Bobby Petrino’s reputation is squarely on the line this Saturday vs. Clemson

You didn’t have to look hard for debate that evening.

I sat at the press conference welcoming Bobby Petrino to Louisville once again, and I knew it would happen. Soon enough, that surreal feeling would become overwhelmed with debate.

And it was.

Louisville fans were split on their program compromising morality for a guy who would get the job done. Evidence was present everywhere on local airwaves.

Ask any Louisville fan when Bobby Petrino was hired what they expected, you can bet it’s more than he’s provided. Yes, the results haven’t been exactly unacceptable either. Two 9-4 seasons aren’t anything to scoff at. Yet if fans are truthful, they will admit longing for a bit more. This is especially evident given the taste of supreme aspirations given last season.

Now we’re here, fans dreaming as big as they want and Louisville facing Clemson once again. Clemson with a stranglehold on the ACC. Clemson with it’s status as defending National Champions. And Clemson with it’s 3-0 record against Bobby Petrino since its return. In some ways, it’s a crossroads for what Louisville Football may be going forward. Don’t believe me? Believe your Head Coach.

“This is the type of game you grow up picturing yourself playing in,” Louisville Head Coach Bobby Petrino said Monday.

“It’s going to be a heck of a thing to watch,” Florida State’s Jimbo Fisher chimed in on Wednesday’s teleconference.

This is why Bobby Petrino was hired. This is why Louisville took weeks of some bad publicity for hiring a guy with a troubled history. To win these games.

Bobby Petrino wasn’t hired to go 0-4 against elite Head Coach in Dabo Swinney. One might say if you can’t beat an elite head coach in four tries, should you be regarded as one yourself? He wasn’t hired to go 0-4 against one of the best Defensive Coordinators in the Country in Brent Venables. Couldn’t you say the moniker of offensive mastermind’ becomes compromised when you can’t defeat the best once in four tries?

It’s important to note that things are different than they were in a similar scenario last season. Yes, Louisville did have the biggest moment in the program’s history. Florida State came in and they left, well, humbled. But the Cardinals won’t have the element of surprise. The target is on Lamar Jackson now. His status as a household name is well established. Any doubt, ask the Clemson Head Coach.

“He is as good a player as there is on the planet,” Swinney said on Wednesday.

It’s different for Clemson too. Gone is quarterback Deshaun Watson, the player that many made a strong argument for to beat out Lamar Jackson for the 2017 Heisman trophy. Gone is star wide receiver Mike Williams, the guy drafted in the first round last season by the San Diego Chargers. Gone is an explosive offense who was able to match Louisville score for score in Death Valley. The Tigers are left with a junior quarterback in Kelly Bryant who has never started a road college football game.

Louisville has the scene set so perfectly you may think it were preordained. A once in a generation player who is likely making his final college football campaign. Everything for Louisville and I mean everything. College Gameday, an 8pm kickoff with no other football game worth viewing on television, hell, even a black-out. If you don’t seize the moment to take control of the ACC, will you ever?

This isn’t a time where Louisville is looking to shock the world. They are only a slight underdog, after all. This is a moment where Louisville has the tools to take a step that would put them in the forefront of the College Football play discussion. One must ask, if Bobby Petrino can’t get it done here against Clemson, when can he?

Fans don’t need perfect vision to see the light at the end of the tunnel if Louisville can past this test. The remaining schedule leaves more to be desired. A Thursday threat at NC State looks much less scary than it did a month ago considering the Wolfpack’s slow start. The test at Florida State now looks more passable, after starting quarterback Deondre Francois was lost for the season. And with a win against Clemson, even a loss at Florida State may not doom Louisville’s College Football Playoff aspirations.

You can never judge as a program when you’re going to have the one opportunity to capture it all. You can never judge when you’ll have the best player in the entire sport on your team. Louisville has everything they need in front of them. It’s up for Bobby Petrino to capture it. There can be no excuses Saturday. After all, there may never be another moment when things align like this.