After surviving a strong push by South Florida late to get to 7-0, the Louisville Cardinals football team eclipsed their 2011 win total with an overtime victory against rival Cincinnati to reach 8-0.
Louisville’s win over Cincinnati was the first in the series since 2007; the Bearcats had claimed the Keg of Nails trophy that least four consecutive seasons. The game had a thrilling ending, featuring Louisville coming back to tie the game (they trailed most of the way), then Louisville taking the lead late, only for Cincinnati to tie it back up 53 seconds later. The game would go into overtime, the first time ever in the series (this was the 52nd meeting).
Louisville won the toss, elected to play defense, intercepted Cincinnati quarterback Munchie Legaux in the end zone, then freshman kicker John Wallace connected on a 30-yard field goal to keep the Cardinals unbeaten on the season.
Neither of the quarterbacks could get in rhythm early, but both found their way before regulation ended. Cincinnati’s Legaux went 13-of-28 for 157 yards, the tying touchdown pass shortly before the end of regulation, but three picks. He also ran for 32 yards and a touchdown. Louisville sophomore Teddy Bridgewater went 24-of-41 for a new career high 416 yards and a pair of touchdowns, both to DeVante Paker, along with one INT.
The Louisville running game never got into a great rhythm against the Bearcats, who outrushed the Cardinals 198 to 108. Junior Jeremy Wright led the way with 74 yards, with he and fellow junior Senorise Perry both scoring touchdowns.
Next up on the Cards’ schedule is a home date with Temple this coming Saturday, November 3rd.
With Louisville’s overtime thriller coming on Friday night, it meant a chance for Cardinal fans to sit back and take in all the action around the country on Saturday – and boy, were there some shake ups in the polls.
Louisville came into the week ranked #16 in the BCS, also known as the only poll that matters come time for the National Championship discussion (I’m being a little facetious, obviously your AP or Harris Poll ranking affects your BCS one, but the BCS one matters most). We actually sat one spot behind conference for Rutgers, but needless to say, a long way from the top.
The football gods smiled upon us.
Behind LSU at #6, who was on bye this week, it was quite a tumultuous go for every ranked team between #7 to #15 ahead of us but two*:
7. Oregon State – lost at Washington
8. Oklahoma – lost big versus Notre Dame
9. USC – lost at Arizona
11. Mississippi State – manhandled at Alabama
13. South Carolina – survived versus Tennessee, but lost RB Marcus Lattimore
14. Texas Tech – lost big at Kansas State
15. Rutgers – lost versus Kent State
*The only two teams not on the list are #10 Georgia, who knocked off previously unbeaten #2 Florida, and #12 Florida State, who won a laugher against Duke.
So the consensus? For Louisville, beating a solid Cincinnati team, there seemed to be nowhere to go but up – and up we went. The Cardinals cracked the BCS Top Ten for the first time since finishing 6th in the 2006 Orange Bowl winning season (there is no post-bowl BCS ranking).
This is great news for Louisville, right? Technically yes; but I’m not sure if things can get much better.
There were three big losers who just so happen to be undefeated in the BCS polls the past couple weeks: Louisville, Notre Dame, and Oregon. At the end of the day, being undefeated is definitely every team’s best shot at the top of the polls, but nothing matters in the current BCS hyped system like strength of schedule. The utter dominance of the SEC the last decade makes this point even stronger.
For Notre Dame, they have one formidable foe left on their schedule: USC. USC’s loss to Arizona this weekend, their second on the year, suddenly makes that game lose enough luster as to become detrimental to Notre Dame’s championship aspirations. This is compounded even more by the fact that Oregon, who has been leap frogged every week for a month in the polls now, plays USC this coming weekend. They are Oregon’s last “big” test this year, too. And if Oregon wins, it makes a Notre Dame win over USC that much more inconsequential. Oregon’s only other big game is the Civil War against Oregon State, another game marred because of the Beavers losing on the road to Washington this week.
So here’s the reality check: if a 4-loss USC team can damage the national championship hopes of Notre Dame or Oregon that much, USC still being a premiere program on the national landscape, then the last two weeks of Big East play hurt Louisville’s chances ten-fold.
Two weeks ago, there were three undefeated schools in the Big East – Cincinnati, Louisville, and Rutgers. And South Florida was still regarded as dangerous despite having some inexplicable losses early in the year. Fast forward to today: Cincinnati is now a two loss team, having lost back to back weeks to Toledo in the MAC and Louisville; South Florida lost consecutive conference games to Louisville and lowly Syracuse; and Rutgers fell at home to the MAC’s Kent State.
Two weeks ago, Louisville had just three semi-marquee games left on their slate: South Florida, Cincinnati and Rutgers. All three of those teams have faltered.
So at the end of the day, that’s why a South Carolina team with two losses – including an 11-44 drubbing at the hands of Florida, and losing their star running back – still sit two spots ahead of Louisville.
I think we all knew coming into the season that the Big East champion was playing merely for BCS jockeying position and a BCS bowl, never a national championship – but we all had hopes in the back of our minds, in our hearts. The lackluster performances of the other “upper-echelon” teams in the Big East this season only drags down the potential for the league’s champion on the national stage.
So Louisville currently sits at #10. We know #1 Alabama and #5 LSU get together this weekend, but unless LSU just gets dismantled, it’s unlikely the loser of that game falls below us. #4 Oregon beating #17 USC can keep USC from leapfrogging us, but USC winning likely shoves both of those schools above us. An #24 Oklahoma State win over #2 Kansas State likely doesn’t drop the Wildcats below us. So the only things we can really shoot for this weekend in the hopes of moving up in the BCS rankings next week is if a couple of top ten teams falter – i.e. the unlikely event that #6 Georgia should be upset by Ole Miss or #7 Florida by Missouri. #8 South Carolina and #9 Florida State both have byes this weekend.
But first thing is first – Louisville can’t get caught sleepwalking against Temple on Saturday. After two very hard fought, emotional wins the last two weeks, Louisville could really use a strong showing to get themselves prepared for the home stretch. But Temple isn’t going to go down without another serious fight – Steve Addazio will expect nothing less than 60 minutes out of his guys.
The number 10 is nice in terms of poll position, but right now, the number 9 is sweeter.
As in 9-0.
It’s the ultimate collection of sports clichés at this point, but we can only take it a game at a time, and what we can’t control is simply out of our hands. Take care of business.