By: Scott King
Today in a few short hours, the Cardinals are set to take on Virginia. This season, the new hotness has been Louisville playing noon games on ABC. This one, at least according to Vegas, should be like the last two games, a major blowout. Louisville is ranked in the top 5 nationally. Our quarterback, Lamar Jackson, is not just a Heisman contender, he’s the overwhelming favorite as the calendar is turning over to November. Everything is pretty amazing.
Recent UofL history has been pretty tremendous. There’s been one large caveat, however, in that Louisville hasn’t been able to consistently hold the national attention. In the late John L. Smith days, the initial Bobby Petrino run, to Charlie Strong’s tenure, any loss would disqualify the Cards from the national attention they deserved. The Miami loss back in ’04. The Rutgers loss in ’06. Louisville still ended up in huge bowl games, okay the Wake Forest Orange Bowl doesn’t hold up as a huge bowl game, but the overall point stands. Louisville was a great team in those two seasons, but not considered a national threat.
The greatest example of a loss ruining the season was Teddy’s last season in 2013. Louisville was coming off a huge Sugar Bowl win over Florida to close 2012. Rolling into October 18, 2013, the Cards were ranked 8th. A loss to Central Florida took the Cards pretty much completely out of the national conversation. That loss took Teddy Bridgewater out of pretty much any Heisman consideration. One of the most talented and most talked about Louisville teams ever was thrown to the side. For a year that ended at 12-1, 2013 was almost a joyless season. That season was tainted by the national media, and to their credit Central Florida, shutting the Cardinals out of an exclamation mark for some of the greatest careers at UofL.
This season has been much different than 2013. The Cards have lost a thrilling game, just like 2013. The major difference is that this team just won’t be denied. The media can’t dismiss the Cardinals outright just because of a loss. Louisville proved that they were just as a good as Clemson. Lamar Jackson has proved that he is among, if not the, elite in the nation. The Clemson loss could have derailed the season. The Duke game caused some doubt because Louisville looked rather pedestrian. Beating the brakes off NC State a week ago took the narrative back. Winning a game that decisively, with Jackson playing such a huge role, kept the Cards and Jackson right where they have deserved to be, near the top of the polls.
College football comes with wins and losses. One thing that can not be taken from us is our joy and passion for the Louisville Cardinals. Fairly or unfairly, we have had great seasons tainted. This season, this season is different. This is one that will not be taken from us. This is a season that can not be taken because we won’t let it. The players won’t let the spotlight get away. The coaches know what to do to keep the Cards in the discussion. Staying in the discussion is the most important part of the playoff system. Once you are out, it’s impossible to get back in the discussion late in the season. This Cardinal team has staying power.
I don’t know if the Cardinals will find a way to make the playoff. What I do know is that Louisville is going to be playing a damn important game around the turn of the New Year. That’s almost all we can expect as fans. The Cards are giving us everything that we could possibly want, victories, entertainment, standout performances, history. With 5 games remaining in the regular season, it’s up to us to savor the joy that’s coming next. This is our team, this is our season and nothing can change that.