The Monday Morning Meeting is back in session, with the University of Louisville's game at Southern Mississippi this weekend at the top of the agenda . . .
1. Western Kentucky dispatched Southern Mississippi by 25 points Saturday night. How important is it that Louisville defeat the Golden Eagles by 26 or more this weekend in Hattiesburg?
RICK: Southern Miss played Nebraska the first weekend and lost by 29. The Golden Eagles got rolled in Bowling Green. A week after playing Louisville, Southern Miss plays Boise State, another program convinced it belongs in the Top 25 discussion.
Louisville is competing with all those teams for recognition. The comparative score game is risky and sometimes irrelevant. It gets out of hand. But everybody does it because teams only play four or five non-league games, and how else can you compare leagues and programs? Like it or not, folks are going to measure the Cardinals by how easily they win this Saturday in Hattiesburg.
So on a 1-to-10 scale, it's a 7.5.
ERIC: More important than even keeping up with the scores of those other games, U of L needs to show progress, and I'm not sure it has during the last three halves of football.
After being outplayed in the second half by North Carolina, the Cardinals were not-quite convincing in a trip to FIU.
Whether they win by 7 or 27 in Hattiesburg, they need to show signs of being the kind of lock-down defense that coaches hoped they would be, and they need to find a level of offensive consistency -- something they've been not too far away from.
The danger of this game is that Hattiesburg has never been an easy place for U of L to play, and Southern Miss' recent track record may not be the best tool for dialing U of L's players in for this week of preparation.
Getting caught up in beating a team by x number of points is almost always a losing proposition. U of L just needs to get itself clicking, and let the margin fall where it may.
2. We're only a third of the way through the season, and the entire Big Ten has already been eliminated from the national championship discussion. What's wrong with the Big Ten?
RICK: Do I really have to answer this? I guess I do because I came up with the question. But this isn't two paragraphs. It's a book.
The Big Ten has major issues at quarterback. There aren't any great ones in the league. The league's signature programs -- Ohio State, Penn State, Michigan -- are dealing with the aftermath of NCAA problems or instability in the coaching office. Nebraska hasn't added the muscle it was supposed to add.
The league has lost its way and its mojo. I'm not sure when it will get up and push back.
ERIC: Ohio State and Michigan are on the way back, but they're not back. And until one or both of them are, the Big Ten will lack star power.
The league already was in danger of slipping down the relevance scale because of its inability to deal with the SEC in national championship settings, and now the Pac 12, with more entertaining football, frankly, has surpassed it in terms of national "Q" rating, which is no easy feat west of the Mississippi in an East-coast biased climate.
Maybe this is what happens when you're as much a cable network as you are a football conference.
3. Louisiana State won at Auburn -- and Oregon still jumped the Tigers in the polls because of the Ducks' 49-point win against Arizona. Are you OK with that?
RICK: According to the BCS, every game counts but the margin of victory is not supposed to count. Looks like the voters in the polls disagree.
If you watched the two teams Saturday night, Oregon won the look test. The Ducks are miles ahead of LSU on offense and looked good enough on defense to make it to the last game of the season.
LSU still has issues at quarterback. Advantage Ducks. So, no, I don't have a problem with it.
ERIC: No problem here, either, because I think it's less a margin-of-victory thing than LSU just not looking good at Auburn.
I know Auburn played better in the game, but that was not a good LSU performance, and frankly, I think it's right that the polls should reflect that week-to-week. Just because you earn a certain spot one week doesn't mean you should hang onto it every week regardless of how you play. I like seeing the polls be more responsive to these things, rather than just setting themselves in stone.
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