Sugar Bowl Could Kick Start Cards’ 2013 Season
With more than a month off between 18th-ranked Louisville’s win at Rutgers to close the regular season and the matchup against No. 3 Florida in the 79th Allstate Sugar Bowl, the Jan. 2 bowl game could have the feel of a season-opener instead of a season finale. Each of the 10 BCS bowl teams will go at least 30 days between the final two games of the season, which can create an unpredictable dynamic in relation to game preparation. While that type of layoff can impact how a team performs in the game, both negatively and positively, it can also serve as a springboard into the 2013 season for the winning team.
“This kind of kicks it off because you are in a new year,” said Louisville head coach Charlie Strong. “You’re talking about a new year now, so it kind of kicks you off. You get this game and you’re playing against a really good football team. It’s going to show and let us gauge who we are right now. (It will let us know) just how far away we are from being one of those elite programs.”
ACC Move Gives UofL Increased Credibility
With the announcement on Nov. 28 that the University of Louisville would be joining the Atlantic Coast Conference in all 23 sports in the coming months, each of the Cardinals’ athletic teams benefitted almost immediately. Becoming associated with such a historically strong athletic conference provides UofL with a level of national credibility never before seen. Whether you’re talking football, baseball, women’s soccer, track and field or lacrosse, each of the Cardinals’ teams will now be competing in the brightest conference spotlight ever in the long history of Louisville athletics.
“Going into the ACC was big for our program,” Strong told reporters last week. “Not only for football and basketball, but it was big for the other sports also. Now, you have a name behind your program. You have a conference behind your program. It’s really great because you look at a very competitive conference. Now, when you look at it, you have a chance to go in and compete. You’re going to compete on a national stage and a national level now.”
Cardinals’ Recruiting Gains Momentum from ACC
Along with the increased credibility on the field, the move to the ACC also provides Louisville with even more cache in recruiting circles as the Cardinals’ coaches look to build for the future. Opposing coaches can no longer use UofL’s league affiliation as a negative recruiting tool, while it also gives the Louisville coaches even more to sell about the program’s already highly impressive resume.
“It’s really big for the recruits,” said Strong. “Now, the recruits can look at it. Now, you’re in the ACC. It’s so funny how things are. You know how young people are and the way they look at things. Now, they say, ‘You’re in a real conference.’ I say to them, ‘What’s a real conference?’ It’s good that we get that push out of the way so (with) recruiting we have a conference that you can really talk about. This is who your competition is and this is who you’re going to be competing against.”
Florida Model Built on In-State Recruiting
When the Cardinals take the field at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on Jan. 2, they will do so against a Florida program that is very familiar to the Louisville head coach. Strong coached at Florida on four different occasions from 1983-84, 1988-89, 1991-94 and 2003-09. Having served as a pivotal part of the Gators’ national titles in 2006 and 2008 while leading the defense, Strong has a unique understanding and perspective on what has allowed Florida to elevate itself as one of the nation’s premier program’s. However, despite his experience in Gainesville, Strong doesn’t see his model for success at Louisville being all that similar to the one that has worked for the Gators.
“Well, it’s all about recruiting,” Strong noted. “If you look at that state, you have a state where you don’t have to go very far to recruit them. If you just break down that state, you can go get 25 players within that state. What’s different for us here is you don’t have the state where you can go and get 25 players. You would like to go find those type of players, but you have to go outside of this state to go get them whereas with them, they can stay within their range and they can get whoever they want.”