong and company will be looking to shake on Saturday.

South Florida 45, Louisville 14 - 9/24/05

Though the game as never in question after the opening moments of the second half, this still goes down as one of my all-time most upsetting U of L losses.

The Cards entered their first season as the Big East favorites and were receiving some serious buzz as a darkhorse national title contender. That dissipated a bit after a shaky season-opening win over Kentucky, but picked right back up when U of L throttled Oregon State 63-27 two weeks later.

Then whatever the hell this was happened.

Receiver Amari Jackson, a receiver who entered the game with just two catches in USF's first three games, ran for two touchdowns and threw for another to spearhead the inexplicable beatdown.

Louisville would also drop its second conference game - the 46-44 triple overtime thriller at West Virginia - before ripping off five straight double-digit victories to end the regular season and earn a trip to the Gator Bowl.

Louisville 23, Cincinnati 17 - 10/14/06

Even the one victory on this list was far from a thing of beauty.

The Cards, who ranked No. 7 at the time and in desperate need of style points to make their quest for a national title a reality, struggled mightily despite the return of Brian Brohm at quarterback. Brohm had missed U of L's past two games due to a thumb injury he suffered in the win over Miami.

Despite facing a Bearcat team that was just 3-3, Louisville was miserable on third down conversions and consistently failed to control the clock with their ground game.

The dream season was ultimately saved when Gavin Smart broke up a pass in the endzone with just three seconds to play. U of L would ultimately go on to win the Big East and then defeat Wake Forest in the Orange Bowl.

Syracuse 38, Louisville 35 - 9/22/07

This was like that moment in every scary movie where the guy who refuses to believe that something strange is going on (the wind could have blown that girl's face off!) finally gets it. That guy always eventually dies, which I'm sure works into the equation of what we're talking about here in some way.

If the Middle Tennessee State debacle didn't confirm it, if the Kentucky loss didn't confirm it, then losing to Syracuse at home in what was, at that time, the largest upset in terms of point spread in the history of college football confirmed beyond a reasonable doubt that we had all been infected by Krag1H1.

In addition to completely demoralizing the fan base and every other aspect of the program, the loss snapped Louisville's 20-game home winning streak, which had been the second-longest in the nation behind USC.

I'm going to take a shower and then write about the '08 game.

Connecticut 26, Louisville 21 - 9/26/08

It makes me sad when I think about how hard I worked to talk myself into being really excited about this game.

U of L was coming off a big (Wednesday night) 38-29 win over Kansas State, and there was actually a semblance of optimism surrounding the program for the first time in over a year. That went on the window when UConn LB Lawrence Wilson intercepted a Hunter Cantwell pass and returned it 45 yards for what would prove to be the game-winning score late in the 4th quarter.

Getting the "shush" sign from some no-name Husky player as I walked down the steps and out of the stadium goes down as one of my top five personal lows during the Krag era.

Pittsburgh 35, Louisville 10 - 10/2/09

The night we all knew it was over.

A Big East run was the only chance left for Steve Kragthorpe to save his job, and this lackluster Friday night effort against Pitt proved that no such miracle was coming.

From this moment on, the season became almost completely about who the next Louisville head coach was going to be.

Cincinnati 35, Louisville 27 - 10/15/10

The crowd, and Bilal Powell, were amped up for a Friday night rivalry game that also marked Charlie Strong's Big east debut.

Powell rushed for 209 yards and a pair of scores, but Louisville's inability to defend the deep ball ultimately led to yet another Big East-opening defeat.

A 62-yard touchdown pass from Zach Collaros to Amon Binns late in the 4th quarter proved to be the death blow. Collaros finished the night with a career-high five touchdown passes, three of which were hauled in by Binns.

The game also featured a ton of jawing between the two rivals, which began when Collaros ran down the Louisville sideline making the "shush" gesture after his first touchdown pass. Proving once again that if you "shush" U of L during the Cards' Big East opener, it's probably going to be a good night for you.

I was at a wedding. I watched the second half at the downstairs bar during the reception. I did not handle the loss in a mature fashion. I got in big trouble.

Cincinnati 25, Louisville 16 - 10/15/11

The Cards entered the 2011 showdown with the Bearcats just 2-3 after back-to-back losses to Marshall and North Carolina. They appeared poised to shake the Big East opener curse after Mike Evans intercepted a Collaros pass and took it to the house to put U of L up 16-7 just before halftime.

Louisville's offense was unable to accomplish much in the second half, however, and Isaiah Pead's 50-yard go-ahead touchdown run in the 4th quarter put Cincinnati ahead for good. Louisville had self-destructed on the possession before, piling up two false starts, an illegal formation and a holding penalty that set up a third-and-38 and led to a punt.

The win was UC's first inside Paul Brown Stadium, and allowed the Bearcats to retain the Keg of Nails for a fourth straight year.