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Friday afternoon Cardinal news and notes

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I_medium Spread check: Louisville by 19.5.

I_medium Out of all the College Football Playoff contenders who don't control their own destiny, Louisville is the most likely to ultimately crash the party.

1. LOUISVILLE (5-1). The Cardinals boast the best player in the country, Lamar Jackson; the best performance of the season, against Florida State; and the best possible loss: Their only blemish, a 42-36 nail-biter at Clemson, arguably boosted U of L stock more than most wins by reinforcing that it could hang with a heavy hitter in primetime. Of all the teams on this list, at this point Louisville is the only one that can make that claim.

And while they don't control their own destiny as far as the ACC championship or the playoff is concerned, the Cardinals do enter the turn as the de facto Next Team In. They'll be huge favorites in five of their last six, and solid favorites at Houston. Make good on that potential, and there are many more hypothetical scenarios that break in their favor over the final eight weeks than ones that don't.

I_medium Don Wheatley, the Louisville fan who Keith Kelsey had been visiting at the hospital every Monday, has passed away.

Keith should take solace in the fact that he made the last couple months of Don's life as enjoyable as they could have possibly been.

I_medium A very happy anniversary for both Tom and all of us.

I_medium Getting the offense back on track is priority one for Louisville against NC State tomorrow.

I_medium Hey, there's less than 24 hours until we get to watch our top 10 football team and Heisman Trophy favorite QB play a home game. That's pretty cool.

I_medium Bad news out of Virginia, where a former football player is suing the school after claiming that teammates bullied and mocked him over a learning disability and forced him into a hazing ritual this summer that left him with a broken eye socket.

I_medium Fox Sports says Louisville is one of seven teams facing disaster on week eight of the college football season.

Louisville vs. NC State (Saturday, 12 p.m. ET)

For Louisville, "disaster" means something completely different than it would for anyone else on this list. The Cardinals wouldn't lose bowl eligibility or respectability with a loss here. But it would be disastrous.

The Cardinals still have an outside shot at making the College Football Playoff. While they'll need help, they also need to win out. If last Friday's narrow victory over Duke showed us anything, however, it's that this team isn't upset-proof. Even with Lamar Jackson under center.

NC State proved last week in its near-upset of Clemson that it can play with anyone in college football. And if the Wolfpack can come within a missed field goal of winning in Death Valley, they have the talent to upset Louisville. The Cardinals cannot overlook the Wolfpack. If they do, it could cost them a shot at the national title.

I_medium Louisville and NC State both have kicking issues, plus four more things to keep an eye on tomorrow.

I_medium The Boston Celtics waived Damion Lee on Thursday.

I_medium In more positive Celtics news (or quasi news), here's rapper YG sporting a Terry Rozier jersey during a concert earlier this week:

I_medium The Louisville women's soccer team took a 3-0 loss to Miami Thursday night.

I_medium Lamar Jackson headlines Stewart Mandel's Midseason All-American team.

I_medium The father of U of L point guard commit Darius Perry says he has the "ultimate trust" in Rick Pitino.

The father of University of Louisville basketball recruit Darius Perry said the NCAA's allegations of violations within the U of L program have no impact on his son's commitment to the Cardinals and that it's "110 percent" certain the Marietta, Ga., point guard will sign with U of L next month.

Eric Perry said he believed coach Rick Pitino when he denied Thursday ever knowing about the activities of former staff member Andre McGee inside Billy Minardi Hall. Perry said Pitino's public words were nearly identical to what Pitino privately told the Perrys in July about the investigation.

"I watched (the news conference) on ESPN, and it doesn't affect us," Eric Perry said in a phone interview. "Pretty much everything that was said, we knew. When we went on our official visit (in July), Coach Pitino kind of explained where they were with that and how it was going to affect us, and we knew it wouldn't. Because of that, we were comfortable to go ahead to make the commitment (on Aug. 16).

"If we had had any inclination that maybe Pitino wasn't being honest with us or that something may happen, it may have affected us then. But once we made our decision, we were pretty solid on it. Today changed nothing."

I_medium All four of ESPN's ACC writers like U of L over NC State.

I_medium I answered some questions for SB Nation's NC State site, Backing the Pack, here.

I_medium In his weekly ACC mailbag, ESPN's David Hale answers a question about whether a one-loss Louisville team that doesn't win the Atlantic would have a better playoff chance than a two-loss Coastal team that wins the ACC championship.

Now this is an intriguing question because the polls almost certainly would favor Louisville, and the committee would be within its guidelines to suggest that too. So sure, if, for example, North Carolina won the ACC with two losses, I'd expect Louisville to still be the higher-ranked team.

Two big problems with the Cardinals' hopes for a playoff berth, however, would still exist. First, if the ACC title game was Clemson's lone loss, it would be impossible to envision Louisville jumping the Tigers. And even if it was Clemson's second loss, it's tough to punish a team for playing an extra game. Additionally, the playoff committee has made it clear that it will select a conference champion unless there is clear evidence another team is superior, so while Louisville may fulfill that caveat compared with the ACC's champ, it still would need some help from the Pac-12 and Big 12.

I_medium The U of L baseball team has wrapped up its annual Pizza Bowl competition.

I_medium House of Cards reviews the Duke win and takes an early look at NC State.

I_medium New Albany's Romeo Langford has been named a preseason High School All-American by USA Today.

I_medium The closing of St. Matthews Hardware after 95 years is a major bummer. I have fond memories of going there with my dad when I was a kid, and I live a few stones throws away from the place now.

I_medium DJ K-Dogg's official Homecoming tailgate mix for the NC State game is here for your consumption.

I_medium Whoops.

I_medium Brandon Dunn has been promoted to the Houston Texans' active roster.

I_medium This is a long, but terrific read on Derek Smith. Full disclosure: I haven't finished it yet, but plan to tonight. Still willing to conclude that it's terrific.

I_medium The average Texas football player is worth $670,000.

I_medium Louisville makes an appearance at the end of Spencer Hall's top whatever rankings.

Teams with one loss that are probably good enough to creep back in once Alabama loses the one game they need to throw to pretend they're mortal:

  • Louisville, who only has one loss to Clemson and still has the best player in the nation, Lamar Jackson. This week's fun and random comparison: in 2016, Lamar Jackson has 90 points by himself, and South Carolina has 84. As a team. That allegedly plays the same sport.
  • Houston. Survived 38-31 against Tulsa, a team that had Ohio State pinned down until the third quarter. Waiting to play Louisville, then get lucky elsewhere to make anything New Year's happen.
  • Florida? The question mark is deliberate.

I_medium This story about the football manager at Bullitt East will make you smile.

I_medium Two U of L defensive greats.

I_medium Jim Boeheim and Doug Gottlieb sat down to have some awkward dialogue.

I_medium In the wake of Duke's stronger than expected performance against Louisville, the "ball-control strategy" looks like a smart play against the Cards.

I_medium Athlon is predicting a 41-27 Cardinal victory over NC State.

I_medium Eat it, Mickey.

I_medium Lamar Jackson still tops FanSided's Heisman watch.

I_medium ESPN has an insider look at the Lamar Jackson vs. Deshaun Watson debate.

I_medium Eric Crawford has two really good reads for U of L fans today. First, on his thoughts regarding Rick Pitino and his disagreement with colleague Rick Bozich. Second, his eight biggest takeaways from the NOA.

1). THIS IS ABOUT THE MONEY. I know, there were strippers. I know, there were prostitutes. I know, there were parties. But for the purposes of NCAA rules, you might as well substitute any other kind of impermissible benefit. Movie. Meal. Late-model vehicle. Small appliance. That's not intuitive, of course. It's the kind of objectification of women that is offensive. And it is offensive. But from the standpoint of crime and punishment, the NCAA (in as antiseptic report as you'll find about a basketball employee making it rain for strippers, players and recruits) had to boil down the violations to dollars (or dollar bills) and cents. An example of this: Two players in this letter were said to have declined to have sex with women who were paid for the "benefit." That's still a violation, because the women were paid. The sex, then, is incidental. And from an NCAA standpoint, that's just reality.

Overall, the value of those impermissible inducements (benefits given to recruits) and extra benefits (benefits given to two current players) was, in the end, judged to be at least $5,400. (Why this language, "at least?" Because where a range of values were given, the NCAA used the smallest value.)

With the redactions, it's hard to break these down by players, and it's impossible to know which recruits wound up at Louisville, which went elsewhere, and not knowing the dates, we don't know when they played, let alone what monetary value was given to each individual player.

This is important. Why? Because for amounts of $100 or less, there's one guideline for regaining eligibility, for amounts of $100 to $300 there's another, and so on. By my figuring, the overall money breakdown looks like this (all values are approximate):

  • Money for strip shows: $2,760
  • Money for actual sex acts $1,700
  • Cash given to players/recruits $940

That's it. That's the pile of cash. And the reason it matters is this: It's hard to claim that an entire season's worth of wins should be vacated on the basis of two or three players receiving benefits that would've amounted to 2-3 game suspensions. I don't know how the NCAA will manage this. I do know the NCAA is limited in some way by its own precedent. The NCAA, for instance, can't come down harder on Louisville than it did on Miami, which had tens of thousands of dollars flowing from a booster to various programs for illegal inducements and extra benefits (including strippers, night clubs, gifts, a washer and dryer, $50,000 for a single recruit, etc.) The NCAA has to act in line with its past actions. That's why the money matters.

I_medium Jay Bilas says the NCAA completely erred in its handling of Rick Pitino.

I_medium Dartmouth's school newspaper has a good piece on graduate transfer Stefan Cleveland, who has been terrific in net for the U of L soccer team this season.

I_medium And finally, beat NC State.