What you say is so important about a non-conference game against a Big 12 opponent in mid-September? Plenty.
For one, the contest against Kansas State is an important opportunity for Kragthorpe to prove that he can win big games as the Louisville coach. And make no mistake, Wednesday night's game against the Wildcats classifies as a big game.
"Obviously it's a marquee matchup Wednesday night on ESPN," Kragthorpe said. "We're excited about the opportunity to play on national television."
Steve Kragthorpe's program.
In two seasons at UofL, Kragthorpe has gone just 2-3 against Division 1 non-conference opponents, including a pair of losses to rival Kentucky. That fact hasn't gone unnoticed by the Louisville fanbase and it's one reason Kragthorpe finds himself in hot water with many diehards. Kansas State provides Kragthorpe a legitimate chance to win back some of those fans.
After missing the post-season in 2007 – the first time the Cardinals hadn't been bowling in a decade – a win over Kansas State could put Louisville back on track for a bowl game this season. With a win, the Cardinals would be 2-1 with winnable non-conference games remaining against Middle Tennessee and Memphis. If Louisville can take care of their non-conference business, getting a few wins in a downtrodden Big East shouldn't be problem. And that would put Louisville back in the bowl business.
There's also the confidence factor. Going 6-6, missing a bowl game for the first time in 10 years and getting routed 27-2 in the season opener against your archrival doesn't help a team's self-esteem. A win over the Wildcats would almost certainly provide this team a much needed confidence boost – a shot in the arm that could fuel an unexpectedly strong Big East run this season.
How about Big East pride? The Big East has been shaky – to say the least – at the beginning of the 2008 season. Rutgers has already dropped two non-conference games, including an embarrassing display at home last week against North Carolina. West Virginia fell to East Carolina two weeks ago. Pittsburgh lost to Bowling Green. Should Louisville come out with a win over the Big 12 Wildcats it would help off-set some of the Big East's early season non-conference slipups.
If that weren't enough to convince you that Wednesday's tilt against Kansas State is an important one, consider this final reason: Recruiting. Louisville isn't setting the recruiting world on fire and with just six verbal commitments the Cardinals have the second-fewest pledges in the league. So winning a nationally televised game against a respected BCS program couldn't hurt the Cardinals recruiting efforts.
"It's a big boost because we're the only game on television and everybody is going to be watching," said Kragthorpe. "From a recruiting standpoint it's a huge coup to be able to showcase our program."
So there you have it – five good reasons why Wednesday's ESPN tilt against Kansas State is an important one for Steve Kragthorpe and the Louisville Cardinals.