Suddenly, all things seem possible for the Louisville Cardinals.
An ACC title.
A spot in the College Football Playoff.
A Heisman Trophy for electrifying sophomore quarterback Lamar Jackson.
After Saturday’s thunderous 63-20 victory against the Florida State Seminoles (2-1), when the Cardinals (3-0) formally introduced themselves to the nation, myth after myth was exposed.
* The statistics of Jackson and the Cardinals were purely run-up-the-score numbers against inferior competition. Wrong! Jackson showed his true colors against one of college football’s brand-name programs.
* The Seminoles, even though they quickly fell behind by two touchdowns, would find a way to pull it out and enhance their reputation as college football’s greatest escape artists. Wrong! Louisville started fast and it kept getting worse. The Seminoles’ defense couldn’t stop anything. The offense had no rhythm, imagination or life. The special teams were horrendous.
* The ACC championship — and a probable spot in the College Football Playoff — would be decided in Tallahassee on Oct. 29 when Clemson visits FSU. Wrong! The ACC’s big game now shifts to Oct. 1 when Louisville visits Clemson. The Seminoles are in big, big trouble, needing Louisville to lose two conference games in order to have any shot at rallying for a shot at the ACC title.
Let that settle in for a bit.
This wasn’t Charlotte. It wasn’t Syracuse.
This was FSU, and Louisville administered a nationally-televised spanking, an out-and-out embarrassment. It’s easy to focus on Louisville’s offensive embarrassment of riches, but the Cardinal defense also deserves to take a bow.
It harassed Seminoles quarterback Deondre Francois. It bottled up Dalvin Cook. It swarmed and confused the FSU offensive line.
This was a complete rout, the most points ever surrendered by an FSU football team.
That was largely due to the presence of Jackson, who looked like the second coming of Vince Young, Tim Tebow or Cam Newton, the three most jaw-dropping dual-threat quarterbacks in recent memory.
Jackson had 362 all-purpose yards and accounted for five touchdowns, giving him 1,377 all-purpose yards and 18 touchdowns accounted for … in just three games.
He rushed for four touchdowns, including a Heisman-moment exclamation-point 47-yard scoring run.
Now we will see how FSU responds to this shellacking, but we will also see how Louisville reacts to being the toast of the college football nation. How do the Cardinals handle all the attention, all the hype, all the noise? Somehow, the Cardinals must keep their edge.
Coach Bobby Petrino’s team travels next Saturday to Marshall — not an easy non-conference game — and then faces what looks like the ultimate ACC showdown game at Clemson. There’s also a Nov. 17 trip to Houston, which shapes up as a rip-roaring matchup between Jackson and Cougars quarterback Greg Ward Jr.
Louisville’s progress will now be a major backdrop to the rest of this season.
Not cable network Showtime, which has been following FSU this season for an all-access look inside the Seminole program.
Turns out, Louisville was the program ready for its closeup and it produced … showtime!
It was an afternoon when the legacy of Muhammad Ali, the late boxing champion, was honored in his hometown. Louisville players had a butterfly logo — with the word “ALI’’ — affixed to the back of their helmets.
It seemed fitting.
The Cardinals floated.
They registered a decisive knockout that, at least in the early going, has changed the direction of this college football season.