Every team in the ACC has a couple games they wish they had back from 2012. Whether they didn’t bring their A-game, or the other guys just got lucky, every school would love another shot at an opponent, for the ability to prove it won’t happen again. Luckily, because of conference play and parity in the ACC, many will get a chance at redemption immediately, with rematches already on the books for 2013.
As part of our 2013 college football season preview, we’ll be running through the biggest “payback” games for each school. As no team finished with just one loss, there are likely multiple choices for each — none more “right’ than another, necessarily. Still, every selection should help provide some extra motivation for fans as they gear up for this season’s slate of games.
Team: Louisville Cardinals
Opponent: Connecticut Huskies
Last Year: Loss, 23-20 (3OT) vs. Connecticut
This Year: November 8, at Connecticut
Just days before the ACC voted between adding Connecticut or Louisville for the 2014 athletic season, the two teams played a thriller (albeit a low-scoring one) with a surprising finish. Despite being perceived as the “football school” in the argument between the two schools, Louisville came out flat at home against the Huskies in an eventual three-overtime loss. While UConn won the battle on the scoreboard that day, they’d lose the war in the only college competition that seems to matter (money) when the ACC’s schools voted to add the Cardinals instead — bucking conventional wisdom that said UConn was a perfect fit. In many ways, this becomes a “payback” game for both schools, when you think about it.
After starting the season 9-0, ‘Ville had suffered a deflating loss to Syracuse in early November and was hoping to get back on track against the lowly Huskies. Instead, they came out as flat as ever, failing to get a point on the board until the fourth quarter. Teddy Bridgewater, while still impressive (331 yards passing), looked shaky under pressure and was continually frustrated by dropped passes from his receivers in completing 30 of 53 throws. And despite the fact that he performed admirably, it was ultimately his interception in the third overtime that helped set up the surprising loss. Of course, this is what happens when your team struggles mightily to run the ball,too.
On the game, Louisville racked up just 27 yards on the ground against the Huskies, a lowly number that was indicative of struggles for the Cardinals all season. The team was extremely one-dimensional against SU as well, and the UConn game showed they hadn’t learned much in the two weeks off since that previous loss. It also didn’t help that UConn’s run defense was ranked seventh in the country last season in terms of yards allowed per game.
If Louisville hopes to avoid a similar fate this year, the key will be running the ball with some proficiency. Yes, Bridgewater and this team are carrying the hype of Heisman campaigns and undefeated seasons, but sometimes the best measuring stick for a program is how they can adjust to situations too. This UConn team has proven they can frustrate Bridgewater and can also stop their running game. With a greater emphasis on running the ball this year, however, maybe Louisville can find more success. The talent gap is certainly larger between the two schools (in favor of U of L) now, but you also can’t underestimate the motivation being left behind in the American Athletic Conference could provide for the Huskies. I’m not worried about Louisville’s chances here, so long as they commit themselves to a balanced attack and not rely on Bridgewater to do everything. The Cards are poised for greatness in 2013, so long as they don’t overlook matchups like this one en route to what should be a perfect season.