The college football team over at SB Nation released a cool feature yesterday about the 25 most beloved college football games since 2000. Not the overall best or most important games, but the games that brought college football fans the most joy. Boise State’s unreal Fiesta Bowl victory over Oklahoma topped the list.
Leeching off of that idea, I asked Louisville fans to weigh in on Twitter last night with their five most beloved Cardinal football victories since 2000. Again, we’re not talking about the best games based on significance to the program or quality of play, just the games that brought you the most joy as a U of L fan.
Here are the top 10 based on all the ballots cast:
10. Teddy Bridgewater beats Rutgers with one leg and one arm in 2012
Whenever we, as fans, talk about “what ifs” in sports, the situation is almost always something that went wrong and changed things for our team or our program in a negative way. This is one of the great reverse “what ifs” for Louisville football.
If Teddy Bridgewater doesn’t enter the game against Rutgers and give one of the most incredible and heroic performances in recent college football history, then Louisville ends the 2012 regular season with three consecutive losses. The Cardinals don’t win the Big East, they don’t beat Florida in the Sugar Bowl, and Charlie Strong doesn’t become arguably the hottest coaching name in the sport. In fact, he’s likely dealing with a relatively high level of fan dissatisfaction heading into his fourth season.
This game narrowly edged Louisville’s road upset of West Virginia from the year before to claim the No. 10 spot.
9. Louisville goes to South Bend and knocks off Notre Dame in 2014
Notre Dame’s dream season had already been ruined in the preceding weeks, but this was still a monster deal for Louisville fans who had grown up dreaming of seeing the Cards going up against the Irish inside Notre Dame Stadium. When it finally happened, U of L walked out of the hallowed stadium with a victory.
8. Teddy takes down Cincinnati in 2013
The 2013 season is probably always going to be the strangest year of Cardinal football to me. The team had as much talent as any in the history of the program, but because of an unfortunate schedule and one disastrous half against Central Florida, a 12-1 campaign rarely felt fun.
The one exception was a rainy night at Nippert Stadium where Teddy Bridgewater made a handful of unbelievable plays to ensure that the Keg of Nails would be coming back to Louisville for good.
7. The 2004 Liberty Bowl
Still perhaps the greatest team in Louisville football history capping its year with a bowl win over an undefeated Boise State squad.
You wonder how differently this victory would be viewed if Boise had pulled off its string of marquee victories before 2014 ... or if Louisville had been playing in a major conference at the time.
6. The 2007 Orange Bowl
This seems to be the game the most people were split on. People either had it at No. 1 or No. 2, or they didn’t have it on the list at all.
I think if this were a ranking of the “most important” games in Louisville football history, you’d probably have to slot it in the top five. The fact that it was against Wake Forest and that the game itself wasn’t particularly thrilling is why so many people chose to leave it off their lists.
5. The 2002 Upset of Florida State
Still probably the Louisville game that has produced more “I was there” stories than any other. The only thing that slightly tainted it was the fact that the Cardinals had started the season with so much hype but had already lost to Kentucky and Colorado State by the time the ‘Noles came to town.
4. The 2006 Stomping of Miami
This Miami team ended up being pretty average, but this game still resonates so strongly with Louisville fans for a number of reasons.
First, The U was only beginning to gain distance from the status of being college football’s dominant program that it had owned at the beginning of the decade. Second, there was the feeling that the Cardinals should have won at the Orange Bowl two years prior. Third, there had been monumental buildup for the game all summer long. And finally, there was the week of smack talk leading up to the game, and then the pregame confrontation at midfield.
Few beatdowns have ever felt better.
3. 2016 Blowout of Florida State
As close to a perfect day as I think Louisville football has ever had. College GameDay made its PJCS debut, there was a tremendous tribute to Muhammad Ali, and then the Cards scored more points against Florida State than any other team in history.
2. 2006 Blackout Game vs. West Virginia
To me, this will always represent the first time that it felt like Louisville football had arrived nationally and was in a position to stay there for a long time.
As someone who grew up in the ‘90s when the team was something of an afterthought, seeing the entire community go nuts over football and hearing the Cards as lead story on national radio and TV shows was a surreal experience. The game itself wasn’t bad either.
1. 2013 Sugar Bowl vs. Florida
Unsurprisingly, this is your runaway winner.
Also Receiving Votes:
2011 vs. West Virginia
2011 vs. Kentucky
2000 vs. Kentucky
2012 vs. Cincinnati
2004 vs. Cincinnati
2014 vs. Miami
2004 vs. Memphis
2004 vs. Kentucky
2006 vs. Kentucky
2000 vs. Southern Miss
2005 vs. West Virginia (Keith Wynne is a sadist)
2016 vs. Clemson (Someone else is too)
2015 vs. Kentucky
2013 Russell Athletic Bowl vs. Miami