Ad-Vance Carefully: The Louisville Effect

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Ad-Vance Carefully is a weekly column by Bryan Vance exploring the issues surrounding Ohio Football.

Ohio has had a lot of success in the Frank Solich era. The one-time Nebraska head coach has turned the Bobcats into a blossoming mid-major power on the gridiron. After back-to-back bowl wins and four straight bowl trips, Ohio is knocking on the door of the mid-major elites.

But to break through that door and separate itself from the rest of the pack Ohio needs one thing in particular, something it hasn’t had, something all elite teams need: a program-defining victory.

Come Sept. 1 the ‘Cats will get that opportunity. Ohio opens the 2013 season on the road against Louisville on ESPN as one of just two games airing that day; and the only one that afternoon.

It’s a huge spotlight for a football team on the rise. A golden opportunity for a team that, despite all its recent success, still hasn’t had that memory-engrained win. Sure, last fall Ohio’s season opening win over Penn State on the road was monumental. The ‘Cats came from behind to win and rode the momentum all the way to a 7-0 start and a feature article in Sports Illustrated; but in the end more attention was paid to Penn State losing that game rather than Ohio winning it.

The problem is the Penn State game came a year too late. Still reeling from the child sex abuse scandal that rocked the university for months, Penn State was a shell of the program it once was. After half a century of being a true football power, Penn State was just another mid-range football team looking for an identity. Ohio would have to wait for another shot at defining its own brand.

With the opportunity to take on one of the most hyped programs heading into the 2013 season as the featured game on a football-deprived Sunday, Ohio has been handed that chance.

Coming off an 11-2 record in 2012 capped by a victory over the heavily favored Florida Gators in the Sugar Bowl, the Louisville Cardinals are a formidable opponent for Ohio. Unlike Penn State, big expectations surround Louisville. They have an identity; a powerful rising brand.

Led by the golden arm of Heisman Trophy front-runner Teddy Bridgewater, you’ll be hard pressed to find anyone willing to pick against Louisville. The team returns 19 starters and has a fairly ‘soft’ schedule.  Many experts have the Cardinals starting off the season ranked in the top-10 and some have them contending for the BCS National Championship.

Louisville’s glorified standing is exactly why this game could be the biggest in Ohio Football history. While few, if any, will have Ohio favored to win this game, the ‘Cats have a shot at pulling out a victory. Ohio is built similar to Louisville and with a solid core of returning players has the pieces to compete on a big stage. Taking down a top-10 team and Heisman Trophy candidate is just what Ohio needs to move to the next level. If Ohio wants to open that door, it needs to upset Louisville on Sept. 1.

The nation will be watching.