Most important game: Louisville Cardinals

Our series continues today with the conference favorite, Louisville.

To see previous entries, click here.


Most important game: Dec. 5 at Cincinnati

Why: Mark Stoops has been a hit in Lexington, Ky., since taking over the Wildcats program. But if we learned anything from last year's season-opener — in which Teddy Bridgewater completed 19 of 21 passes — it's that the Cardinals still have much more talent, especially since they bring back a majority of their playmakers from last year's Sugar Bowl-winning squad. Plus, if the Cardinals can't get by Kentucky in Week 3, we can kiss all of that undefeated season — and likely conference-winning — talk goodbye.

The Cardinals get Rutgers and UCF at home, and they don't have to face SMU. And, well, there's a reason the schedule-makers made their final regular-season game on a Thursday night against Cincinnati.

We went over this Friday in a post looking at the Bearcats' most important game, but it's worth echoing again here. This tilt may very well decide the conference champion — and the league's last guaranteed BCS bowl berth. For a Cardinals squad expected to be a preseason top-10 team, it may just decide a national title berth, depending on what the rest of the national landscape looks like. And for a quarterback who has been showered in expectations, hype and preseason accolades all spring, this prime time, national-television game could provide the outlet for one final Heisman Trophy advertisement.

These teams met in a Friday prime-time contest that ended in overtime, with Louisville recovering from a pair of 10-point deficits and, ultimately, getting to look back on the win over Cincinnati as the difference-maker in clinching the conference's BCS bowl berth.

This one will be on the road. It will be Louisville's final game in the Big East/American Athletic Conference. And it is the last scheduled meeting with its arch-rival, for now.

The Keg of Nails always means a lot to both schools. But the 2013 season could bring us the most meaningful Louisville-Cincinnati game yet.