Today was the first and the last AAC media days. Our Cardinals were voted a unanimous favorite to win their one season in the conference. It was pretty much a no brainer that a team that went 11-2, won the Allstate Sugar Bowl and returns 14 starters would be the favorite. The Cardinals received 28 of a possible 30 first-place votes and had 298 points in the preseason voting of media representatives. Cincinnati received the other two first-place votes and had 257 points. That should make that “Keg of Nails” battle even more interesting at the end of the season. I’ve said it all along that game will be the biggest of the season.
Believe it or not folks this is going to be a competitive league. The top five teams in the preseason poll either won or shared their league’s regular-season championship last season. Our Cardinals will have to bring it every weekend to keep their dream alive. Nobody echoed that sentiment more than Charlie Strong today. His theme has remained very consistent and is one of playing hungry and staying humble. His final comment at the podium today pretty much said it all:
COACH STRONG: “The theme for us is going to be either we’re growing or we’re dying. If we’re growing, we’re trying to get better each and every day and we’re trying to improve the program.”
“If we’re dying, we’ll be at the program that’s just going to want to maintain. We don’t want to get better. We’ll become complacent. And that’s what we can’t do. We can’t become complacent. We can’t be self-absorbed, or we get cocky. We get arrogant. Because there’s still a lot of questions and this team still has a lot of room for improvement.”
“Like I said, we’re nowhere near where we should be and we can get better. You look at the games we lost last year, we’re sitting there, we’re playing pretty good. We’re 8-0. We go to Syracuse, they slap us pretty good. We come back at home against Connecticut. They beat us. Then we had to go into a game where we have to go win on the road against Rutgers.”
“I tell them all the time, guys, the measuring stick of this team is going to be measured to that Florida game. And we played very well in that game. So now everyone is going to expect you to play each game the way you played in that game, and it’s not going to happen.”
“So let’s not get full of ourselves and let’s not think that we have all the answers because the moment you do, you will walk into a game, you’ll get into a week where you won’t practice well and you’ll go get it put on you pretty good. And then that would be a wake-up call.”
“We don’t need any wake-up calls. We need to hit the alarm button before somebody comes in there and puts it on us really good.”
“So it’s about us making sure we maintain our focus. And the preparation has to be there, the commitment has to be there, the right attitude.”
“Our players need to have an attitude of each and every week, that attitude of myself, I want to go get better as a coach, as a player, as a whole program. And if that happens within our program then we have a chance. But we have to make sure that that happens and it happens each and every day. And if that happens, then we’ll be able to carry it on through the year.”
It’s one thing to have a team full of athletes that are capable of reaching greatness, but having a coach like Charlie Strong leading them is icing on the cake. I don’t know if we will go undefeated this season but I do know that our guys will give it their best shot and I know coach Strong will make sure of that.