Every morning since about Saturday, I've gotten out of bed thinking about the Florida State game. I do this about too many things in life, but I've been trying to get my head around what it all means to be preparing to see the second-ranked team in the nation on the field at Papa John's tomorrow night. After analyzing and re-analyzing everything, I don't think I'll be able to grasp all of it until I'm sitting in the stadium and see it with my own eyes.
I know, you've got to act like you've been there before. After all, Louisville has already beaten a top-five Florida State team at home once before. Well, I can't, because I haven't been there before. Really, nobody has. Louisville has come so far since that game, making this time around so different.
I haven't seen embattled Heisman star Jameis Winston on the field in Louisville's house. I've never watched a defending national champion in football, much less against my team on my team's home field. It'll be new, so it should be treated as such.
In that spirit, my mind has covered pretty much everything about tomorrow night. I can't really contain my excitement anymore, which is why it's now being written down on this page.
The initial thought that usually kicks off my morning goes something like this: "Wow, we're in the ACC. That's why we're playing this game."
Louisville's trip to Clemson was the first real moment for this, but now we'll get a first-hand look at what it means at PJCS (Miami was fun, this is on a different level). More importantly, Florida State is at least a notable reason that Louisville is here in the first place, as they were a known proponent of Louisville's move to the ACC. We know that the move wasn't necessarily a slam dunk fit in every aspect that the ACC prides itself on, but they took Louisville anyway seeing the way things are moving at the University as a whole. Florida State was part of that, and it shouldn't be overlooked.
Next, I think about Jameis Winston (who hasn't?) and everything that seems to always be swirling around him. The crab legs incident will never not haunt him, and Jeff Ruby's has even gotten in on the fun this week. He's an easy punching bag after a comedy of poor choices, but I can't help but be cautious about the Winston jokes. It feels too easy and out of place.
I know, it's not like tweeting a crab legs joke is going to somehow turn the karma completely against Louisville and result in a surefire loss, but it just doesn't feel like the right thing to do. The only thing about Winston that concerns Louisville is that he's a Heisman winner who - make sure you're sitting down for this revelation - is a very, very good quarterback. Making fun of someone who's clearly going to present the biggest challenge of the season doesn't feel right. Like I said, I overanalyze a lot. Zero fun, sir.
So after I can't bring myself to joke about Jameis Winston because I'm just too worried about how good he is at football, I move on. I start thinking about the game as a whole. This has nothing to do with match-ups or statistical advantages, just the game I'm about to watch in general. I went through a similar process (though my memory of this particular process is a bit hazy) on Bourbon Street the day of the Sugar Bowl.
Going into that Sugar Bowl, Louisville was the clear underdog. It was talked about so much that most of us wanted to throw up. We believed in that team, even though we had never seen them beat a top opponent and had watched them lose to Connecticut and Syracuse. Yet when I walked into the Superdome, none of the thoughts that crossed my mind had anything to do with losing to Florida.
When Louisville beat Florida later that night, it felt right, like some sort of validation rather than an upset. I believed that Louisville was "that kind of good", and finally the country got to see what I saw. Now, like most people, I don't have that kind of conviction about this year's team, but I'd be lying if I said I don't have a similar "I just think we're going to win this game" kind of feeling heading into tomorrow night.
The obvious counterargument here is that every underdog in a big game believes that they're going to win, to which I say that there's no way NIU fans honestly thought that they would beat Florida State in the 2013 Orange Bowl. There's potentially irrational confidence and then there's completely irrational confidence. I have the first one. At least that's what I've told myself over the past few mornings.
I do think Louisville will win tomorrow. I think the atmosphere at Papa John's will be incredible, unlike anything it has seen since at least the renovation. I think we'll see first-hand just how good Jameis Winston is, but that Louisville's defense will ultimately be able to pass the test. I think DeVante Parker will make an undeniable impact and help Will Gardner deal with some serious heat from Florida State's front seven. I think it will be perfectly acceptable to storm the field and do whatever feels right in the moment.
Because we haven't really been here before. It's finally almost time to find out what it's like. There's only one more morning left to think about it.