Seventh-ranked Louisville welcomes some down time after slipping out of the national title discussion.
Plenty of time remains for the Cardinals to be reconsidered, though, and much now depends on how they and Heisman Trophy front-runner Lamar Jackson rebound from last Saturday's loss to No. 3 Clemson.
Coach Bobby Petrino said this week's bye comes at a good time for Louisville (4-1, 2-1 Atlantic Coast Conference). Besides allowing players to heal from a grueling opening stretch that included complete domination of then-No. 2 Florida State and a tough 42-36 loss at Clemson, the Cardinals get to regroup and figure out how to run the table.
Even with the loss, they're obviously in a better place one year after entering the break 2-3 and trying to salvage a season.
''We've had a very grueling schedule and a lot of intensity, a couple of huge, huge games,'' Petrino said this week. ''So I think it's a good opportunity for us to settle in and get our schoolwork done and everything we need to do with class work, get back to technique and fundamentals, kind of go back to half of the practice being camp practice where you go ones-on-ones and work hard on it.
''Then, some of your guys are able to heal up,'' he said. ''So, for us it's a great time for our bye.''
Especially since it allows Jackson to recharge and follow up his dynamic start.
Any discussion of the Heisman has begun with the 6-3, 204-pound sophomore, who has passed and rushed for 14 touchdowns each and combined for 2,313 yards. The national leader in several offensive categories has room for improvement after throwing a career-high three interceptions and fumbling once at Clemson, but his leadership showed as he finished with 306 yards passing and positioned Louisville to have one final chance that fell a yard short on fourth down.
The frustrated look on Jackson's face after his mistakes spoke volumes about his desire to get it right, an attitude he has shown in workouts this week.
''We'll mess up a play and Lamar will immediately come back with, `Let's do it again,' " Louisville wide receiver Jaylen Smith said on Petrino's weekly radio show. ''You have to want to be perfect.''
The Cardinals' task now is a perfect finish they hope will keep them on the radar for the four-team playoff. Their remaining schedule seems favorable toward regaining that dominance.
Louisville hosts Duke on Oct. 14 in the first of five straight ACC games before the Cardinals visit No. 6 Houston in a non-conference showdown on Nov. 17 that could shape their playoff prospects. That conference docket certainly isn't easy, with North Carolina State, Boston College and Wake Forest all boasting winning records.
Overtaking Clemson to win the Atlantic Division would require two losses by the Tigers, an unlikely scenario considering they seem energized by clearing their toughest challenge to date. Louisville remains unfazed and challenged to improve on offense, defense and special teams and play its best football from here on.
''We've got a lot of pride on our team,'' Petrino said, ''and guys were able to watch the (Clemson) video and know that we competed extremely hard. (We) just had 15 or 20 plays in there, where if we make one of them, the outcome's different.
''We're going to stick together as a team, have a great attitude and continue to work hard and try to improve,'' the coach added.
AP College Football: collegefootball.ap.org
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