Coming off the heels of absolutely trouncing the Florida Gators in the Sugar Bowl this past January, the outlook for the 2013 Louisville Cardinals this year by many has been quite optimistic. Some have talked up the Cardinals as potential national championship contenders, and with good reason. They return their all-everything QB, and potential Heisman candidate, Teddy Bridgewater, as well as some other key pieces from last year’s squad. Setting high standards for this season is more than warranted.
Now, in regards to this potential national championship, there has been one consistent rebuttal to these aspirations, and that’s their schedule and the conference they are currently affiliated with.
While it will be their last season in what will now be known as the AAC (formerly the Big East) before taking off to greener ACC pastures, this affiliation has many questioning whether or not their schedule will be rugged enough to justify a national title shot. The AAC isn’t exactly held in high regard by many as it pertains to the sport of football. To even hope for a chance, Louisville will more than certainly have to run the table.
Last night, I decided to take a peek at the upcoming 2013 slate for the Cardinals. And yes, I did see a game in there that could derail the hopes of head coach Charlie Strong and his bunch. Ironically, this game takes place in the first week of the season. Even more ironically, however, is that this potential dream-crushing opponent isn’t even a member of the AAC at all.
Louisville opens up the season in Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium against the Ohio Bobcats from the MAC. With people constantly pointing their defiant fingers at the AAC schedule for the Cardinals, this may be their toughest test all season.
Head coach Frank Solich and his Bobcats return seven starters on offense this season, as well as six on defense, from a team that finished last season 8-4, including a 45-14 drubbing of ULM in the Independence Bowl.
With star players on offense returning, which include experienced QB Tyler Tettleton and explosive RB Beau Blankenship, no one should be shocked on August 31 if the Bobcats are standing on the field going toe-to-toe with the heavily-hyped Louisville team.
In addition, if anyone has any concerns about Ohio being a little skittish headed on the road for this contest, you should be reminded that this group shouldn’t be phased one bit by the Louisville crowd
Beginning last season, Solich led his squad into an incredibly emotional Beaver Stadium against a Penn State Nittany Lions team that would end up finishing their season at 8-4. Well, in front of over 90,000 people witnessing the first PSU game since their sanctions were handed down, Ohio walked out 24-14 victors.
With all due respect to the Louisville fans that will be in attendance for this game, that atmosphere will be nowhere near what the Bobcats dealt with in Happy Valley to start last season.
There are other factors as well, such as the MAC’s history of dealing losses to bigger name opponents just to remind people that they are not to be taken lightly. There’s also the experience factor coaching wise. Charlie Strong seems well on his way to becoming one of the premier coaches in college football. However, for now, I would most definitely give Frank Solich the edge in that department.
Do the Louisville Cardinals deserve the hype that has been bestowed upon them? Absolutely, they do. But, to make that hype a reality, they need to be focused and ready for every single game they have on their schedule this season–especially in Week 1.