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HTS 2020: Louisville

I think that this seems a relatively familiar matchup is supremely ironic.

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COLLEGE FOOTBALL: OCT 05 Georgia Tech at Louisville Photo by Michael Allio/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Here’s another fun check on the 2020 bingo box: the first matchup of the season that I haven’t had to write one of these from scratch? Louisville. Setting aside the “this is a lot sooner than we planned on seeing them again” aspect, this one is more interesting, if only because, unlike 2018, we actually have some mutual history to talk about.

Louisville Cardinals

Opponent Background:

  • Conference: Atlantic Coast Conference (2014 - present)
  • Location: Louisville, Kentucky
  • All-time Record: 523-476-17 (.523)
  • Home Stadium: Cardinal Stadium (Capacity: 61,000)
  • National Championships: N/A
  • College Football Playoff Appearances: N/A
  • New Year’s Six Bowl Games: 3 (Fiesta: 1, 1990 Orange: 1, 2006 Sugar: 1, 2012)
  • Conference Championships: 8 — (MVC: 1970, 1972* C-USA: 200, 2001, 2004 Big East: 2006, 2011*, 2012*)
  • Division Championships: N/A
  • 2019 Season Record: 8 - 5 (5 - 3 ACC)

Past Results:

  • Team Head-to-Head Record: 1-0-0 (1.000)
  • Recent Meetings:
    2018 - 66-31 Georgia Tech (Louisville, KY)
  • Coach Head-to-Head Record: 0-0-0 (N/A)
  • Tech record vs. Louisville in this week’s venue: 0-0-0 (N/A)

2020 Football Schedule

Date Time (if known) Opponent Conference Historical Record Venue Result Attendence
Date Time (if known) Opponent Conference Historical Record Venue Result Attendence
September 12 3:30 p.m. (ABC) @ Florida State Atlantic Coast 11-14-1 Doak Campbell Stadium, Tallahassee, FL 16-13 W (1 - 0) 17,538
September 19 3:30 p.m. (ABC) UCF American Athletic 3-1-0 Bobby Dodd Stadium, Atlanta, GA 21-49 L (1 - 1) 11,000
September 26 12:00 p.m. (RSNs) @ Syracuse Atlantic Coast 3-1-0 Carrier Dome, Syracuse, NY 20-37 L (1 - 2) 0
October 9 7:00 p.m. (ESPN) Louisville Atlantic Coast 1-0-0 Bobby Dodd Stadium, Atlanta, GA 46-27 W (2 - 2) 11,000
October 17 12:00 p.m. (ABC) Clemson Atlantic Coast 50-32-2 Bobby Dodd Stadium, Atlanta, GA [REDACTED] L (2 - 3) 11,000
October 24 4:00 p.m. (ACCN) @ Boston College Atlantic Coast 7-2-0 Alumni Stadium, Chestnut Hill, MA 27-48 L (2 - 4) 0
October 31 3:30 p.m. (ABC) Notre Dame Atlantic Coast 6-28-1 Bobby Dodd Stadium, Atlanta, GA
November 14 Pittsburgh Atlantic Coast 5-9-0 Bobby Dodd Stadium, Atlanta, GA
November 21 @ Miami (FL) Atlantic Coast 13-12-0 Hard Rock Stadium, Miami Gardens, FL
November 28 Duke Atlantic Coast 51-35-1 Bobby Dodd Stadium, Atlanta, GA
December 5 @ NC State Atlantic Coast 20-10-0 Carter-Finley Stadium, Raleigh, NC
2020 Georgia Tech Football Schedule Arranged by Jake Grant

Cardinal Direction

Louisville is usually considered a young team, one of scrappy upstarts just now finally making their way to play football at the highest level, but their football team actually dates all the way back to 1912, when they were in the gigantic, disorganized mess called the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Association. You might recall this organization as one dominated by the likes of Vanderbilt, and, later, Georgia Tech. However, since it was so dysfunctional - it was hardly even a conference, really - the bigger schools from Kentucky to Florida broke off from the amorphous blob - for all intents and purposes autonomous independents - to form the Southern Conference. When this, too, became unwieldy and awkwardly full, the bigger teams again split off to form the Southeastern Conference, which just means more. This is where Georgia Tech’s path diverges from Louisvilles, though it’s not like either school played each other at all, even when they were in the same conference. Huh. Familiar.

Anyways, in the meantime, schools a step down, which included the likes of South Carolina, Louisville, Clemson, North Carolina, and Duke, were left to pick up the pieces, having a choice between the SoCon and independent status. This is a sidebar comment, but I think the wildly varying perception of conferences and schools, particularly the ACC founders, and the paths they’ve been on the last hundred years would make an interest deep dive. A story for another time.

Louisville chose the latter, nominally a member of the Kentucky Intercollegiate Athletic Conference, another ghost conference like the SIAA. World Wars, financial troubles, and other fits-and-starts growth stalled Louisville’s athletic department, particularly their football program. Between the wars they posted just one winning season, which did very little to offset a decade of failure and misery that would yield a winning percentage of a paltry .378, which wasn’t really all that much better than having no program at all.

Louisville’ fortunes turned upwards after the war when they finally found a competent coach. In 1952, they became an integration pioneer, most notable of those early players to break the color barrier being Lenny Lyles. It is a testament to Louisville’s long history at the intersection of north and south, east and midwest, that it so often finds itself on the edge of history with respect to civil rights and equality, while also being strongly associated with icons of the movement, particularly with Muhammad Ali coming to mind.

As for Louisville football, they would eventually break out of independence to join the Missouri Valley Conference, a few years after one of their greatest-ever products, Johnny Unitas, took the field for the Cardinals. Interestingly, he was allowed to play as a freshman despite the NCAA having rules against that very practice, because, at the time Louisville was not a part of the NCAA, a status one imagines they would like to have retained today. Simpler times. No word on when they actually joined, or most membership timelines, but interesting nonetheless. Camp remains their winningest coach, at 118-95-2, with one win in the Sun Bowl.

In 1969, Lee Corso, famous today for his antics on ESPN’s College Gameday, became head coach. When he left for greener pastures at Indiana of all places, he would be the last to leave with a winning record until John L. Smith. Somewhere in there, the team returned to independent status. The MVC continues play today as a dominant football conference, albeit at the FCS level, mostly independent from its all-sports conference, which has a long history of basketball prowess. Even the legendary Howard Schnellenberger himself, a noted physicist and steward of the early Miami dynasty, couldn’t guide Louisville to a winning record in his tenure. In his introductory press conference in 1985, he was quoted as saying the Louisville Cardinals are, “on a collision course with a national championship. The only variable is time.” He proved to be prescient, in and of the fact that time is, in fact, a variable, and a very prominent one at that. Someone get some real physicists from the Howey Physics Building to tell us more about this impending collision.

In the meantime, Schnellenberger’s collision came closest to happening in 1990, when the team went 10-1-1, beating Alabama in the Fiesta Bowl and finishing ranked for the first time ever, at 11th. He led the team to two bowls in his ten seasons and departed in 1994, furious about the university president pigeonholing them into Conference USA, rather than maintain independent status, because that impeded his ability to “compete for national championships.” The next few years were mostly uneventful, though they featured a few bowl appearances and Conference USA championships. In 2003, the First Bobby Petrino Era began, and their offense was an absolute juggernaut. They won another C-USA title and finished ranked several times. In 2006, they signed Petrino to a ten year contract extension, implying he would be there for a long time. Ten years later, he still was, though it was after departing for the Atlanta Falcons, leaving them in shady circumstances, getting hired at Arkansas, leaving them under shady circumstances, and a couple years of still-pretty-good football from Louisville. As he returned - the Second Bobby Petrino Era - Louisville rose to join the ranks of the ACC, replacing Maryland in 2014. Since then, Louisville has been fortunate to have Lamar Jackson, their first Heisman winner and a transcendent talent.

It would be in the first year after his departure that Tech and Louisville would square off for the first time in their history. It was a Friday night game up in Kentucky, and the much-discussed matchup of Paul Johnson’s triple option offense vs. Brian Van Gorder’s defense that theoretically existed resulted in a very satisfying 66-31 victory for the Jackets. In the game, Tobias Oliver, Qua Searcy, and Taquan Marshall each ran for two touchdowns, with Jordan Mason adding one of his own and Juanyeh Thomas running back an interception for six points. Wesley Wells knocked through a field goal and all seven extra points. That game was two years ago this week, but feels about a million ago. Heck, Tobias Oliver, Jordan Mason, and Juanyeh Thomas are still on the team, and Wesley Wells still has eligibility. Times really have changed. In hindsight, it, along with the 2018 edition of the Techmo Bowl, were the last great games of the Paul Johnson era. In complete honesty, I’ll always look back on that team and this game fondly. But on to newer things, it’s not time to dwell on the past.

We could talk about the brilliant upset of their basketball team in the meantime, or the fact that the 2018 game got Van Gorder fired, and the pathetic 2018 season ended the Second Petrino Era. Louisville got Scott Satterfield. When Paul Johnson stepped down, Tech got Geoff Collins. Your mileage may vary. But the only thing we really need to talk about is this:

Kirb Eye for the Smart Guy

Go read it. You’re welcome.

Tomorrow, Tech hosts Louisville for the first time ever. Tune in to watch on ESPN at 7:00 PM, or it can be heard over the airwaves in the usual suspects, 680 AM / 93.7 FM and the Georgia Tech IMG Sports Radio Network. With the appearance of the historical matchup preview, that means it’s Thursday afternoon, and that concludes From the Rumble Seat’s regularly scheduled pregame content. Tune in tomorrow starting at 6:00 AM for How to Watch continuing through the gameday thread and the postgame recap. Go Jackets!