Now that Louisville has stumbled through the opening quarter of the season barely managing to produce a 2-1 record, conference play opens up this Saturday against Virginia. Coming into the year, many (myself included) would have notched this game as an almost certifiable win considering the hype that Louisville was rolling into the season with and that the Cavaliers have done almost nothing in recent history to suggest they’d be much of an opponent.
Then the games against Indiana State and Western Kentucky happened where Louisville’s offense struggled to do much of anything against a pair of awful defenses, while on the flipside the Cards’ defense was consistently pushed around by much smaller offensive lines. Louisville ended up handling Indiana State in the second half, but only managed to narrowly escape the lowly Hilltoppers late in the fourth quarter. In the process, the team has already been thrown off track with a unpredicted quarterback change and dwindling offensive line.
Meanwhile, Virginia has had a comparable (but predictable) start, opening the season by blowing out Richmond, then losing to an okay Indiana squad, and last weekend barely getting by Ohio (not OSU), all at home. Offensively, they’ve looked better than expected, but against very bad teams.
So, three games into the year, should it be a surprise that Virginia is actually favored by 4.5 points this weekend? At this point, no, but if you were to tell me this three weeks ago I would have laughed in your face.
Is this game against Virginia a must win situation? Yes. If Louisville can’t collectively get their shit together and put together a cohesive performance against an inferior team like Virginia at this point in the season, then what hope is there that they’ll be able to ever turn it around? At this point, I don’t expect Louisville to beat Clemson and Florida State on a regular basis, but I at least expect the Cards to be considerable favorites against the likes of UVA, but alas, here we are.
If Louisville wins, the team is 3-1 heading into a favorable game against Florida State. At that point, it’d be conceivable that Louisville starts conference play at 2-0, heading into the ladder half of the season much more of a pulse.
If the Cards lay another egg and give one away to Virginia, Louisville’s fickle fan base will likely dissipate and point their attention to Chris Mack and the basketball team. It’s not hard to imagine that Bobby would also lose some of the team at that point (if he hasn’t already), and his increasingly hot seat will only rise a few degrees.
Am I a football expert? Do I know more than Bobby Petrino about his team or the sport itself? Hell no, that’s not what I’m suggesting. I am a fan and consumer of this game and the program however, and it doesn’t take a brilliant football mind to conclude that this team has some major, major problems. At first glance, I see an unorganized, undisciplined squad that seems lost, unable to get out of its own way. In all three games, the Cards have gotten off to abismal starts due to the stupid penalties, dropped passes, bad tackling, and missed assignments that continue to pile up, and mostly against bad competition — that’s what’s most alarming.
Top photo credit: Bobby Ellis/Getty Images