Friday, November 03, 2006

Big East Denies Venue Change Request By Louisville For Rutgers Game

The University of Louisville was a festive place Thursday night as the fifth-ranked Cardinals topped #3 West Virginia 44-34 in an undefeated Big East football showdown. After the biggest win in school history, the program seems to be in prime position to reach the BCS national championship game on January 8. However, Louisville must travel to fellow unbeaten Rutgers next Thursday night. The Cardinals have already been dealt a setback, as the Big East has denied Louisville’s request to move the game to a neutral site.

Like last night’s contest, the Louisville-Rutgers matchup will be the weekly Thursday night ESPN game. The home team has won eight of the ten Thursday night ESPN matchups this season, including the last five in a row. In four of those last five, the road victim was a ranked team. With those factors in mind, Louisville requested that next Thursday’s showdown be moved to Pittsburgh – roughly halfway between the two schools. Coach Bobby Petrino pointed out that ESPN will be in Pittsburgh the following Thursday night as the Panthers host West Virginia. He argued that broadcasting from Heinz Field a week early would benefit the network, since the practice run would help the Pitt-West Virginia telecast go more smoothly.

However, Big East commissioner Mike Tranghese rejected the request, so Louisville must tackle the same challenge that befell last night’s victim at Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium. West Virginia hosted a Thursday night ESPN game on September 14, dominating Maryland 45-24. Things did not go so well when they were the Thursday night visitors this time. The Cardinals took control in the third quarter after returning a Steve Slaton fumble and a punt for touchdowns in short succession. Despite his 156 yards and a touchdown, Slaton’s night was marred by two lost fumbles, a wrist injury, and the knowledge that his national championship and Heisman Trophy hopes were gone. Even worse, he had completely forgotten to Tivo Grey’s Anatomy.

The Mountaineers’ neighbors in Virginia experienced similar highs and lows on Thursday nights. Virginia Tech fell from the rankings after a 22-3 setback at Boston College on October 12. They returned to the top 25 after dominating #10 Clemson 24-7 two Thursdays later in Blacksburg. Similarly, Virginia stood and watched the Calvin Johnson Show in Atlanta on September 21, falling 24-7 to Georgia Tech. Four Thursdays later in Charlottesville, the Cavaliers routed North Carolina 23-0. The victory was assured when UVA looked across the field and saw that they were playing UNC.

The only two Thursday night ESPN games to be won by the visitors both involved South Carolina. The Gamecocks won at Mississippi State 15-0 on August 31, but fell to Auburn 24-17 in Columbia on September 28. With that in mind, Petrino asked South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier if the Cardinals could borrow the Gamecocks’ uniforms for the Rutgers game. However, South Carolina will travel to Florida in a high-profile matchup next Saturday, so The Head Ball Coach did not want any further distractions. To latch onto any karma he can, Petrino plans to periodically throw a visor during the Rutgers game.

The Thursday night pattern contradicts the claim of the “Monday’s Child” nursery rhyme. Children learn that “Thursday’s child has far to go.” The line suggests that Thursday will belong to the team that travels the most distance. This example is further evidence that nursery rhymes show no understanding of college football. Therefore, ESPN has abandoned plans to add Mother Goose to its broadcast team.

Now Louisville must buck the odds as it travels to New Jersey to take on Greg Schiano’s Scarlet Knights. The Cardinals are not as fortunate as fellow unbeaten Boise State. The Broncos dominated Oregon State 42-14 on the blue turf in a Thursday night ESPN game on September 7. Since then, they’ve had a “TGINT” attitude for all their road games: Thank God It’s Not Thursday.