Behind the coaching of Charlie Strong and the elite quarterbacking of Teddy Bridgewater, Louisville has emerged from the shadows of a feeble American Athletic Conference and propelled itself into the national spotlight.
A Heisman Trophy candidate quarterback, a defense that ranks fourth in FBS in points allowed (9.0), a steady rushing attack and a favorable schedule has folks in Louisville booking their hotels for a January trip to Pasadena and the BCS Championship Game.
But do the Cardinals really have what it takes to finish the season without a single blemish on their record? Are Bridgewater’s video game numbers really enough to hang with the big boys of college football? Is Louisville really a team that can hang with the mighty SEC? Will the weak schedule allow this team to compete in a title game?
While most of us would like to believe there is a team with the magic potion that will bring an end to the SEC’s reign of terror and one of the most dominant eras in all of sports, Louisville isn’t the team with the right recipe.
Louisville most certainly has the offensive firepower and defensive discipline to finish the season without a single loss in the record books. In fact, it would be a major shock if Strong couldn’t lead this team to an undefeated season.
When you’re a team with as many weapons as Louisville has offensively, a strength of schedule that ranks 111th isn’t too daunting. Although it’s the schedule that favors Louisville and is probably the sole reason it will remain unbeaten all year, it will also be the team’s demise come the bowl selection process.
Controversy surrounding the national championship game has become a recurring theme in college football. We will certainly hear this question at least once before the season is over: “does a one-loss SEC team get a nod over an undefeated Louisville team?”
I can assure you the answer to that question will be “yes.”
Coming into the season, it looked as if the only real challenge for the Cardinals would come on December 5, in their final game of the season, on the road against Cincinnati. Being a major rivalry game, it will still hold major significance at the end of the year, but the season-ending knee injury to Bearcats’ starting quarterback Munchie Legaux makes that game far less of a threat.
Instead, Louisville’s most important game has shifted from Cincinnati to Central Florida, a match up we will see in mid-October.
Also sitting at 3-0 and with a big win over Penn State in Happy Valley in Week 3, UCF is most-likely the biggest threat to Louisville’s American Athletic Conference championship and opportunity at a perfect season.
No matter how talented your squad may be, claiming UCF as your stiffest competition isn’t an appealing argument to a bowl selection committee.
It’s probably best that the Cardinals be left out of the mix when talking about the national championship game, as we regularly see teams of Louisville’s caliber get embarrassed on the game’s biggest stage.
Just remember back to Florida’s 41-14 dismantling of Ohio State in 2007 and Alabama’s 42-14 romp over Notre Dame in January.
Nothing should be taken away from Louisville, its coach or its players. The Cardinals have a very good football team with a legitimate chance to win its second-straight BCS bowl game this season. It’s just hard to imagine a team that struggled with Kentucky in a 27-13 game could truly contend with the top programs in football’s toughest conference.