Notre Dame week is here.
A game against America’s most revered college football program, one that University of Louisville fans could only wish for until joining the Atlantic Coast Conference this year. Being the new member of the conference may have even been a factor, making scheduling the game easier for Notre Dame.
Simply playing on the same field as Notre Dame elevates the stature and credibility of the UofL program in the eyes of football analysts and fanatics. The game forces even the most hardened skeptics to respect Louisville football, acknowledging that the Cardinals have a legitimate chance of winning at South Bend.
Credibility in college football, where tradition and myths routinely shape perception, reality doesn’t come easily. As UofL fans have learned, the more traditional programs have huge advantages when it comes to weekly rankings, bowl selections and now national championship playoffs considerations. Win or lose, Notre Dame will always be considered the superior program because of the ingrained beliefs of the opinion leaders, the people — the writers, the columnists, the broadcast networks, the coaches and college presidents — who shape the national perceptions of college football elite.
A win for UofL at South Bend would be a shocker for millions of Irish fans across the country, possibly setting off still another ND coaching search after three consecutive losses. Sportscaster Howard Cosell once proclaimed that football is a religion for Notre Dame fans, only partially in reference to the 14-story mosaic of Jesus on the school library adjacent to the stadium.
For Louisville fans, however, it would be still another affirmation that Louisville can be among the nation’s elite football programs, reaffirming Howard Schnellenberger’s vow that “Louisville is on a collision course with the national championship” is another step closer to reality.
Afterall, Notre Dame is:
— The most successful program in college football history. In 100 seasons, the Irish have 670 victories, second only to Michigan (692), which has played nine more seasons.
— The winner of seven Associated Press national championships, two more than second-place Oklahoma and Alabama.
— The home of seven Heisman Trophy winners , more than any other school.
— A program that has had 10 undefeated and 25 one-loss seasons.
— The program has ranked in The AP Top Twenty 484 times since the poll’s inception in 1936, or 74.3 percent of AP polls, the most of any school. They have been ranked No. 1 seventy-five times, four more than runner-up Oklahoma.
Those are some almost awe-inspiring credentials, worthy of a program synonymous with college football in America. But this unique encounter finally provides UofL with a chance to add a rich bit of history to its own growing tradition after years of denied opportunities.
The stars have aligned, the opponents and the game have converged, and the impossible has become plausible.