Louisville Football is on the brink of seizing opportunities once envisioned as only dreams. In case you haven't heard (or if you believe two local reporters), the University of Louisville and Papa John's Cardinal Stadium will be the epicenter of college football all week and every minute of Saturday September 17th. Florida State is coming to town to put the Cardinals back in their rightful place. Louisville has always been told that Heisman Trophies, championships, elite recruits, and the ACC belong only to the blue bloods. Is Louisville ready to continue its climb? To be the best, the Cardinals must beat the best.
Florida State is on the Mount Rushmore of college football. The Seminoles have won three national championships and only Alabama has conquered the country more than Florida State since the inception of the BCS and College Football Playoff. Almost as impressive is the fact FSU has captured the ACC crown 15 times in just 24 years as a member. Throw in three Heisman Trophy winners, an endless list of alumni that have entered the hall of fame/are known country wide as all-timers, a legendary head coach named Bobby Bowden who just happened to win 377 games, and you have a program that the Cardinals have worked tirelessly to emulate. Louisville is still on its collision course and the variable will always be time.
Jimbo Fisher became Tallahassee's leading man in 2010. Fisher has already won the ACC three times while collecting one Heisman Trophy, one BCS Championship, and one College Football Playoff appearance. The Seminoles haven't been outside the top 10 of recruiting rankings in Jimbo's seven seasons which have led to 38 Seminole players being drafted during his tenure. With its accomplishments during Fisher's rule, as well as his 70-14 record, Florida State is arguably the one program that has or can consistently stand alongside Nick Saban's Crimson Tide dynasty.
If you want to know why only a few hours passed before the Vegas line shifted from -1 in favor of Louisville to -4.5 in favor of Florida State, the previous two paragraphs and Dalvin Cook's previous performance against the Cardinals supply your answer.
Louisville isn't a stranger to monumental games, but they are unfamiliar with the implications of Saturday. The 2006 "blackout" against West Virginia gave the Cardinals an outside chance at a title, but one three point road loss stole that dream. Louisville toppled Florida State in 2002, yet those season's goals had already evaporated before the game began. Wake Forest wasn't an opponent worth boasting too loudly about in 2006's Orange Bowl and Florida's subsequent collapse under Will Muschamp tempered Louisville's Sugar Bowl victory. The thrashing of Miami in 2006 was a blast, but the Canes lost six games that season. Even 2014's thriller against Notre Dame is marred by their loss to Northwestern the week prior. The naysayers can point out the flaws and detractions all they want, it doesn't change the fact that Louisville took care of business on some of its biggest stages.
What is different about Saturday? EVERYTHING!
Louisville is hosting College Football GameDay for the first time ever, even more surprising considering the basketball version of the show has yet to set foot inside the KFC Yum! Center (we all would've lost that bet). For three hours before kickoff, and the entire day and night following the UofL's victory, our university will be the focus and showcase of the sporting world.
A win Saturday offers the Cardinals a top four ranking heading to Marshall, the driver seat of the ACC, and a legitimate opportunity to be a top seed in the College Football Playoff. Then there are the individual accolades. If Louisville topples the Seminoles, Lamar Jackson becomes almost a lock to reach New York and will be the Heisman favorite moving forward. Coach Bobby Petrino would be ushered to the front of the coach of the year race and NFL hopefuls will get the unrelenting attention they deserve. Cardinal Football has had its fair share of legends, but never a true Heisman contender. Lamar Jackson has caught the attention of every football fan and media member throughout the United States, and fortunately for Louisville, his weekly collection of highlights provide all the marketing/campaigning needed. In an age of "going viral", Action Jackson seemingly without effort rewrites the record books while simultaneously breaking the internet.
A close loss Saturday gives Louisville a top 15 ranking, a good possibility to still win the conference, and a decent shot at being selected for the playoff. A loss has always been the nail in the coffin for Louisville Football, not anymore. The Cardinals season is not lost if the Seminoles extend their winning streak to 3 because Louisville happens to play in the best power conference of 2016 and two top 10 opponents remain on the schedule. Also, it is wise to recall that the first two playoff champions both lost in September, Ohio State to unranked Virginia Tech and Alabama to a top 25 Ole Miss.
A victory Saturday will catapult Louisville Football through gates that have remained locked for decades. The 2016 season is just three weeks old, yet the Cardinals turn for home begins Saturday at noon. There is a first time for everything and Louisville is poised to accomplish greatness, both as a team and through individual superstars. Coach Petrino proved in his first go-around that he has always been the one to take this program to the top, now Bobby is back to finish the job. With Action Jackson leading the charge, Louisville Football has arrived and it is time to be the best. So Cardinals, go beat the best!
All Hail UofL !!