I started this new weekly blog last week, and I must say that I think I am going to enjoy doing it. If not, you will know because it will just stop. But the point of it is just to give my thoughts and opinions on whatever comes to mind, obviously focusing on UofL sports. But rather than just posting facts and passing along information, this is more of an open forum for me. Like with most of these types of posts that I do, I go into it with a little plan, and just start typing and see what happens. It seems to work better that way for me. Maybe there should be more of a plan, I don’t know. I haven’t taken 1 journalism class in my life so I am not 100% sure how that whole process works. I will just type what comes to mind, and hopefully you enjoy reading it. If not, here is my apology: sorry. Now, onto this week’s topics for you to read about Justin time for the weekend!
The 6-0 start is there for the taking
When the football schedule came out, we were all excited to see the big names like Florida State, Notre Dame, Clemson, and Miami. We realized we finally had a good schedule and we are not in the AAC or Big East anymore. The more you looked at the schedule, the more you may have noticed that the second half of the schedule is much tougher than the first half. I couldn’t help but think that if we just got by Miami, a 6-0 start was very possible. Well, we got by Miami for sure. Now just take a look at the next 5 games.
The next game is against Murray State at home, which shouldn’t be any kind of problem. Then you hit the road for two games. The first is against Virginia. Although the Cavaliers gave UCLA a run for their money, that should be a win. Preseason projections don’t mean too much, but they were picked at or near the bottom of the ACC in nearly every projection. The fourth game is at Florida International, who the Cards beat last year 72-0, and that was without Bobby Petrino. Then you come home to face Wake Forest, who is also picked at or near the bottom of the conference. They lost their season opener to UL-Monroe. They scored 10 points, passed for 97 yards, and rushed for -3 yards. If they come into Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium and beat a (likely) 4-0 Louisville team, it will be a shocker. Before the season started, I thought maybe the 5th game would be a little tricky, at Syracuse. Well the Orange opened their season by beating Villanova by 1 in double overtime. That is a solid win if we are talking about basketball, but we aren’t. And they won when ‘Nova went for a 2-point conversion and the win in double OT.
That is how the schedule sets up for the Cards before the big road game at Clemson. Would you be surprised if we enter that game maybe 5-1? Not really, that is still a solid start to the season. But any of those games would be an upset for Louisville to lose. It can certainly happen, but a 6-0 start heading to Death Valley for Clemson is right there. Will the Cards take it?
Rick Pitino’s recruiting class
I used to be one of those people that didn’t pay any attention to recruiting. I pretty much said “Yeah let me know when they get to campus.” I still don’t get too much into highlight videos because there could probably also be a “mistakes video” of that same player. I just reserve judgement for when they step onto the floor and make plays on the college level. I follow recruiting a lot more now than I did. Kind of have to when you run a UofL sports blog.
With the verbal commitment last night from Antonio Blakeney, Rick Pitino has possibly landed his best class at UofL. And I say that just based on rankings and potential. Russ Smith and Gorgui Dieng weren’t exactly big recruits, but wow, you can’t argue with those results! So the 2015 class will come in with a lot of hype, but they obviously have to prove it on the court. If all four guys sign, you will have Blakeney, Donovan Mitchell, Raymond Spalding, and Deng Adel. The thing about those guys are they seem to be different types of people than how Pitino used to recruit. There was that stretch where he brought in the talent, like Terrence Williams, Samardo Samuels, Derrick Caracter, and so on. But would you call those “Louisville first” guys? Or “me first” guys? Thought so. The type of guys Pitino seems to go after now are more similar to Gorgui Dieng, Russ Smith, Peyton Siva, and guys with that kind of character.
And I think those guys I just named (Siva, Russ, Gorgui) re-energized Pitino in his coaching career. They helped him enjoy the game more, and he seems to really be having fun around the team in the last few years. These guys in the class of 2015 should continue that trend. The question mark for some people would have been Blakeney. He sometimes appeared that he wanted the spotlight and may not be a Louisville guy. But I can tell you that he has loved Louisville since they started recruiting him a couple years ago. It was always at the top of his list to be a Card. In the crazy world of basketball recruiting, other factors started to creep in. You started to wonder if he would end up at a Nike school, because as crazy as that is to me, the shoe matters. And don’t say you can’t get hurt in Nike’s. My ACL, MCL, and meniscus that were all torn while wearing Nike seem to disagree.
With this class, and the class that just came in, along with the current roster, Louisville basketball should be a top team in the country for years to come.
My challenge for the fans: show up…and stay
Some people get tired of hearing the complaints about our football fan base. They pretty much just accept that that’s who we are: we show up late, we leave early, so just accept it. Well I can’t. I don’t expect us to just all of the sudden have the stands full, be loud, and stay the entire game right out of nowhere. But it has to start sometime, right? I realize that we are a young fan base when it comes to football. We almost gave up football entirely before Howard Schnellenberger saved the program. Some of the schools with the big traditions have been playing (and been relevant) for over 100 years. The traditions at those games and stadiums have been passed down through multiple generations. I get that.
So when do we begin our own traditions? When will it be common for the stadium to be full at kickoff and full at the end of the game? Why can’t that happen now? There are 6 home games this season. That is 6 days out of the year where you can sacrifice a little time to get in your seats early, and stay until the game is over. Our crowd shows up for the big games. Monday against Miami was awesome. I worry that I will get there tomorrow night for Murray State and see a half-empty stadium. I know that the bigger named opponents are more exciting and draw the bigger crowds. But I go to the games first and foremost to see the Louisville Cardinals. Whoever they are playing is the bonus for me.
I am not going to make something up and say that the hype leading into the Murray State game needs to be just like the hype leading up to the Miami or Florida State game. That just isn’t realistic. It’s baby steps that we need to take, I know that. But a step in the right direction for me would be for the stadium to be full at kickoff tomorrow night. When we have a big lead in the second half, stick around. Where else are you going?
I said the other day that the big time programs show up for the Murray State’s of the world. They pack the house regardless of opponent. I am sure some will point out some games where Alabama or someone like that in the SEC didn’t fill their stadium to capacity against a lower-tier opponent. Well, those stadiums also hold about 90,000+, so there is a bit of a difference there.
We are not the traditional football school. We don’t have the huge marching band that the crowd shows up early to see in the pregame show like most do in the south. We have a DJ during the games. We have a party deck. It is just a different type of group. Trust me, I realize all of this. I just want us to start creeping towards the big time programs when it comes to fan attendance (throughout the whole game) and football tradition. And I don’t care about the number of tickets sold. That doesn’t do much good if the people aren’t there.
So why not pack the house tomorrow? The Cards won’t be back at Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium until September 27. Send them off with amazing fan support. And when they come back at 4-0 to face Wake Forest, we pack the house again. We may not change the entire culture this season, but let’s take some steps in that direction. Let’s carry that Monday momentum into tomorrow night. It starts with this generation of fans, so let’s go!
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