It's time to predict how many football games U of L, UK, IU and WKU will win this season.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – In Las Vegas, they don't care if a coach is parked on the Hot Seat or expected to win his league. Disregard emotions. In Las Vegas, they worry about placing the wagering numbers in the spot that will divide the money equally in the proposition.
Here is the proposition – for purposes of debate and this column: How many football games will Louisville, Kentucky, Indiana and Western Kentucky win?
Vegas wants you to take a stand. Here are the over/under win totals from one site:
Louisville – 9 victories.
Kentucky – 5 ½.
Indiana – 3 ½.
No number for WKU. I'll create one – 5 ½.
I'll take the first stand.
LOUISVLLLE – Push On 9 Wins. It's awful to write about taking a stand and then predict a nine-win season for Charlie Strong's team. But nine wins is the sensible call.
When Strong addressed the media last week, he sounded like a coach who loved his team. He should adore his team. His two leading concerns were a fourth tight end and the kicking game. Strong has stuffed his roster with talent and depth. The competition for playing time is legitimate. That's how teams improve.
So why only nine?
Louisville was formidable (5-2) in the Big East last season, but beatable (2-4) outside the league. One win came against Murray State, an FCS program. The other was UK. The Cards have a 15-day September stretch when they play North Carolina, FIU and Southern Miss, getting only the Tar Heels at home. That's the defining stretch of the season. Credibility points must come outside the league.
For all the optimism surrounding the Cards, remember that Louisville ranked last in the Big East in scoring in 2011 and finished in the bottom half of the league in total offense, rushing offense and passing offense. The offense should be improved, but it has to be improved.
Make it 9-3, still a 50 percent jump in regular-season wins.
KENTUCKY – Under 5 ½ wins. I'll start with this nugget: Clay Travis, from the college football blog OutkickTheCoverage.com and a noted UK skeptic, wrote in July that he had already bet $1,000 against the Wildcats to win 4 ½ games.
The Wildcats had won at least six for five consecutive seasons until 2011. Not a good trend for Joker Phillips to re-connect with season ticket holders who did not invest for the 2012 season.
For Kentucky, I'll start with games the Wildcats won't win: at Florida, South Carolina, at Arkansas, Georgia, at Missouri.
That leaves seven shot at six victories – and the Wildcats open as 14 ½-point underdogs at Louisville.
Kent State, picked fourth in the East Division of the Mid-American Conference, and Samford, an FCS team that lost five times last season, are the safest calls.
That's two. Western Kentucky is no gimme, even in Commonwealth Stadium. But without Bobby Rainey, I'll give UK that one.
After that? Mississippi State and Vanderbilt at home? At Tennessee? At Louisville?
I'll go to five. But not an inch beyond – unless the Wildcats shock the world Sept. 2.
Then I'll reassess – and Clay Travis will gasp.
INDIANA – Over 3 ½ wins. Not only did the Hoosiers fail to win a Big Ten game last season, they were not ahead for a single snap in the second half. Their only win came against South Carolina State, an FCS-program that finished 7-4. Transfers and injuries softened an already thin roster.
So how is Kevin Wilson going to jump from one victory to four?
There's no margin for error (or injuries), but Wilson has collected several productive offensive parts. Quarterback Tre Roberson can run out of trouble. Receiver is Indiana's deepest position. Stephen Houston is a legitimate back being pushed by freshman Tevin Coleman. The defense has been rearranged with junior-college transfers, but offense will be the Hoosiers' ticket.
Indiana State, the home opener, is one. At Massachusetts is two. A payback game against Ball State is three. Then the Hoosiers' offense will get Number Four against Northwestern, Illinois or Iowa by hanging 33 points on one of them.
WKU – Over 5 ½. The Hilltoppers are the most difficult team to predict. They made an impressive jump from two wins to seven last season, winning twice in overtime and another by a point. The close ones don't always break your way, especially with Bobby Rainey in the NFL.
But Willie Taggart has convinced his guys they can win. He's recruited well in consecutive seasons. The fan base is engaged. The mojo is positive. I like the Toppers to win six.