After blowing out then-No. 2 Florida State 63-20 last week, the third-ranked Louisville Cardinals suddenly finds themselves not only in the hunt for an Atlantic Coast Conference title, but are also being looked at as a strong national championship contender as they travel to Huntington, W. Va., to take on the Marshall Thundering Herd at Joan C. Edwards Stadium on Saturday night.
The Cardinals (3-0), who opened last spring with 100-to-1 odds to win the national title, are all the way down to 5-to-1 after last weekend's nationally televised smack-down of the Seminoles. And quarterback Lamar Jackson, not exactly a household name a few weeks ago, adorns this week's cover of Sports Illustrated and is leading a number of Heisman Trophy polls.
But as coach Bobby Petrino made clear to his team in the following days, it's time to move on and focus on the rest of the schedule, beginning with Saturday's road trip to Marshall.
"We did a great job and it was a great win for us, but we haven't reached our goals," Petrino said. "We're only three games into the season and we have to get back to work."
That focus isn't going to be easy. The Cardinals handed the vaunted Seminoles one of the most lopsided losses it its history. Dalvin Cook was held to 54 yards on the ground, while Deonte Francious was sacked five times and threw for just 101 yards.
"Our plan going in was to set the edge and get guys playing gaps ... don't give guys many seams," Petrino said. "For the most part, we did a great job with that, and that put them behind the sticks."
"I'm going to tell you what my team told me," Jackson said. "They were like, we aren't taking our foot off the gas. You know that goes for anybody we are playing -- trying to score every time we get the ball."
Jackson is putting up video game like numbers so far this season. He has 10 rushing touchdowns through three games, including four each in the victories over Syracuse and Florida State. He's averaging 9.5 yards per carry. Oh, and he's also a dangerous pocket passer, as his 411 yards against Syracuse two weeks ago can attest. He's also third in the country in yards per pass attempt at 11.1.
It's hardly a one-man show, however. Running back Brandon Radcliff had another 100-yard game against Florida State, with 118 yards and a touchdown. He's averaging 11.4 yards per carry in 2016, and his 22 career rushing touchdowns are ninth all-time at Louisville. And wide receiver James Quick had seven catches for 122 yards against the Seminoles and now has five career 100-yard receiving games, one of only 12 wide receivers to hit that mark in program history.
Marshall enters the week 1-1 after a 65-38 loss to Akron at home last week. Quarterback Chase Litton threw for 413 yards and four touchdowns in the setback.
"Just know, this Marshall team is not done," Litton promised on the way out of the post-game press conference.
The Herd surrendered 379 passing yards, including seven completions of 20 or more yards, had four turnovers and also had a punt blocked. That should bode well for a Louisville offense that's excelled at creating big plays, both on the ground and through the air.
Still, Petrino expects the road crowd to be ready to do its best to sway the game in Marshall's favor, remembering his last trip to the university.
"It was in the second round of the (1987) I-AA playoffs, when I was coaching for Weber State," Petrino said. "They were cranked up and ready to go. I remember getting off the bus, and all these people running up to the fence and started yelling at us. So I imagine it'll be a pretty good atmosphere. I think it's great. It's what we like to do."
The Thundering Herd defeated the Cardinals 17-13 in the last meeting between the two schools in 2011 -- the first career start for current Minnesota Vikings quarterback Teddy Bridgewater. Louisville has dropped the last four meetings with the Thundering Herd and is looking for its first win in the series since a 36-0 victory in 1981.