Which local college football coach did the best job this season?
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- John Lewis and I both warned you that Louisville would stumble once while chasing perfection. Steve Andress told you that Indiana would lose to Navy – and that defeat would cost the Hoosiers a bowl bid. Tom Lane nailed the eight-win season for Western Kentucky.
All five of us in the WDRB sports department, Eric Crawford included, whiffed on forecasting how much success Mark Stoops would have during his first year at Kentucky. Everybody predicted at least three wins.
Now, all that's left in the local college football regular season is Louisville's visit to Cincinnati Thursday night. I refuse to wait until Thursday. It's time to distribute report cards on all four programs.
The Good: At least 10 wins and a nice bowl trip should always draw heavy applause. A sense of entitlement is not a fun thing. Ask Florida or Nebraska fans. A choke hold on the Governor's Cup. Record crowds. Top 10 team rankings in a dozen of the 25 statistical categories measured by the NCAA.
The Bad: What more could even a Grinch want? Just this: A win in the one game (Central Florida) that mattered most. Sorry. Expectations changed at Papa John's Cardinal Stadium. Anything less than another BCS bowl bid in the most winnable BCS conference was going to fail to move the needle. Only two touchdown passes by Teddy Bridgewater in the last three games added to the shrugs.
The Good: Unrelenting recruiting buzz. More toughness. Increased discipline. Fan acceptance. Commonwealth Stadium renovation. Keep your eyes off the playing field.
The Bad: Another ziggy in Southeastern Conference play. The only FBS team the Wildcats beat was winless Miami (Ohio). No signs of the Tim Couch to Craig Yeast version of the Air Raid attack. The Wildcats averaged less than 200 yards passing. In 2012, Kentucky was outscored by 19.6 points per game in SEC play. In 2013, they cut that number, but only to 16. If there was a signature moment, I missed it.
The Good: First win over Penn State in 17 tries. A 20-point victory over Purdue to snatch the Old Oaken Bucket. Top 20 numbers nationally in scoring, passing and total offense. One more victory than last season.
The Bad: Another season without a bowl game. Failure to take advantage of eight home games. A defense that couldn't stop an elevator door from closing, giving up more than 527 yards per game and at least 41 points in all seven defeats. Slipped behind Minnesota, which actually tackles, on the Big Ten grid.
The Grade: C.
The Good: Back-to-back wins against Kentucky. A season-ending four-game winning streak. An offense that scored 30 or more in half its games. More than 2,600 all-purpose yards by Antonio Andrews. Convincing win against a 7-4 Navy team.
The Bad: Turnover after turnover after turnover – 31 in all. A helmet-scratching loss at South Alabama. Back-to-back October losses in Bowling Green. A tie for third place in the Sun Belt. The feeling that it could have been just a little bit better season.
THE ACC COUNTDOWN
The U of L football team isn't the only program that could have benefited from some of the juice that the Atlantic Coast Conference brings. One of the joys of the Cards' move into the Atlantic Coast Conference next season is they will participate in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge, the best December event in college basketball.
Too bad it didn't happen this season. Cue your imagination.
Louisville vs. Michigan, Part II. Let's do it. Crisler Arena. KFC Yum! Center. Shawnee Park. Doesn't matter.
Russ Smith vs. Aaron Craft (Ohio State)? I'll take two.
Rick Pitino vs. Bo Ryan (Wisconsin)? I've never seen that.
Sadly, we won't see it this season. But we will see a 12-game tug-of-war, a perfect reason to rank the dandy dozen games coming up Tuesday and Wednesday.
1. Michigan at Duke, Tuesday – I hope Jalen Rose is prepared to tip his cap to Grant Hill again. The Wolverines have two defeats and needed overtime for their only quality win over Florida State. Winner: Duke.
2. Wisconsin at Virginia, Wednesday – According to Ken Pomeroy, the Badgers' offensive efficiency has improved to 15th from 108 this season under the new rules. The defense is constant. Winner: Wisconsin.
3. North Carolina at Michigan State, Wednesday – Which North Carolina team will show up: The one that beat Louisville or the one that lost to Belmont and UAB? Probably won't matter. Winner: Michigan State.
4. Indiana at Syracuse, Tuesday – 2013 NCAA East Regional semifinals – Syracuse 61, Indiana 50; Yogi Ferrell, 0 points and four turnovers in 23 minutes. Think anybody has reminded the Hoosiers' point guard about that? Winner: Syracuse.
5. Notre Dame at Iowa, Tuesday – The under-the-radar Hawkeyes face a quick turnaround from their impressive performance in The Bahamas. Hope they didn't get too much sun. Winner: Iowa.
6. Florida State at Minnesota, Tuesday – The Gophers were this close to beating Syracuse and are unbeaten in four home games. Welcome to real life in the Big Ten, Richard Pitino. Winner: Minnesota.
7. Maryland at Ohio State, Wednesday – Who does Thad Matta know at ESPN? The Buckeyes got the most favorable draw of the night? Winner: Ohio State.
8. Illinois at Georgia Tech, Tuesday – The Illini weren't supposed to be unbeaten, but they are -- including a win at UNLV. Hmmm. Winner: Georgia Tech.
9. Boston College at Purdue, Wednesday – The Boilermakers ended a two-game slide by escaping Siena Sunday. Siena. Siena? Winner: Purdue.
10. Penn State at Pittsburgh, Tuesday – The world would like to see these two teams play in football again. Basketball? ZZZZZ. Winner: Pitt.
11. Northwestern at North Carolina State, Wednesday – Somebody's got to win. Might as well be the home team. Winner: N.C. State.
12. Miami at Nebraska, Wednesday – I wonder what Howard Schnellenberger and Tom Osborne are doing. Sounds like a wonderful night to reminisce about the 1983 Orange Bowl. Winner: Nebraska.
FINAL COUNT: Big Ten 7, ACC 5.
ONE MORE HOOPS NUGGET
I checked the college basketball pre-season numbers on the Big Ten, American Athletic Conference and SEC.
Ken Pomeroy says the Big Ten is the best league, followed by the ACC and Big East. The AAC comes in sixth, the SEC seventh.
Jeff Sagarin has the Big Ten first, followed by the Big 12. Sagarin ranks the SEC sixth and the AAC seventh.
But in head-to-head games against other opponents from other BCS leagues, it is the AAC that has the best record.
The numbers – AAC 9-9, keyed by Memphis winning its rematch against Oklahoma State Sunday and UConn beating Indiana; Big Ten 8-10, dragged down by a combined five losses by Purdue and Northwestern; SEC 7-11, blamed on three losses by Georgia and two by Alabama.
Not that Georgia or Alabama fans care.
THREE FINAL ALABAMA-AUBURN QUESTIONS
1. What would the college football wise guys be saying if it had been Mack Brown, Mark Richt, Charlie Weis or another media punching bag who had mismanaged the end of game the way Nick Saban scripted the fourth quarter Saturday?
Saban is a great coach. He did not coach a great game Saturday. It happens. But he shouldn't get a pass.
2. Where was Alabama's Number 79 (Austin Shepherd) going? The next time you watch the replay of the bungled final field-goal attempt, look for Number 79 on Bama.
He enters the picture in the middle of the field after Chris Davis is about 20 yards past every Alabama player. But there goes Shepherd, miles behind the play, jogging hopelessly toward the Auburn sideline, looking for … what? His post-game box lunch? A phone booth? A hug?
If anybody knows the answer, please share.
3. Does anybody really believe Auburn is the better team?
I didn't think so.
My question last week was simple: Which college football player deserves the 2013 Heisman Trophy?