Time is now for Louisville

This is not a knock against Charlie Strong and his staff, or Louisville's talent, or the Cardinals' ability to land top-flight prospects.

The program has one of the best coaches in the country, and it has possibly the best quarterback in the country entering the 2013 season.

But if Louisville wants to justify its status as one of the top 25 teams in college football for the next three years, it is going to need to take care of business this fall.

In other words, run the table -- or come awfully close to it.

Barring injury, there is no reason the Cardinals will not be favored in every single game they play in 2013. Whether that is enough for them to get to Pasadena, Calif., and play in the final BCS title game will be based on a number of factors they cannot control -- putting their strength of schedule up against those of contenders from the SEC and elsewhere -- but it will send a strong message for the future, because the path isn't getting any easier.

The 2014 squad, in its first season in the ACC, will travel to Notre Dame, Clemson and Syracuse. It will host Florida State, NC State and Virginia Tech -- a far cry from Ohio, Eastern Kentucky, Florida International, Memphis, Temple and most other schools it will face this fall.

And if the Cardinals have anything resembling the season they are widely expected to have in a few months, they will probably enter the ACC era without Teddy Bridgewater, who as a rising junior is widely projected as the No. 1 or 2 draft pick in 2014.

So yes, things are looking up for Louisville, especially with the way it capped last season against Florida. And the fact that Strong reaffirmed his commitment to the school only adds to all the good vibes that have been coming out of there since this past academic year.

But if the program wants to establish itself as a true national title contender moving forward, these next six months are crucial.