The University of Louisville and its football program have been searching for acceptance and recognition longer than most of its devoted followers have been alive. The goal of standing alongside the giants of college football finally seems attainable now that the Cardinals have been fully embraced by the ACC. Louisville begins its 2015 campaign against perennial SEC power Auburn and the Tigers are picked to win the SEC Championship. Make your way to Atlanta Cardinal Fans, September 5th will be the biggest game in Louisville Football history, potentially.
Cardinal Football has tasted its fair share of prime time glory, but if asked, which win would you claim to be the biggest and most important? Some would argue for the 1991 Fiesta Bowl beat down of Alabama. A few others may side with the 2006 West Virginia blackout. The assumption is that most Cardinal supporters would decide between the 2006 Orange Bowl and the 2013 Sugar Bowl. Each of those wins were significant in their own right and certainly resurrect a feeling of euphoria, but a devil's advocate can poke holes in all of Louisville's most treasured moments.
Louisville found its way into the Fiesta Bowl because Notre Dame and Virginia turned down invitations in protest over Arizona's rejection of the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, not to mention Alabama entered the game with a disappointing 7-4 record. The West Virginia victory in 2006 gave the Cardinals a clear path to the National Championship, but Rutgers shattered those dreams just one week later. The Orange Bowl was the first BCS victory for the program, yet defeating Wake Forest allowed the naysayers to roll their eyes. Personally, I'd argue the Sugar Bowl is far and away the program's biggest win. Florida is the SEC East's Alabama, they were 11-1 entering the matchup, and the Sugar Bowl is generally viewed as the best bowl behind the National Title. Looking back, Louisville manhandling the Gators was the beginning of the end for Will Muschamp and Florida's program essentially collapsed.
Accomplishments can always be revised by the exaggeration or diminishing that occurs when reliving history. However, no opposing fan, journalist, commentator, or cynic can take away those moments of pride we all felt when the clock read zero. Louisville has been given another chance to chase the ultimate dream. A victory over Auburn sets the Cardinals on a path to the College Football Playoff. A fierce battle, but close defeat sets the Cardinals on a path to the College Football Playoff, potentially.
Perception rules the polls and the playoff committee. The media drives home carefully planned perception week after week after week, by November everyone in the country firmly believes four teams are better than the rest, and one conference constantly stands invincible upon the shoulders of others. Auburn is perceived to be a championship favorite, the SEC is consistently viewed as the premier conference in the land, and Louisville faces a schedule no one is laughing at.
Why is the Chik Fil A Kickoff potentially the biggest game in Cardinal history? Louisville has been given an opportunity to catapult into the playoff race with a win or loss, a position the Cardinals have never been in before. However, hypotheticals are a blast in August and usually mean nothing by Halloween. If Louisville were to win September 5th, finish the season 13-0 or 12-1 as ACC Champions, they would almost be a lock for the playoff. If the Cardinals play Auburn tough, but fall, and the Tigers do their part by winning the SEC and Louisville captures the ACC crown, the Cardinals would still have a legitimate chance of being selected for the final four. If...every sports fanatic's favorite game.
Prime time season openers offer programs major media coverage, incomparable hype, recruiting advantages, a first chance to capture legitimacy, and the opportunity to control perception. Louisville Football finds itself in unknown territory. Miami, Auburn, Purdue, Alabama, and Notre Dame. Season openers that make the Cardinals a part of the conversation in August instead of afterthoughts through September. The Louisville Football program has earned its position to control its own destiny, every year, every season. Do yourself a favor, join Coach Petrino and the Louisville Cardinals in Atlanta September 5th for a game none of us will ever forget, potentially.
All Hail UofL !!