AP writer Gary Graves thinks that despite being ranked in the top 20, Louisville still has a reason to being playing with a chip on its shoulder. Despite eight teams, who are ranked ahead of them, losing this past weekend, Louisville still sits at #18 in the AP poll. Graves points out the Charlie Strong just wants his team to stay focused and motivated now that conference play is beginning.
The Cardinals want to win the Big East and clinch an automatic Orange Bowl berth. But they will probably have to finish undefeated to have even an outside shot of being considered for the Bowl Championship Series title game.
The first BCS standings will be released on Sunday.
But coach Charlie Strong said first things first.
“Now we start the real season, which I call the real season because it’s the conference season,” Strong said earlier this week. “Everything from here out counts.”
Graves also acknowledges that, with West Virginia gone, winning may not be enough for top Big East teams Louisville, Rutgers, and Cincinnati against a severely diminished conference. They may need to put up the type of performances on the field that attract the attention of the national media.
But now No. 5 West Virginia is a member of the Big 12. Next season Pittsburgh and Syracuse will join the Atlantic Coast Conference. What’s left is an image of a foundering conference lacking strong teams.
That sounds strange considering three Big East teams — Louisville, No. 20 Rutgers (5-0, 2-0) and No. 21 Cincinnati (4-0, 1-0) are all ranked in this week’s poll. Nonetheless, the remaining Big East teams seem to have to prove their worth — simply winning is not enough.
“Because of what’s happened to the conference over the last seven or eight years, I think the perception is that the Big East is a step or two beneath the other conferences that are out there,” ESPN college football analyst Kirk Herbstreit said. “And yet, here they have three teams that are ranked.
“For Louisville, Cincinnati and even Rutgers I just think they’re getting attention for the first five or six weeks and now that they’ve gotten some attention, people are going to sit back and evaluate them and take into consideration whether they’re a top-15, top-10 or eventually a top-seven or -eight type of team. All three will need a lot of help to move up the BCS standings.”
Especially Louisville, further hampered by opponents’ poor record.
Graves notes that a chance of a perfect season for Louisville rests on the players improving over the next few weeks.
Safety Hakeem Smith said,
“We haven’t really shown our abilities the last few games, but we know we have that ability. We’ve got to use all our talent and blow teams out, put up numbers, basically just showcase everybody’s ability. We have to prove ourselves, and things will fall into place.”
If Louisville plays the way it should against lowly conference opponents like Temple, Syracuse, and Connecticut and takes care of business against top Big East teams like Rutgers and Cincinnati, the national media is sure to take notice, and Charlie Strong’s team will receive the respect they deserve.