Cards look to spoil Cincinnati's BCS bid
The Sports Xchange
NCAAF Team Report - Louisville - INSIDE SLANT
There will be no BCS game, or a surprising drilling of an SEC power to grab everyone's attention. Instead, all Louisville can do in its one year in the American Athletic Conference is go 12-1 with a second-tier bowl win while someone else (likely Central Florida) gets the BCS assignment.
The only other team that could steal UCF's BCS berth is Cincinnati, who the Cardinals play Thursday night in the last game at the Bearcats' Nippert Stadium before the 98-year old facility undergoes a much-needed renovation next year.
So to summarize: Louisville went from being a top-10 team with real BCS hopes -- and an outside shot at the BCS title game -- to playing the role of spoiler in the last game of the best rivalry it's had throughout the years.
"You just hate to see a rivalry like the one we've established," Cardinals coach Charlie Strong said, "and now we're going to walk away because you're going into a different conference. You hate to leave the matchup, because it is a city we do recruit."
Before Louisville departs the AAC for the ACC, it would like to keep the Keg of Nails -- the trophy for which these schools play -- from establishing permanent residence in Ohio. For that to happen, its offense must deliver a crisper performance than it has at any point since the season's first month.
Were it not for losses at 4-8 Illinois and 2-9 South Florida, Cincinnati might control its BCS destiny. Still, the Bearcats have authored another good season under first-year coach Tommy Tuberville and will have a packed stadium for the last visit from an old rival.
"It is going to be crazy," Cardinals defensive end Marcus Smith said. "It will be a hostile environment. I think we are prepared, and we will be ready to go on Thursday."
NCAAF Team Report - Louisville - NOTES, QUOTES
PLAYERS TO WATCH:
--QB Teddy Bridgewater is a finalist for the Manning Award, given to the nation's top quarterback. Bridgewater has completed 71 percent of his passes this year for 2,971 yards and a 25-3 TD-interception ratio. The award is named for Archie Manning and his two sons -- Peyton and Eli -- and will be given out Jan. 8 after bowl games, which count in the voting process.
--WR Damian Copeland, who leads the team in receptions with 49 and yards with 655, has another year of eligibility left if he wants it. Copeland has already graduated and he, along with his family, will meet with coach Charlie Strong after the season ends to decide if he wants to play his senior season as a graduate student.
--CB Charles Gaines notched his fourth interception this year in the Nov. 23 win over Memphis, tying fellow CB Terell Floyd for the team lead. Gaines has 106 return yards, the most for a Cardinal since Anthony Floyd totaled 152 yards on 10 picks in 2000. Not bad for a guy who was converted from wide receiver during spring practice.
SERIES HISTORY: Cincinnati leads Louisville 29-22-1 in the all-time series, winning four of the last five after the Cardinals took five straight from 2003-07. Louisville won 34-31 last year in overtime on John Wallace's 30-yard field goal.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "I don't think it's deflating, because you're looking at a team right now who's won 10 games. You can't take away what we've already accomplished." -- Cardinals coach Charlie Strong on if his team is disappointed at seeing its BCS hopes dashed.