It also could well be the final game for Steve Kragthorpe as the Cardinals coach.
Kragthorpe, the embattled third-year coach, isn't expected back for a fourth season. He's 15-20 in three seasons and last week's 34-22 loss to USF assured a second consecutive losing season for the Cardinals – the first time that's happened at UofL since 1996-97, Ron Cooper's last two years.
The loss to South Florida, a game Louisville led at halftime, dropped the Cardinals Big East record to 1-5 this season. Over the last two seasons, Kragthorpe has won just 2 of 13 league contests. Overall, he's just 5-15 with 0-3 records against West Virginia and UConn. Kragthorpe doesn't have a winning mark against any league team.
"I think we've made a lot of progress, not in the win-loss column like we want to but we've come short in a couple games where I felt we were a play or two from winning it," Kragthorpe said. "I know how this thing works as a head coach. I've been around long to know the bottom line is you have to win football games and we haven't won enough football games."
Only two of UofL's six losses this season have been by 10 points or fewer. Louisville lost to Kentucky 31-27 and 17-9 against West Virginia. The Cardinals lost to Utah by 16; Pittsburgh by 25; UConn by 13; Cincinnati by 31; and South Florida by 12.
"I'm frustrated with that and disappointed with that for our team, for our fans and everybody involved that loves Louisville football," Kragthorpe said. "It's sickened me that we haven't gotten enough wins. When you lose it's absolutely miserable."
This season, Louisville ranks last in the Big East in scoring offense and scoring defense. The Cardinals rank last in the Big East in two other offensive categories and three others on defense.
"I'm pleased with the players effort, heart and character," said Kragthorpe. "They've come to work every day. They've had a great attitude and have been very comfortable. It's frustrating for me not to be able to get them the wins that they want."
While his future at UofL still hasn't been publicly decided, Kragthorpe plans to be back on the Cardinals sideline next season. In fact, he's planning on hitting the road next week for recruiting.
"For me, I'm planning on being back," Kragthorpe said. "We'll have a recruiting meeting on Saturday. The dead period is over now so we can start going out on Sunday. So that's our plan right now. Until I'm told something different we're working toward that plan and that's my mode of operation right now.
"We were out recruiting all last week and we'll go out recruiting all next week after this game. We've got a lot of official visits set up and a really good recruiting class. Like I said, until I'm told something different I'm moving full speed ahead."
While Kragthorpe has 16 verbal commitments for next year, the Cardinals recruiting class is ranked just 56th nationally. With a 2.31 star rating per commitment, Louisville ranks ahead of only Syracuse and UConn in the Big East in Scout.com's rankings.
"We're going to win here, we're going to win here," Kragthorpe said. "It's taken longer than I wanted it to be, the fans wanted it to be but we're going to win here. It's a great place, a great administration, great facilities and we've got great fans. And we've got some really good young players that can get us where we want to be."
UofL AD Tom Jurich is expected to weigh in on Kragthorpe's future after the Cardinals end the season Friday at home against Rutgers.
"That's not my decision," Kragthorpe said about his future at Louisville. "I'll let the powers that be make that decision. I'm disappointed we haven't won more football games. Very disappointed. I know that's how you're judged as a head coach and hopefully I'll get a chance to stay here and win a bunch of games because I think we're on the cusp of doing that. Whether I am or not I'm not in control of that."
Louisville made nine straight bowl appearances prior to Kragthorpe's arrival in 2007 but haven't played in the post-season since.
"You've got to win more games. It's a bottom line business," Kragthorpe said. "We have to win more than what we've won, we need to get to a bowl game and win those close games that we haven't been able to win this year."
Kragthorpe said Monday that he has maintained contact with Jurich but that he and the Cardinals athletic director haven't talked about his future yet.
"I'm sure after this game we'll sit down and talk about that," Kragthorpe said.