Capturing the National Championship sits atop the Cardinal wish list. An annual home and home series against any SEC opponent not named Kentucky or Vanderbilt probably comes in at number two, but if Mr. Rutherford was to conduct a city wide scientific poll I would speculate confronting Notre Dame on a yearly basis would claim position 2A. Cardinal fans from every existing generation have been begging for Saturday's showdown their entire lives. Louisville has waited five decades for this overdue pilgrimage and the Cardinals will undoubtedly leave a victorious mark on every corner of South Bend.
Considered by many as the New World's Vatican City, the University of Notre Dame and Notre Dame Stadium are two of the most revered institutions in the United States. Touchdown Jesus keeps a watchful eye on the Fighting Irish and a Notre Dame home game is on the bucket list of many sports enthusiasts. Louisville has deserved this game for quite some time, and if the basketball rivalry between the two schools is any indication, the football game should exceed all expectations.
I am making the journey Saturday morning, rain or shine, and it would not surprise me to see 15-25,000 Cardinal fans invade South Bend. Louisville possesses deep catholic roots and devout catholic sport fans are plentiful throughout the region. Families have spent generations supporting Trinity, St. Xavier, and DeSales, and every boy who passed through those halls as a football player had dreams of either playing for or against Notre Dame. Paul Hornung was a Louisville legend before becoming Notre Dame's "Golden Boy", and still remains one of this city's most cherished athletes. The ties that bind Louisville and Notre Dame are endless, making this endlessly avoided rivalry even more intriguing. Louisville will be ready for Saturday, but I don't think Notre Dame is, nor do they have any idea what kind of damage this Cardinal train will cause come kickoff.
Notre Dame appears to be a welcoming opponent for Louisville by almost every account. The Irish turn the ball over regularly, their defense is anything but stout, and their late game execution and stamina seems to be lacking. Notre Dame ranks 74th in passing defense, 51st in rushing defense, 92nd in passes that have been intercepted, 51st in time of possession, and have given up 21 sacks which is good for 68th.
At this juncture the weather doesn't seem to be on Louisville's side, but if decent conditions prevail I wouldn't be surprised to see a soul crushing Cardinal victory. Notre Dame is reeling and has very little left to play for. After being embarrassed by Arizona State, the Irish rebounded by collapsing against lowly Northwestern, and even the Wildcats were more excited about post-game Chik-Fil-A than beating Notre Dame. Louisville has had two full weeks to rest and prepare for Notre Dame, and Coach Petrino understands how vital this victory is to a successful season.
The biggest question mark for Louisville will be the play of true freshman Reggie Bonnafon. Much like Gardner, Reggie is benefitted immensely by a healthy Michael Dyer and the unstoppable Spiderman better known as DeVante Parker. Hail Mary pass to the pylon aside, Reggie was great against Boston College, and his running ability will contribute immensely to Louisville's control of possession Saturday afternoon. If I had to wager, the Louisville offense will even make Nick Saban proud due to the heavy reliance on an unshakeable ground game. Expect to see relentless waves of punishment from Dyer, Radcliffe, Scott, and Brown, and if all else fails Reggie, just throw it up to number nine.
The city of Louisville, Cardinal fans everywhere, and the University have been waiting their entire existence for an opportunity to defeat the Notre Dame Fighting Irish on their own turf. Saturday will be a once in a lifetime experience for the coaches, players, and fans and I recommend everyone willing and able to take full advantage of this weekend. The Cardinal pilgrimage to South Bend has been long overdue and not even Touchdown Jesus will be able to save the golden domers Saturday afternoon. Make a statement in South Bend Cardinals, confession and three Hail Marys can wait until Sunday.
All Hail UofL !!