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NCAA Football American Athletic ConferenceLouisville Cardinals

Louisville Cardinals are Class of the Commonwealth

Chuck Cook, USA TODAY SPORTS

There is little doubt, at this moment, as to which Division I FBS program is the best in the state of Kentucky.

Charlie Strong and the Louisville Cardinals are coming off of an 11-2 season, which culminated with a victory over a Southeastern Conference powerhouse program, the Florida Gators, in the Allstate Sugar Bowl.

Louisville has beaten the Kentucky Wildcats in back-to-back seasons after losing four straight to their intrastate rival. Last season’s game was dominated by the Cardinals, who smacked the Wildcats 32-14 at Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium in the Derby City.

The momentum continued on National Signing Day, when Louisville plucked Kentucky’s Mr. Football, James Quick, from Louisville Trinity High School. Quick, a 6-1 wide receiver, was a five-star recruit, and is believed to be the highest-rated signee in the history of the Louisville program.

Quick will immediately become a primary target for returning quarterback Teddy Bridgewater. Quick caught 85 passes for 1,413 yards and 16 touchdowns in 12 games as a senior. One of the schools that Quick didn’t select was Kentucky.

Perhaps more telling was the fact that Louisville went into Lexington and was able to get Lexington Catholic quarterback Kyle Bolin to sign with the Cardinals. Bolin, who played his high school ball not far from Commonwealth Stadium in Lexington, stayed committed to Louisville, despite a last-minute push by new Kentucky coach Mark Stoops and new UK offensive coordinator Neal Brown.

Bolin will likely sit out in 2013, as he continues to rehab a torn ACL that he suffered during his senior year. Before the injury, Bolin passed for 7,038 yards and 63 touchdowns in his career at Lexington Catholic.

Strong’s ability to get the best players in the Commonwealth is no doubt tied to his program’s recent success, as well as the struggles of Kentucky. If Strong can continue to get the best players in Kentucky, and add to those with his recruiting ties in the state of Florida, the Cardinals should continue their run as King of the Bluegrass.