The lofty ranking provides a nice report card of what Petrino has accomplished during his first two years as a head coach. It speaks volumes of his ability to prepare and motivate his players, game plan and recruit.
"I know, he's only been on the job for two years, but the guy is a certifiable guru," Mandel wrote of Petrino. "While John L. Smith got the Cardinals' ball rolling, Petrino has taken them to a whole other stratosphere with his unique offensive mind and ability to recruit BCS-caliber skill players."
Three of the coaches that precede Petrino on Mandel's list have won BCS championships and as numerous preseason accolades are tossed towards his 2005 Cardinals squad, the third year coach says that this is the year to prove that a championship can be won at Louisville.
"It's something that we have been working towards," Petrino said in June. "We hope that we are ready to do that, but like I said, it's yet to be seen. We have to go show it and not just talk about it."
During his first two years on the job in the River City, Petrino has continually proved that Louisville football is a championship worthy program. Petrino has guided the Cardinal program to it's most successful two-year stretch in school history, compiling a 20-5 mark. During that stretch he has outscored his opponents 1,043 to 597. Last fall, Petrino's offense finished the season tops in the nation, while his defense ended the 2004 season 15th in the country.
"He's an offensive genius," sophomore quarterback Brian Brohm told Inside The Ville on Thursday. "He know's the in's and out's of offense more than anybody I have ever been around and more than most people out there."
Petrino's teams have also continued U of L's stretch of consecutive bowl appearances, which now stands at seven straight. Last fall, the Cardinals claimed the conference crown - going undefeated in league play - and faced top ten ranked and undefeated Boise State in the Liberty Bowl and posted a thrilling come from behind 44-40 victory over the Broncos.
With the University of Louisville now officially members of the BIG EAST Conference, the Cardinals now have a clearer path to the Bowl Championship Series and a number of preseason publications are predicting that U of L will participate in it's BCS Bowl following the 2005 regular season.
"Now we have the BCS bid, so it really elevates our goals," said defensive tackle Amobi Okoye. "I would say that they are little bit higher for this year, but they are attainable. We wouldn't set a goal if it wasn't attainable for us."
His ability to recruit high profile high school players also seperates Petrino from among many of his peers. He has signed the last three top-rated prospects from the Bluegrass State (Michael Bush, Brian Brohm and Earl Heyman), as well as a number of other highly sought after athletes, both in and out of state.
"I came here to help Louisville win it all, so that's what I'm here for," said junior college newcomer Zach Anderson, who was a 4-star Scout.com prospect and turned down scholarship offers from Alabama, Auburn, Oklahoma State, Texas A&M and others to play at Louisville.
Zach Meagher, another Scout.com 4-star prospect and the first verbal commitment for the Class of 2006 said that the opportunity to play for one of the nation's top programs was the motivating factor behind his early decision to pledge to U of L.
"Louisville's an awesome football program and they are going to win a lot of games because they are able to score so many points," he said. "I wanted to go somewhere where I knew I would win and Louisville gives me that."
Louisville sophomore offensive lineman Breno Giacomini believes that it's Petrino's attention to even the smallest details that has helped the coach become one of the nation's best.
"He's a great man and a great coach," said Giacomini. "It's the little things he does that makes him different. When he is on the field coaching, he expects that you'll practice perfectly and not mess up and I think he prepares his team better than anybody in the country."
His accomplishments on and off the field after just two seasons, along with his deep desire for perfection from himself, his staff and his team, has his players paying attention.
"We listen to everything he says, because he definately knows what he is talking about," Brohm said.