The time is upon us. With less than a week before the season kicks off and the battle for the Commonwealth determined, both camps will now entrench themselves, lob some verbal grenades, and hone the pre-game spin. I wish I could partake, but it’s not in my fan DNA. This is always a week that wracks me with fan anxiety (fanxiety?). I hate the Wildcats with every fiber of my Louisville-bred being and desire nothing less than their utter humiliation. I know how much talent is on this UofL roster and what its potential is. But I’m also familiar with the maxim of Lao Tzu’s “The Art of War” that one should never underestimate an enemy.
I’ll have two apparitions sitting on my shoulders this week. On my right, the visage of Bobby Petrino with his smug smirk and shark-dead eyes, arrogantly whispering to me how the Cards are going to wipe the field with our nemesis; the only worry is whether Louisville runs up the score or not. On my left sits a ghostly Kragthorpe, who meekly reminds me that nothing is certain, that football fortunes are ever fickle, and that you must brace yourself for a trap door even as you prepare to step upon the platform of triumph.
The back-and-forth between hubris and humility that happens on a minute to minute basis is enough to give a person whiplash. A sampling of the demented dichotomy going on in my noggin’ is found in the dialogue below…
PETRINO POMPOUSNESS: Teddy Bridgewater. Ever heard of him? You think the “old soul” is going to sit this one out? No chance. Teddy hulked out over the offseason; he may as well change his name to Beefwater. He’s been reading and memorizing the playbook until till his eyes bleed. He looked as sharp as a Bowie knife during Spring Game action and has natural Xanax coursing through his veins. Recall this is a kid who as a true freshman had no compunction telling veteran Greg Scruggs, now with the Seahawks, to calm down and keep composure before the Governor’s Cup. Football is a complex game, but when it’s all said and done, it really comes down to the signal caller. In that regard, Teddy Bridgewater is two heads taller than whomever the Cats decide to trot out on a given series. Don’t worry.
KRAGTHORPE KAUTION: Remember though, UK’s season is on the line. Bridgewater may have packed on the muscle during the offseason, but that might not be enough to move the enormous chip that rests on this UK team’s shoulders. The game means the world to both, but if one team is more likely to enter the field of battle with a do-or-die attitude, it’s gotta be the Cats. Their coach is embattled. Their fans have either abandoned ship or have one foot dangling off the boat. They’ve been mocked and dismissed by local and national media and the Vegas sharps don’t seem to think they belong on the same field as the Cards. Meanwhile, Charlie Strong’s team has been a media darling, at least as far as Big East teams can be. Conference titles, a dark horse Heisman campaign, and the faint smell of oranges all surround this team. And the scary thing for Cardinal fans, at least from an urgency standpoint, is that all those goals are attainable regardless of what happens on September 2nd. Should the Cats lose, they’re staring at an Everest-like path to bowl eligibility, an ugly coaching change, empty seats in the stands and a toxic environment around the program. UK’s season is on the line on Sunday. UofL’s isn’t. Simple as that.
PETRINO POMPOUSNESS: I’ll tell you what, if you’re that worried, go back and watch the video of last year’s game. Did you? (author’s note, I did) UK fans will pump themselves up by recalling the margin was only a touchdown and the outcome was very much in doubt until late in the 4th quarter when a strip/fumble ended a would-be tying drive. That’s all true, but it’s also deceiving. UofL dominated that game. It should not have been close. All the punishment was being delved by the Cards, all the energy swirling on the red sideline. Sure they stumbled and fumbled their way “learning how to win”, but those were two ships passing in the night. In particular, UofL’s defensive line and blitzing linebackers were unblockable; they dictated the entire contest. It was clear after the first UK series that Vance Bedford had no fear of UK’s passing “attack” and was sending blitzers like kamikaze pilots. UK had no answer then, and they won’t have one Sunday. The Cards aggressive defense will smother whatever feeble hopes the Cats have of fielding a competent offense capable of moving the ball consistently. Don’t worry.
KRAGTHORPE KAUTION: So you’re predicting a dominating performance, huh? When’s the last time in you saw a dominating performance in the Papa? (Crickets). That’s what I thought, you were probably coaching then, Bobby. Home field has been a disadvantage for the Cards the past two seasons, and if you’re looking for a “breakthrough” performance, it’s unlikely to come in a rivalry game. It’s the first game, a rivalry game. I expect it to be ugly, and I expect it to be close. Don’t forget UofL is still a very young team. If the score is close in the 4th quarter and the pucker factor rears its head, well then you never know…
PETRINO POMPOUSNESS: Oh I’m sorry, I didn’t realize we were talking about curses and karma and emotions, I thought we were talking about football. And ya know, I always thought the team with the better players won. I’ll be extremely generous and call the offensive and defensive lines between the two teams a wash. Let’s take a look at the skill players, the game-changers, the ones to make the plays necessary to win a game. I can name seven for the Cards off the top of my head, not to mention a guy like Adrian Bushell who can swing the game on special teams. I can only name two guys in blue that scare Vance Bedford before I have to start scanning their roster. The team with the better players wins. The Cards have better players. Don’t overthink it.
KRAGTHORPE KAUTION: Sure, Louisville has more studs on offense. But there’s only one football. How many running backs do the Cards have again, nine? They say that if a team has two quarterbacks, it really has none. UofL is flirting with that concept with its backlog in the backfield. And amongst the receivers, I think the Cards will miss Michaelee Harris more than most realize. I see a lot of potential, but little proven production. Remember this was an offense that was painful to watch for lonnnnng stretches of a time last season.
PETRINO POMPOUSNESS: Well you certainly know about painful offensees, Krags. If you doubt the Cards’ offense, then what about UK’s? How in the world to you expect them to move the ball downfield…
KRAGTHORPE KAUTION: Trick plays.
PETRINO POMPOUSNESS: Trick plays?
KRAGTHORPE KAUTION: Sure, trick plays. All Joker’s been hearing about for six months is playing a more exciting brand of football. It’s gonna show up on Sunday. He’ll empty the playbook, throw the ball around, and if the UofL secondary can’t keep their hands to themselves, they’ll move the ball and put points on the board.
PETRINO POMPOUSNESS: Well, you can pin your fears on trick plays and homefield curses. I’ll pin mine on the team with a star quarterback, a better coach, better athletes, more returning starters, playing in its own house. How the hell did you ever land that job anyways? I handed you the keys to a Ferrari and you drove it into a ditch.
KRAGTHORPE KAUTION: I guess we both drive things into ditches.
PETRINO POMPOUSNESS: Go to hell, Kragthorpe.
Filed Under: Football
About the Author: