North Carolina visits U of L Saturday because Georgia asked out of its contract to play.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – North Carolina football is coming to town Saturday. Before the neck-twisting starts, here are two words that everybody from the University of Louisville should say to anybody they encounter dressed in Dean Smith blue:
Remember: North Carolina was not supposed to make this trip. Georgia was supposed to make this trip. Don't you wonder what Georgia will be doing this weekend that's so out-of-this world fantastic that they couldn't come to town?
Me, too. I'll get to that. Trust me.
Louisville signed a two-year deal with the Bulldogs that was scheduled to kickoff with the Cardinals playing the opening game of the 2011 season between the hedges in Athens. The contract included a return game at Papa John's Cardinal Stadium in 2012.
Georgia playing in Louisville would have been a flashback moment to the period in Cardinals' football two decades ago when Tennessee, Penn State, Texas, Virginia Tech and Michigan State were all willing to visit old Cardinal Stadium.
Georgia belonged on that list. Until it didn't.
Contract meet shredder.
The good folks at the Chick-fil-A Bowl, with the loving encouragement of ESPN, had another idea. Georgia was invited to play Boise State in that game in Atlanta last season.
We all know Georgia lost that game, 35-21, a result that's buried in the Southeastern Conference press notes. U of L athletic director Tom Jurich sees downfield and circulates in the pocket like Teddy Bridgewater. Jurich signed a replacement deal with the Tar Heels. Game one was the one Louisville lost, 14-7, last October in Chapel Hill.
Game two is the game booked for Saturday afternoon here. This is more than simply a chance for Charlie Strong to take the Louisville football program to 3-0 for the first time since the 2006 Orange Bowl season.
This game provides the Cardinals with a grand opportunity to prove they can handle a signature school from the Atlantic Coast Conference, the league that can't beat the Big East in the Orange Bowl but has done a dazzling job of a) recruiting; B) bribing or C) stealing its teams.
But the collegial behavior of the ACC is a column for another day. The thing to remember today is that North Carolina didn't have to be here. The Tar Heels could have scheduled Southern Utah, Austin Peay or Howard. During the first two weeks of the 2012 college football season, 60 games were played between FBS and FCS programs.
Guess which division leads, 52-8? Write a check. Take a victory.
Of course, if North Carolina really wanted a guaranteed "W," the Tar Heels could have dialed their new Atlantic Coast Conference playmate, Pittsburgh.
But what about Herschel Walker University?
Georgia's deal with future Big East member Boise State was a one-and-done, made for TV situation – and isn't Mark Richt, the Georgia coach, thankful for that?
Who do the Bulldogs play Saturday?
The only person with Louisville ties who should be pleased about that is Howard Schnellenberger because he built the Owls program before he retired after last season. FAU had a nice run several years ago, but slipped to 1-11 in 2011.
The Owls are 1-1 this season, defeating Wagner, but losing to Middle Tennessee by two touchdowns. FAU sits at Number 204 in the Sagarin computer rankings. The Bulldogs are favored to dust the Owls by a tidy 42 points.
AccuScore.com's computer formula puts Georgia's win probability at 98.9 percent. That's not quite where most coaches from BCS leagues like it for non-league play, but it will have to do.
It's a home game, one of four non-league home games the Bulldogs will play this season. Who knows, maybe the team Georgia actually recruited to replace Louisville was Buffalo or Georgia Southern? They're also on the Bulldogs' schedule.
There are ample reasons to blush when you look at Georgia's non-league schedule, considering the Bulldogs believe they are primed to win the SEC East and push Alabama and Louisiana State for the league title.
But Georgia isn't making the trip to Papa John's Cardinal Stadium. North Carolina is. Remember to thank a Tar Heel Saturday.