Louisville was upset by Central Florida, but the future still looks positive for the Cardinals. Photo: USA Today Sports.
About midway through the third quarter it sure looked like Louisville was going to cruise to another win en route to an undefeated season to make a case to be included in the BCS Championship picture at the end of the year. Then, out of nowhere, Central Florida ended the game on a 31-7 run to upset the Cardinals in Papa John's Stadium. With any vision of a championship run now fading out of focus, the question now for Louisville becomes "What now?"
Sure, the BCS championship scenario is gone but the Cardinals can still win a berth in a BCS bowl game for the second straight season. That path has become more difficult though. Winning the conference now requires Central Florida to lose twice before the end of the season and for Louisville to win the remainder of their games. Given the schedule in front of the Knights, that appears unlikely. Central Florida's remaining opponents are a combined 12-21, but that includes undefeated Houston and 4-2 Rutgers. Of course, UCF gets those two teams at home. The odds Louisville can bounce back to qualify for an at-large berth may be slim given the national perception of The American and the fact Louisville is not likely to playa top 25 team at any point.
But the future of the Louisville program remains bright if you look beyond this season.
Louisville will be moving in to the ACC next year, filling the upcoming vacancy left by Big Ten-bound Maryland. Though some will point to the academic level of the university as far below typical ACC standards, the athletics department is moving in to a much better position than it currently sits and the transition should be a bit smoother than what we are already seeing with this year's ACC rookies at Pittsburgh and Syracuse (basketball could be a different story than football). Of course, Louisville will be entering the ACC on a better level of football than the Panthers and Orange, especially if they somehow get another year out of Teddy Bridgewater.
I'm not sure Bridgewater returns to Louisville next season, but I am confident Charlie Strong will still be in charge of the Cardinals on the sideline. Strong has already had his chances to explore other options but his decision to stick at Louisville is both commendable and encouraging for the future of the program.
Friday night's loss is deflating for a Louisville program that is heading in the right direction, but the future progress of the university and football program should continue to flourish in the coming years.
I get it though. This was the year for Louisville to cash in on their final year in The American. Things will get tougher for Louivsille once they move to the ACC, but with the support and leadersip in place they should be able to handle it.