Kickoff is slated for 7:30 p.m. tonight between the Louisville Cardinals and the Clemson Tigers. The home fans are encouraged to wear black. The team will be wearing black uniforms. The atmosphere in Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium should be electric. It’s Thursday night, and Louisville fans seem to get way more jacked up for these games than any other games.
By the time the game ends around 11:00 or so, this season will look completely different than it does when the game kicks off tonight. With a win, the Cards are 1-0 in the ACC and would have just beaten the preseason conference favorite. They would now be in the driver’s seat in the division, and an ACC Championship is absolutely within grasp. A loss drops this team to 0-3, with over a week until the next game for every player, coach, and decision to be second guessed by every “coach” in social media land. So what is on the line tonight? The driver’s seat in the ACC, or 0-3. This truly is a fork in the road for the season.
With a win, Louisville moves to 1-2 on the season, but the more important thing is 1-0 in the conference. Let’s face it, if you aren’t going to be fighting for a spot in the College Football Playoff, your strength of schedule numbers and how you did in the non-conference just do not matter much. Now the focus shifts on the ACC. Clemson brings a top 10 ranking into PJCS tonight. With the fans jacked up, a win would put a lot of mojo back into the season, mojo that was taken by the Houston Cougars on Saturday.
Then you bring Samford here next Saturday, which should be a win. Suddenly, the Cards are on a two game winning streak. The Auburn game seems like a distant memory. Houston still hurts, but you can see the bigger goals ahead. This direction of the fork in the road leads you to an ACC Championship. Now you are heading on the road to NC State riding high with confidence. Win that game and who knows what will happen in Tallahassee two weeks later?
None of us want to find out where the other direction of this fork in the road takes us. 0-3. There is nothing good about that. Sure, you probably beat Samford next week. Well, I would think. But then how confident are you at 1-3 when you go on the road for back to back games against NC State and Florida State? If you are lucky to win one of those games, you are 2-4 through the first half of the season. Lose both and you are 1-5, something that just sounds crazy now.
If that is the direction this goes, 2-4 or 1-5, it may not even matter that the back half of the schedule is seemingly “easier”. Would the players throw in the towel on the season? Would the fans? Does 6-6 and a trip to any bowl game then become the goal? I must say, I don’t enjoy typing about this direction of the fork in the road.
Yes, the second half of the season is an easier schedule for the Cards. But it doesn’t matter if your season is finished by the time you get to it. The first half of the schedule can absolutely be salvaged, but it has to be with a win over Clemson.
Tonight’s game is a lot bigger than just one regular season game out of 12. The season can go one of two ways at this point, and it starts tonight. Driver’s seat in the ACC? 0-3 start staring at 2-4 or 1-5? We will find out tonight.
Go Cards! Wear BLACK!