LOUISVILLE, KY. (WDRB) -- Tiger Woods, SEC football and the UK quarterback situation are all on the agenda for the weekly Morning Meeting with Eric Crawford and Rick Bozich.
1. Tiger Woods finishes another season without a major title. He remains stuck on 14, four behind Jack Nicklaus. How many will he have when he arrives at Valhalla for the 2014 PGA?
RICK: I'll be generous and say, mmmm, 15. That would mean one in the next seven majors, correct? Tiger hasn't been dreadful this season. He simply can't close the way he used to close. He played eight rounds in the major championships on the weekends this year -- and not one of them was under par. The time was when not one of them would be OVER par. He was that good.
Overall, this year was a tiny step forward for Woods. But the days of Tiger intimidating the field in major championships are over. So he'll come here in 2014 with 15. Maybe he'll win 16 when he's in town. Anybody know what happened to Bob May?
ERIC: You're right. You are being generous. I'm going to have to stick to my guns on this one. I've said I'm not going to pick Woods to win another major until he actually proves he can win one. He hasn't done that, and though he looks closer to doing it, he still isn't all that close. At this point, he's going to have to show me. Maybe his next major win will be at Valhalla.
2. Alabama loses a starting cornerback for the year with a knee injury and LSU boots Heisman hopeful Tyrann Mathieu from the squad? Is this the season the SEC finally surrenders the national title?
RICK: I'm not ready to go that far -- yet. But reading practice reports from Tuscaloosa, Nick Saban certainly seems to be worried about the depth and experience in his defense. They'd already lost a ton of talent to the NFL. Now to lose a cornerback when you start the season against Michigan and then play the best quarterback in the SEC (Tyler Wilson of Arkansas) on the road in Game Three. Saban will have to dust off his genius cap.
LSU lost a better player, a guy who made plays on defense and on special teams. But LSU is loaded on defense. Somebody will emerge, although Brent Musburger is still steaming that he won't be able to say "Honey Badger," every 15 minutes.
USC might be the team to beat now. But it's going to take more than two departures to deflate the SEC.
ERIC: Yes. This is the year. The karma just doesn't look good for the SEC right now. Bobby Petrino's situation at Arkansas was the biggest defection, because I thought the Razorbacks were poised to make a run at the SEC and national titles. Don't get me wrong. Cover corners might not grow on trees for Alabama and LSU, but there are plenty of great ones in the bushes. Those programs have talent to burn and their backups are better than the starters at 90 percent of the schools in the country. But a lot still has to go just right to win a national title, and while the SEC champ will always be in the hunt, I have my own hunch that this will be a different kind of season.
3. Joker Phillips says he still has not decided on his starting QB. Who is your pick?
RICK: Joker doesn't have much love in reserve with UK fans, but any love he does have will disappear immediately if Morgan Newton starts against Louisville and can't move the chains. Newton has had plenty of chances to show he's The Guy. Didn't happen. Considering how highly Newton was regarded as a recruit, it's a major reason UK fans are frustrated.
Fans have put their faith in Maxwell Smith because he's a better passer and passing is what matters in college football. Kentucky isn't going to beat good or even decent teams running the ball. They have to upgrade the passing game -- short, mid-range and deep.
That means Maxwell Smith. Newton was a 47.7 percent passer last season who averaged less than 4.6 yards per attempt. Smith was 55 percent and nearly 5.4 yards per attempt. That's not good enough. But it's moving in the right direction.
ERIC: Phillips has a problem. I think if Smith were playing well enough to be The Guy, he'd already have been named The Guy. Therefore, all I can deduce is that he is not. Here's one thing to remember about Newton. If you watched Andre Woodson as a sophomore, you probably didn't figure he'd be playing much longer either. He had the big, deer-in-the-headlights eyes against SEC rushers. He didn't make the right reads or throws. Now, believe me, I know the difference between the two. Woodson still passed for better than 1,600 yards even in a bad sophomore season. He looked like Peyton Manning compared to Newton's form thus far.
But if Newton is winning the job on the practice field, if I'm Joker Phillips I feel like I've got to give him one more shot, just in case the light goes on. Woodson didn't look like a guy who was going to pass for better than 7,000 yards combined in his final two college seasons. Newton is NOT going to be that productive. But night-and-day improvement is possible in the college game. If Newton looks like he might be on that track, Phillips at least needs to allow for that possibility.