When the Cards became bowl eligible the day after Thanksgiving, the Big East bowl picture was still quite murky. The only thing we really knew for sure was outside of the BCS game, the only game the Cards weren’t going to play in was the Pinstripe Bowl (Syracuse was a lock for that once they became bowl eligible). The only legitimate bowl possibilities were games in Detroit, St. Petersburg, Birmingham, Charlotte, and El Paso.
From Louisville’s perspective, not all of those worked.
First, Louisville has a somewhat important basketball game on December 31, which eliminates the Meineke Car Care Bowl in Charlotte, as well as the Sun Bowl in El Paso. It was very important for UofL to not potentially force the fans to make a choice between bowl game and the UK basketball game. So unless they absolutely had no choice but to play in one of those, the Cards weren’t going.
After eliminating those two, UofL was left with trips to Detroit, Birmingham, or St. Petes.
Well, Louisville didn’t really prefer the Little Caesars Bowl in Detroit because it is held the day after Christmas which would make it tough to bring a large contingent of fans. Personally, I did not want a game in Detroit because, well, it’s Detroit. I’d willingly go to Memphis before Motown. Cross 8 Mile off the list.
That left the UofL brass with the BBVA Compass Bowl in Birmingham or the Beef O’ Brady’s Bowl in St. Petersburg. Comparing those two games, the choice was obvious. Playing in the Beef O’ Brady’s Bowl was the absolute best option for Louisville.
From an on the field, football perspective, the Cards get to play an indoor game, which takes any possible crazy weather out of play. It also gives the Cards a game against a very beatable opponent. I completely understand the argument of “I don’t care who we play, just getting to the game is great”, and I generally agree with it.
However, the momentum gained by heading into the off-season with a bowl win is so much greater than a loss. Make no mistake, Louisville could lose, Southern Miss did go 8-4, but I’ll take my chances with them.
From a recruiting perspective, it gives the Louisville program great exposure in the state of Florida, a state where Charlie Strong and company are setting up shop. It is tangible proof to recruits that Strong is indeed turning the program around and should make it easier to buy what Strong is selling.
Finally, it’s a great destination for the fans. It is not too difficult to convince many fans to head to Florida during winter and break the shorts back out for a few days. Combine that with the fact the game is played on December 21, the Tuesday before Christmas, and it allows travelling fans enough time to get back home for the holidays.
I think when you take all those things into consideration, the Cards could not have landed in a better place.