While the Big East continues its battle to stay relevant within the new playoff system, Louisville finds themselves in a position to make a big move this season. That move has nothing to do with going to another conference either.
Instead, the Cardinals have the opportunity to make it to a major bowl in 2012. While the team may not have been ranked in the USA Today coaches' preseason poll, they are still in a conference that is guaranteed a major bowl birth, according to the Los Angeles Times.
The key for Louisville is the fact that they are returning 17 starters. Pile that on top of a weakened Big East, and the cards begin to align in their favor. Head coach Charlie Strong will keep the momentum going in 2012, as the Cardinals won five of their last six games in the Big East in 2011.
Regardless of how good it looks, Strong is worried about becoming too confident. As he told the media during Big East media days, "We cannot be complacent. We cannot start to feel good about ourselves because we were picked to go win this conference."
Strong's mentality is in the right place and shows exactly what Louisville needs to win. Remaining humble and playing to the ability they are expected to exceed, will require returners and new talent to not get ahead of themselves. Sophomore quarterback Teddy Bridgewater will be a big key to the overall success.
The only downside to Louisville's run for a major bowl bid is losing wide receiver Michaelee Harris, according to The Courier-Journal. Strong confirmed that Harris tore his left ACL on Thursday, making for his fourth knee injury. Harris' impact was huge in 2011, where he had 455 receiving yards and 37 catches. While a devastating loss, Strong and his team must push forward as they still have a lot of talent at other positions to work with.
With West Virginia gone and Pittsburgh and Syracuse twiddling their thumbs until 2013 when they can bolt from the Big East, Louisville has nothing standing in their way but themselves. The talent is there and the strong coaching is there, so now it's time to produce.
After all, the Big East is the Cardinals' to lose.