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The Cardinal Countdown: 100 Days Until Kickoff

NCAA Football: Citrus Bowl-Louisiana State vs Louisville Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

We now look in on CardinalStrong sitting at his desk, shuffling through a pile of old Louisville media guides surrounded by notes, napkins, and crumbled up papers appearing disheveled and downtrodden….phone in hand…

[phone rings…and rings…and rings….]

Josh Appleby: Hello?

CardinalStrong (startled someone answered his call): oh….um….It’s time

Josh Appleby: Who is this?

CS: I said…it’s time. The chicken is in the hen house, the eggs are warm and the rooster has been crowing cockadoodly-doos so long he’s red in the face. Days crept by like months, months seemed like years, but it was all worth it because right now, today….it’s time.

JA: ….

CS: You still there, boss?

JA: …uh, yeah. Who is this again?

CS: Um, CardinalStrong…I was just giving you a heads up that ‘The Cardinal Countdown’ starts today over at Card Chronicle. Day 100 post went up this morning, baby! [places 1986 boombox up to phone blaring ‘Final Countdown’ by Europe}

JA: Ohhh, Card Chronicle. Of course. Yeah, I know you. Weren’t you on the radio?

CS: Um…No, that’s actually Mike, not me. I just do the-

JA: Oh, you do those twitter recaps, right? Those are great. Hilarious.

CS: Yeah, they are, but umm no, that’s actually HotHot. He puts those together for-

JA: I’m sorry bud, I think I remember you now. You write those posts covering the team UofL is playing each week, things to watch for. Some good info in there, man.

CS: Those are good, for sure, but that’s actually Keith Wyn-

JA: Wait. Are you the guy who puts together those UofL highlight videos after big wins? I really like those.

CS: Come on man. That guys not even affiliated with Card Chroni-…..nevermind.

JA: So what do you do, again?

CS: I do a countdown each summer…I count down the days until football season starts, recapping each player. I take the number of days left and cover the player with that corresponding jersey number. I talk about their role on the team, where they might be posit-

JA: Right, right, right…That’s cool. I think I’ve seen those before. What’d you start doing this last year or something? I mean, I’ve been off the team awhile now.

CS: …uh, this is the sixth year, actually.

JA: Six years! Holy crap, you mean you got nothing better to do for 100 days, in the middle of the summer mind you, the last SIX years than to write blog posts about playe-

CS: Great chattin’ with you Appleby. Good luck moving forward and all but I gotta be hopping off here.

JA: Haha, wow man. Get outside or something dude. Maybe hit up Blanton or Mason King, you know, guys who are still on the actual team…

CS: [mumbling] already did.

JA: …they probably know more about your little posts.

CS: Cool, cool. Will do. Talk to you later, bud. [hangs up phone]

[crosses ‘Josh Appleby’ off crumpled list]

[scans through remaining list of all past and present UofL special teams players to call about Countdown….eyes light up]

CS: Oh hell yeah, haha. Wade Tydlacka is gonna be fired up that we’re only 100 days out!

***The acts above may or may not have taken place. I’ll just warn you, don’t let those baby blues fool you into thinking Appleby’s a softy***

Today begins the three month long journey counting down the “sports-less days of summer” (except for the Cardinal Nine, of course) until football season is once again upon us. If you’re new to Card Chronicle, or to ‘The Cardinal Countdown’ specifically…well, I think I explained it pretty well above, but just in case you missed it, this is the sixth year for me counting down the days until kickoff and covering each player on UofL’s official football roster. I try to interject some statistics (because I love stats), some jokes (because I was told once in 3rd grade I was funny), and my generally optimistic opinion about how each specific player may be used in the upcoming season (because my insight is unparalleled when compared to other Card Chronicle countdown writers). Stop by each day to learn a little ‘something-something’ about each Cardinal player and while you’re here you may be slightly entertained as well (no guarantees, setting the bar low).

I’m personally very excited for the 2017 season. As I started putting this together I was reflecting back over the last few years and was trying to gauge my excitement level this year versus the previous seasons I’ve done the countdown. For me, my enthusiasm has seemed to grow each and every year, almost linearly, which is pretty crazy considering that it stretches over such a long span. As not to project my own opinion onto you, let us tap into our memory banks and reflect on the offseason’s of the past to see just how far we’ve come…

Summer 2012: Year one of the Countdown. Cards just finished a 7-6 season with 2nd year Coach Charlie Strong but things were looking up as his first “full” recruiting class was starting to make their presence known on the field. Andrew Johnson, Eli Rogers, DeVante Parker, Lozo Mauldin, Calvin Pryor, Terell Floyd, Dieontrez Mount, and a young Theodore Bridgewater were ready to make their mark in the Big East Conference. Still not over the Krag years I kept my enthusiasm at a manageable level.

Excitement Level: 83/100

Summer 2013: Holy crap. Teddy is the real deal leading the offense, and Charlie has got his defense in place. We just went to the freaking Sugar Bowl and won arguably the biggest game in Louisville football history beating #3 Florida to take home another BCS trophy. Teddy is back, the majority of the defense is back, and Cards are primed to make a run. The downside is the move to the AAC where schedule is lackluster at best and one slip up can ruin your ultimate goal of a National Championship, which knocks my excitement down a peg.

Excitement Level: 88

Summer 2014: Bobby ball is back! Oh, and we’re moving to the ACC to play football! Not to mention the Cards just finished a 12-1 season. Teddy is gone, as are some major players on defense, but team should still be good. Excited to see Will Gardner lead the team and watch them play the likes of Florida State, Clemson, and Notre Dame! Team probably won’t be as good, but schedule and Petrino’s return get me hyped.

Excitement Level: 92

Summer 2015: First year in the ACC and the Cards go 9-4?! Wow. They should be competing for league titles in next few years. Teams ALWAYS improve under Petrino in Year Two of his system. Reggie is likely the go-to at QB because he gives Petrino a dual-threat option. Kelsey and Burgess are back for the defense, we got this TCU transfer, Fields, who is supposed to be a stud. I think we battle FSU and Clemson and maybe steal one of those games this year, plus we get Auburn on National TV to open the season. Both sides of the ball look good, and rumor has it this freshman QB is okay as well. Lamar Jackson is his name, I think.

Excitement Level: 93

Summer 2016: So, turns out Lamar Jackson was pretty damn good. Team struggled some starting the season 0-3 but watching Lamar make plays was awesome. Defense seems to be getting adjusted to losing Lozo, Sample and others. Will be tough to replace Burgess and Rankins but they have other guys who can step up. Seemed like O-line had struggles at times but they were young, surely they’ll improve. This may sound crazy but a lot of people think UofL could win Atlantic Division this year and maybe squeak into the playoff. Can’t wait.

Excitement Level: 95

Summer 2017: Here we are. UofL has a freaking Heisman trophy winner at quarterback. The offense is primed to improve on a banner year as Cards have skill position players coming out of their armpits. The O-line got a new coach and some new young blood, the defense got a new coach and has some veteran players ready to step up, Cards demolished FSU, and were 2 yards away from beating Clemson in Death Valley. While they lost some focus down the stretch the 2017 schedule sets up nicely to crash the playoff. This could be an extremely special season.

Excitement Level: …let’s hold off on that for a minute

From a pure “football perspective” this season rivals last year for me in regards to my expectations, player personnel, etc….BUT…..on a personal note, this season will be special for two alternative reasons. As a lifelong Louisville fan, but Purdue graduate, I’m looking forward to seeing what Jeff Brohm can do with the Boilers this year and can’t wait to see the two offensive minds of Brohm and Petrino battle it out in Game 1 (I’ll be in Indy, you should be too). I should have some great insight this offseason about the opening game as I follow the Boilers pretty close as well (I read Purdue football articles so you don’t have to. Win-Win).

The second item of note, which takes the 2017 season to a whole new level for me, is that the whole damn CardinalStrong ‘posse’ (can I say that?) is moving back to Louisville…and we’ll get to see the Cards live for the first time in quite awhile. For those who have followed the countdown previously you know I’ve been a “remote fan” for over four years now. We were recently blessed with an opportunity to return back to our home and couldn’t pass it up. I’m looking forward to being back in the seats at PJCS and taking it all in with the rest of you goons (and I will find all 27 of you who promised to buy me a beer over the last 6 years).

While I won’t officially be back in town until July I’m sure they’ll start planning the Countdown party at Card Chronicle Headquarters (Andy’s TV) here soon. I’d expect anywhere from 7-9 people, probably still need 10-12 cookie cakes hand delivered by LD Scott of course, a keg (filled with nails preferably), various infomercial products, and a playlists that includes all the song titles I’ve snuck into the countdown the last five years. One rule. Don’t invite Appleby.

Can’t wait to do this thing again with you all. As always, love to hear your thoughts and comments. If we’re not breaking down third team long snappers in mid-July it just doesn’t feel like summer to me. I’m pumped. Ready to bring you the best damn Cardinal Countdown you’ve ever read. We’re competing for the ACC crown, we’re looking to crash the playoff, and the Heisman trophy winner is our QB…that collision course ends this year.

Excitement Level: 100

Go Cards.

100 Days Until Kickoff.