LOUISVILLE, KY. (WDRB) -- While the rest of the football-speaking world is fixated on the NFL and its replacement ref problem, the WDRB College Football Notebook is just fine to stay immersed in the college game, where replacement refs wouldn't be ridiculed, but welcome. The 'Book would love to see replacement refs in, say, the Big East. In fact, the officials are about the only thing in the league the ACC hasn't stolen. But we move on. The latest edition of the 'Book awaits . . .
UH OH, CLINTON HAS TURNED HIS ATTENTION TO ARKANSAS FOOTBALL
Former president Bill Clinton has his sights set on the home stretch of the current presidential election and on running his global initiative on issues all over the world, but that doesn't mean he's forgotten what's really important -- Arkansas football.
Forget the coaching and the turmoil, Clinton had his own assessment of what's going on with the Razorbacks: "It's the line, stupid." Clinton told Brian Scarborough in an MSNBC interview, "It doesn't look like they have much of a line on either side of the ball. They've got a great quarterback and three receivers and nobody else is playing really well. They have two great, really good, running backs and they are not doing so great this year. So, it looks like — to me — like a line problem."
Don't laugh. Expect Clinton to be a candidate for the Arkansas job by noon today, and for University of Kentucky fans to be debating his fitness to lead the Wildcats by this afternoon. UK has tried everything else -- native son, offbeat passing innovator, former Alabama coach, old-school veteran, why not a former President?
The guy can raise some serious money.
By the way -- don't expect Arkansas to pull the plug on John L. Smith during the season. Despite three straight losses and mistakenly referring to Arkansas as "Alabama," (hey, the 'Book does that all the time), Smith won't be rushed out, according to Arkansas A.D. Jeff Long, who told the Northwest Arkansas Touchdown Club that he's "steadfastly" committed to Smith for the rest of the season.
LOUISVILLE NOT FEELING THE LOVE FROM ALL POLLSTERS
The Associated Press college football poll voters this year are a tough room. And not all of them have been dazzled by the University of Louisville's 4-0 start. In fact, the way the Cardinals staggered to the finish line against North Carolina and then only handled Florida International by seven points has left some of them downright unimpressed.
Three of the 65 voters in the poll did not include Louisville on their Top 25 ballots at all this week – Eric Hansen of the South Bend (Ind.) Tribune, Ray Ratto of Comcast Sports Bay Area and Mike Hlas of the Cedar Rapids (Iowa) Gazette.
Hlas found space on his ballot for Rutgers (23) and Louisiana Tech (24). Ouch. Ratto preferred Iowa State (23) and Wisconsin (24). Hansen tossed some love to Texas A&M (21) and two-loss Michigan (25). Really?
One school in no danger of making any of those ballots -- U of L's next opponent, Southern Miss. WIth only one game against a potential Top 25 team looming ahead on the schedule, U of L is going to have to find other ways to impress.
CARDS' OPPONENTS FEELING NO PRESSURE
U of L football fans don't need statistical proof that the Cardinal defense isn't getting pressure on opposing offenses like it did a year ago, but The 'Book is going to throw some out there anyway.
After Week 4 a year ago, U of L ranked second in the nation in tackles for loss with 9.3 per game. This year, the Cards rank 117th in the nation -- four spots from the bottom -- in the same statistic, with just 3 tackles per game behind the line of scrimmage. It's a similar story with sacks, where the Cards currently rank 97th in the nation with four sacks in four games.
That's exactly the number of sacks, by the way, that Charlie Strong said his team missed in the victory at FIU.
Senior linebacker Preston Brown said he thinks the defense is close to working things out.
"It's the little stuff," he said. "It's not like we're overmatched, we're just having mental mistakes that lead to big plays."
But Brown also said the tackle-for-loss stats can be misleading.
"We've been playing a lot of three-step (drop) teams," he said. "They've been getting the ball out hot. Linebackers are a part of that too. We blitz and we haven't gotten enough pressure either, so we all have to play together as a whole and get some sacks."
UK'S SMITH SAYS HIS SHOULDER IS SEPARATED, BUT HE'S READY TO PLAY
University of Kentucky coach Joker Phillips had quarterback Maxwell Smith sit out of throwing drills on Wednesday after throwing the ball Tuesday, and Smith was expected to throw in practice again today in advance of Saturday's game against visiting South Carolina.
Smith described his shoulder as separated on Tuesday, and said he had some soreness after practice, but that he expects the injury can heal without surgery.
"I felt like I threw it pretty well," Smith said after Tuesday's workout. It was painful, so maybe I wasn't able to snap on some balls like I wanted to. I made every throw, but a little bit inaccurate. It'll be all right. It'll all come."
A "little bit inaccurate" would be a big improvement from what the Wildcats saw at Florida. But freshman Jalen Whitlow has stepped into the No. 2 spot officially now, and coaches hope he'll get up to speed quickly -- but Phillips' endorsement wasn't ringing when asked about Whitlow's practice time with the first team.
"He wasn't God-awful," Phillips said. "He made some throws."
One problem is that the receivers seem sharper when Smith is at the controls. There were several drops with Morgan Newton at quarterback during the Florida loss of the type that haven't been seen as much this season.
"I'll tell you this," Phillips said. "The guys when Max is out there, you can tell, the receivers are practicing at a different level, definitely. So rhythm? I don't know if it's rhythm, but I can tell you this: There's a little bit more enthusiasm. The guy's completing 68 percent of his passes. If I'm a receiver, yeah, I'm happy because I know I'm going to be involved in the passing game. But I don't know if it has anything to do with rhythm, but it has something to do with the attitude of our players on offense."
IU STILL WAITING FOR THE TURNAROUND
Indiana has lost eight straight Big Ten games during a period where most people, including The 'Book, are wondering what has happened to the Big Ten. The league doesn't have a team in the national championship hunt – or even a team ranked in the top 12 in the nation.
The Hoosiers, 2-1, head to Northwestern Saturday after a week off. Quarterback Cam Coffman is expected to be available after healing from a hip pointer. Indiana could be without linebacker Chase Hoobler, whose replacement is Flo Hardin, a sophomore from Ballard High School.
In a six-page interview with Inside Indiana magazine, IU athletic director Fred Glass was asked how important it was for the Hoosiers to gain traction in football.
"We need to get better in football," Glass said. "Football is important because it can generate funds for the rest of the department, and football is important from the University's perspective -- for better or worse, rightly or wrongly – (because) a lot of people get their perceptions of a university based on the quality of their football program.
"I think the stakes are really high to get better in football. We made the investments to do that. I think we've hired the right coaches. I think we just need to stick with it, not get nervous and realize these things take time. I think if we do, we'll be rewarded for that."
WELL, THIS COULD BE AWKWARD
The most interesting game in the Big Ten this weekend will be played in Champaign, Ill. Not the most important game. That one will be played at Michigan State when Ohio State comes town.
But The 'Book knows that the most interesting game will be played at noon at the University of Illinois when Penn State, winner of two straight, visits. Bill O'Brien's team has won consecutive games against Navy and Temple.
Turn the clock back to the summer when the NCAA delivered a five-year probation to the Nittany Lions in the aftermath of the Jerry Sandusky scandal. As part of the punishment, Penn State players were permitted to transfer with immediate eligibility.
Enter vultures. See carcass.
Many schools talked with Penn State players, but no school was as aggressive as Illinois. Tim Beckman, the Illini head coach, sent multiple assistant coaches to State College.
They left town with one defector – back-up offensive lineman Ryan Nowicki.
It didn't appear to be a topic Beckman wanted to dwell on this week. Wonder why.
"I regret that it ended up being this talked about but it did give a young man the opportunity to make his decision on what he wanted to do." Beckman told StateCollege.com.
"When we had that opportunity to go out and ask young men, or if they come to us, and they would like an opportunity to speak to us, I think that's what college football is about."
O'Brien and his guys will get their chance to show what college football is all about Saturday.
Bozich and Crawford are running neck-and-neck in their weekly predictions from the WDRB.com SportsPage Live webcast. Both went 4-1 last week. Bozich narrowly missed when he picked Arkansas to beat Rutgers. Crawford picked Notre Dame over Michigan. For the season, Crawford is 17-3 and Bozich is 16-4. Here are this week's offerings . . .
LOUISVILLE at SOUTHERN MISS Rick says: Louisville 27, Southern Miss 13 Eric says: Louisville 35, Southern Miss 21
SOUTH CAROLINA at KENTUCKY Rick says: South Carolina 48, Kentucky 10 Eric says: South Carolina 45, UK 14
WESTERN KENTUCKY at ARKANSAS STATE Rick says: WKU 21, Arkansas State 20 Eric says: Arkansas State 24, WKU 21
CINCINNATI at VIRGINIA TECH Rick says: Virginia Tech 21, Cincinnati 17 Eric says: Virginia Tech 28, Cincinnati 21
TENNESSEE at GEORGIA Rick says: Georgia 28, Tennessee 12 Eric says: Georgia 31, Tennessee 21
Associated Press national college football writer Ralph Russo decided that the one-third mark of the regular-season was the perfect time to re-take the pulse of the Heisman Trophy Race. Here is Russo's Super Seven – and The 'Book will warn University of Louisville fans not to get excited.
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