BOZICH | Louisville football showing Kentucky, Indiana success i - WDRB 41 Louisville News

BOZICH | Louisville football showing Kentucky, Indiana success is an option

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Louisville is not only playing Big Boy football, the Cards have become one of the big boys. Louisville is not only playing Big Boy football, the Cards have become one of the big boys.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- On a weekend when the forecast is Kentucky has no chance to defeat Alabama and Indiana has a whisper of a chance to threaten Michigan State, Louisville has every chance to win at Clemson Saturday night and remain The Story of College Football 2016.

That's the regional-edition, big picture of what is happening this weekend.

Louisville is 60 minutes from achieving something season ticket holders at Commonwealth and Memorial stadiums could never imagine happening in their discouraged worlds -- watching their programs take control of a conference division race while holding a spot in the front of the line with Alabama and Ohio State in the grind toward the four-team 2016 college football playoff. Imagine.

What was the fine-print that crabby critics tried to pin on the Louisville program when the Cardinals delivered dazzling 11-1 (2004), 12-1 (2006) and 12-1 (2013) seasons over the last dozen years?

Yeah (shrug), but they did it in Conference USA or (scoff) the Big East.

They did it (shrug) against Memphis, UConn, Cincinnati and (scoff) Temple.

Not impressed. No big deal.

Let’s see Louisville do it playing Big Boy football -- playing teams like Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Ohio State, Michigan State and Michigan.

Louisville is playing Big Boy football -- and playing it in the role of a Big Boy. The Cardinals have eliminated the shrugs and scoffs.

On a weekend when Kentucky is projected to be a 35 1/2-point underdog at Alabama and Indiana remains a 6 1/2-point underdog at home against Michigan State, Louisville sits as a 2-point favorite for its ESPN GameDay appearance at Clemson.

In 15 days, Bobby (Petrino), Lamar (Jackson) and the rest of the Cards have become first-name basis friends with Lee (Corso), Kirk (Herbstreit) and the rest of the ESPN national crew.

Does that mean Louisville will win?

No, it does not.

I wouldn't be surprised if the Cardinals lost -- or won. The game is a coin flip.

Clemson is a powerfully talented team that is difficult to defeat in Death Valley. Starting with the 2011 season, Clemson has lost two of 37 home games. Florida State, Notre Dame and Auburn have all lost at Clemson during that period. It’s more of a Must-Win for Clemson than Louisville.

Winning might be everything. But it’s not the primary point here.

The point is that Louisville has convinced the nation it is one of the Big Boys while positioning itself to do something that was supposed to be a Basketball-Only ambition here.

Kentucky and Indiana should not be able to flash the Our Conference Is Too Tough excuse at their fans any more.

If Louisville can beat Florida State by 43, why should Kentucky fans settle for 30 consecutive losses to Florida? 

How can Indiana fans continue to chuckle about one victory over Michigan since 1967 and two against Ohio State since 1951?

They shouldn't. But they will. It’s part of the culture.

In two-plus seasons, Louisville has flashed into the Atlantic Division of the Atlantic Coast Conference and shown UK and IU there is a better way. 

They finished third in 2014. They finished third in 2015. They aspire to finish first -- and will finish no worse than third -- in 2016.

More history: The SEC moved to division play in 1992. Kentucky has finished as high as third twice -- without a first- or second-place performance. The Wildcats have placed sixth or seventh seven times.

Indiana has not finished better than fourth since the Big Ten moved to divisional play in 2011. The Hoosiers have not ranked in the upper half of the league since the 2001 team finished in a four-way tie for fourth.

What's the difference between the Cardinals, Wildcats and Hoosiers?

That's another column. But here is the CliffsNotes Version: Howard Schnellenberger and Bill Olsen planted a seed that Tom Jurich made grow and flourish.

The right administrator hired the right coaches who recruited and developed the right players -- while navigating the program into the right conference.

This much is sure: What is happening at Louisville means Kentucky and Indiana can't use the excuse their conference is too difficult any more.

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