Nowhere to go but up for Louisville football

Okay, let’s get this out of the way now. Louisville got beat by a superior team Saturday night in the Camping World Kickoff.

“They’re very good,”said Louisville coach Bobby Petrino following the game. “There’s no question about that. Offense. Defense. Special teams. They out-coached us. So basically they beat us in all phases. It was a tough game. No doubt they were the better football team.”

Alabama’s offense scored, almost at will, the defense scored, as did the special teams. That about covers it all. There are reasons the Crimson Tide have won five of the last nine national championships. They have the best players, the best coach and the top program in the country. I don’t see the Crimson Tide losing many, if any, games this season.

As Petrino said after the game the Cardinals have to take this loss as a learning experience. The Cardinals have very winnable games the next two weeks in Indiana State and Western Kentucky.

“The biggest thing we have to do is learn from this,” said Petrino. “Learn from it come back next week and do better in practice. Understand where we didn’t execute. Our defense was on the field too long. It was a real difficult game for us.”

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Playing Alabama in opener bad move for Louisville

About the best thing one can say about a lopsided loss to Alabama in the opening game is that the college football season is back. Unfortunately too soon for the University of Louisville football team. Nowhere near ready to be taking on a defending national champion.

Former UofL Athletic Director Tom Jurich thought a few years ago that scheduling Alabama was a good idea. Back when Louisville was being discussed as a serious playoff contender, back before that embarrassing loss to Houston on a dark Thursday night. Seems like a long time, at  least three defensive coordinators ago. 

This matchup was not a good idea, definitely not as a season opener, not cool, not fun. Alabama making up in spades for that ancient 34-7 loss to Louisville in the 1991 Fiesta Bowl. 

Probably not a good idea either for UofL Coach Bobby Petrino and company to be providing Alabama Coach Nick Saban with bulletin board material. May have been better off with the typical coach-speak, with Petrino admitting the notion of beating Alabama was a pipe dream, just wishful thinking.  The last thing Alabama needed was added motivation.

Louisville was never going to be competitive this early against Alabama. Not with a redshirt sophomore used only sparingly in six games Not with a defense returning only six starters. Not with a group of untested running backs, no hint of a running game. Expecting anything less than a complete ass whipping was totally unrealistic.

One has to be careful what one wishes for when wanting to beef up the schedule. That dream came true when Louisville entered the Atlantic Coast Conference. UofL’s schedule was already intimidating with Clemson and Florida State in the same division.

The Cardinals  did not belong on the same field Saturday night with the Crimson Tide. Too young, too inexperienced, too soon to expect anything different than what unfolded, another embarrassment on national television for the Louisville football program.

Having said all of the above, the lackluster performance against Alabama provides no clue about how the rest of the season will go for Louisville football. The Cardinals may very well go ahead and be highly competitive in the Coastal Division. Yes, even though they have to play Clemson at Clemson.

UofL was never going to be competitive with Alabama in the first game this season. If any good comes out of this game for the Cardinals, it may be that the experience is behind them. Things can only get better, and they will get much better for Louisville. 

Ho hum, familiar cast of characters for college football playoffs

Its the time of year when I unveil my college football final four and teams to watch. I’ll blindly predict who will be in the college football playoff. When I say blindly. I mean blindly.

I haven’t seen any of these teams play a game. I couldn’t if I wanted to because practices are closed to most everyone. Even if I could I couldn’t gather much from practice because after all it is just. Practice.

Let’s get this out of the way right away. Alabama is No. 1 in just about every preseason poll. They should be. It doesn’t take a genius to figure that out. The Crimson Tide have one of the best coaches of all time in Nick Saban and have had 10 top 10 finishes and won five of the last nine national championships.

According to the Alabama media guide, the Crimson Tide return 12 starters, seven on defense, three on offense and two specialist. That doesn’t sound like a lot, but believe me Bama has players, as will quickly become obvious against the University of Louisville on Saturday.

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Historic Camping World Stadium grand setting for Louisville football

Photo from / Camping World Stadium

The only safe assumption about the next game is that a big payday is coming for the University of Louisville football program in this season’s opener against Alabama in the Camping World Kickoff game. A sum of $2.75 million to UofL for agreeing to play in the game.

Not bad but Alabama, last season’s national champion, will take home more than $4.5 million. A far cry from the pre-Atlantic Coast Conference days for the Cardinals when Georgia once paid to get out of a game.

Camping World Stadium, with a seating capacity of approximately 68,000, has been growing ever since it was constructed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1936. It was a Works Progress Administration project intended to help end the Great Depression.

The original capacity was 10,000, expanded to 12,000 in 1952, and increased again to 17,000 in 1968. A major expansion occurred in 1976, raising capacity to 50,000 for the Tangerine Bowl. It expanded again, by approximately 18,000 seats in 1980, becoming the Citrus Bowl.

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The largest turnout ever at the Orlando stadium was 74,635 for a Wrestlemania event in 2008. Seriously? Apparently there’s a whole other fan universe out there.

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Card Game is teaming with @Ticket_IQ this season to bring you the best deals on UofL tickets. Support Card Game and find the #LowPriceGuarantee on Louisville football and basketball games. Check out the deals for this weekend.

Petrino not backing off prediction about beating Alabama

Cindy Rice Shelton photo

The question was predictable so Coach Bobby Petrino was not insulted when a sportswriter asked on cue if Petrino still believed the University of Louisville football team could compete with Alabama.

“How do you know if you’ve succeeded (in convincing players they can beat Alabama)? Do you not know until game day?”

Most memorable was that 63-20 romp over 10th-ranked Florida State during the 2016 season. No one, not even Petrino, saw that one coming.

Questions for a man who has made motivating college football players his livelihood, entering his 31st year of collegiate coach, his 14th year as a head coach and his 10th year in Louisville (including a year as offensive coordinator). He owns a career record of 117-48 (.709) in 13 seasons.

No correct answer really but Petrino is courteous and respectful, knowing his team will be paying attention to the response, noting that the key is going into the game with confidence.

“One of the things that helps your confidence is that you really understand what you’re doing,” he said. “You study and know the game plan, and then you’re ready to go execute it.

“It’s not like it’s a new thing. It’s the same thing you try to do for every game. Part of your job as a coach is to get your players to believe you can go out there and win the game, to get your players to believe during the game that you’re going to win the game. That’s a big part of coaching.”

But how do you know you’re ready, comes the followup question from the same reporter.

A big grin from Petrino, the kind of confirmation that comes from a coach who recognizes the opportunity that comes from playing the No. 1 team in the country.

“Well, you go and play the game,” he said. “Here we go, time to do it!”

Easy to say, harder to do. Petrino is 5-14 against ranked teams at Louisville, the most recent losses coming to third-ranked Clemson and 24th-ranked North Carolina State last season.

The most impressive performance was that 63-20 romp over 10th-ranked Florida State during the 2016 season. No one, not even Petrino, saw that one coming.