The college football season has arrived and there are at least three pressing questions for U of L, UK, IU and WKU.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – The helmets have been polished and even redesigned in some cases. Schedules have been analyzed. Optimism reigns.
Two new head coaches – Mark Stoops at Kentucky and Bobby Petrino of Western Kentucky -- are barking instructions. Expectations should not strangle them, but fans are certainly curious.
Charlie Strong has a University of Louisville team that aspires to launch itself to something greater than its opening spot of Number 9 in the USA Today coaches' poll. Kevin Wilson upgraded Indiana from one win to four last season – and needs to find at least two more this fall.
To celebrate the opening of practice for the 2013 college football season, the Monday Rewind plays it forward with three essential questions for all four schools.
Let's break the huddle.
1. Will the offensive line protect Teddy Bridgewater and improve its run blocking?
The Cards ranked 102nd in the nation in rushing last season. Bridgewater took too many hits. The line needs to knock more people down – and is missing two critical parts in Alex Kupper and Mario Benavides.
2. How will the team handle the suffocating expectations?
Strong has been working overtime to quiet the talk of 12-0, reminding everybody that last season's 11-2 team could have easily been a 7-6 team. He's right. But will fans listen?
3. If Michael Dyer get a large chunk of the snaps at halfback, how will the coaching staff keep all the backs happy?
Dyer is here to play, not lead cheers from the sidelines. But the Cards' other backs have invested several trips to the weight room, expecting considerable playing time, too. Two of them, Dominique Browns and Senorise Perry, have battled through injuries.
1. Who does offensive coordinator Neal Brown pick as his starting quarterback?
Quarterback is one of the few positions where the Wildcats have depth. Now either Jalen Whitlow, Maxwell Smith or Patrick Towles must emerge as the starter.
2. How many games will the starter be given to succeed?
But being the first starter will likely not be such a great thing. You know how it works. As soon as the interceptions and losses mount, everybody calls for the back up. Until his interceptions and losses mount
3. How many true freshmen will play?
In a perfect world, Stoops would be able to redshirt many of his freshmen, especially linemen who need time in the weight room. Stoops did not inherit a perfect world. Freshmen are the future. Freshmen make fans optimistic.
1. Can the Hoosiers beat either Missouri or Penn State during the five-game home stretch to start the season?
There are only four road games on the IU schedule, but they are four games the Hoosiers are unlikely to win – Michigan State, Michigan, Ohio State, Wisconsin. That means IU must win six of eight home games to play a bowl game. That means beating either Missouri or Penn State to earn essential credibility points.
2. Who does Kevin Wilson pick as his quarterback?
Wilson seems more comfortable than most coaches to rotate his quarterbacks, so expect Tre Roberson, Cameron Coffman and Nate Sudfeld to all earn time.
3. Can Indiana limit teams to less than 5 yards per rush?
The Hoosiers were outrushed by 100 yards per game last season. That won't work. That also is unlikely to translate to six victories.
1. Can Bobby Petrino make his offense sizzle the way it did at Louisville and Arkansas?
Petrino showed at Louisville and Arkansas, he does not require a break-in, warm-up period. Hilltoppers' fans are expecting similar sizzle. Starting with the opener against UK.
2. Will Western Kentucky fans get excited and fill the stadium?
The Hilltoppers averaged 17,415 fans last season. They have room for at least 5,000 more every week.
3. Who will Petrino play at QB?
If WKU has anybody who can throw a solid spiral, Petrino will turn him into a dangerous weapon.
I asked for participation in four reader polls last week – and you responded. Here are the latest results for all four questions.
1. Which head coach is the best recruiter in college basketball?
John Calipari, Kentucky 61 percent; Tom Crean, Indiana, 14 percent; Rick Pitino, Louisville 13 percent; Mike Krzyzewski, Duke, 4 percent.
2. Should Louisville and Kentucky be concerned that new Purdue football coach Darrell Hazell intends to recruit Kentucky as part of the State of Purdue?
No, 60; Yes, 31; Maybe, 9.
3. What is the most important non-league football game for American Athletic Conference teams to win?
Michigan at UConn, 38 percent; Louisville at Kentucky, 24 percent; Miami at South Florida, 15 percent; Arkansas at Rutgers 14 percent.
4. Should Louisville add former Auburn halfback Michael Dyer to the roster for the 2013 season?
Yes, 56 percent; No, 23 percent; It depends upon the stipulations, 20 percent.