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November 25, 2011

Cards, Strong waiting but not watching

TAMPA, Fla. -- Now that the resilient University of Louisville football team has clinched no worse than a tie for its first Big East championship in five years and put itself in position for a possible berth in a BCS bowl, the Cardinals (7-5, 5-2) have to play a waiting game.

But don't expect them, or coach Charlie Strong, to become couch potatoes this weekend and watch the games that will have an impact on where they will spend part of December or January.

After UofL had come from behind to defeat South Florida 34-24 Friday in Raymond James Stadium, Strong said he didn't plan to watch Friday night's West Virginia-Pittsburgh Backyard Brawlin Morgantown on ESPN after the Cards' charter flight landed in Louisville.

"Someone will tell me who wins," said Strong, adding that he would probably take his players to the UofL-Ohio University basketball game in the KFC Yum! Center, presumably so they can bask in the fans' appreciative cheers.

And even though the Cards need some things to fall into place this weekend or next to assure them a spot in the BCS -- probably the Orange Bowl in Miami against either Clemson, Virginia or Virginia Tech -- they too say they won't be glued to their TV sets.

"I don't really like to watch too much football," said quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, who completed 19-of-28 passes for 241 yards and three touchdowns in Louisville's first win over USF in five tries. "I only care about Louisville and I'd rather just watch film of our opponents."

Said linebacker Dexter Heyman: "We've taken care of our business and it's out of our hands now. What we want to happen and what might actually happen are two different things, so we can't worry about it."

For UofL to land a spot in a BCS bowl, they either have to win the conference title outright -- a remote though not impossible scenario -- or hope they tie either Rutgers or WVU, over whom they own the tiebreaker. In the case of a tie with Cincinnati or Pitt, the Bearcats or Panthers would get the BCS berth due to having a win over the Cards.

Five Big East teams went into this weekend tied in the loss column with two defeats each. After Friday night, Pitt ends the regular season by hosting Syracuse on Dec. 3 and WVU plays at USF on Dec. 1. Cincinnati travels to Syracuse Saturday and hosts Connecticut Dec. 3. Rutgers concludes its season Saturday at UConn.

Although Strong and his players said they wouldn't watch any games, UofL athletic director Tom Jurich wasn't of the same mind. He was staying in Florida a couple of extra days and planned on at least watching the Mountaineers and Panthers.

And Jurich said he's just as impressed and surprised as everyone else that the Cards were able to overcome a 2-4 start to win five of their last six games and grab at least a share of the league championship.

"It's fantastic, just fantastic. What a great job the guy has done," Jurich said of Strong. "None of us would have believed this. We were just going to fight through it. I look at (the bowl situation) as it's all gravy. The worst scenario we can be in right now is we're co-champions of the Big East, and that to me is a great thing. So we'll just let everything play out and see what happens. Any bowl we go to we'll be tremendous ambassadors, as all Louisvillians have been. We have a great track record of going to bowls and how we travel and regardless of where we end up we're going to do a great job in the bowl game."


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