LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – Don't look for Kentucky or Indiana on the list of teams expected to contend for college football conference championships. You won't find them.
But you will find them on another list – Most Improved Teams in college football in 2014.
Both the Wildcats and Hoosiers made that list at AthlonSports.com. (Story link here.) Kevin Wilson's IU team doubled down because the Hoosiers were selected to be one of the 12 Most Improved teams by Phil Steele’s College Football Yearbook.
Kentucky has only won two games in back-to-back seasons. It's reasonable to project four victories for the Wildcats this season.
In fact, I’ll do it – UT Martin, Ohio University, Louisiana-Monroe and Vanderbilt, all games that will be played in Commonwealth Stadium. I could probably find a fifth win. I'm just not ready to name the game. Maybe Mississippi State?
Athlon's Steven Lassan agrees, touting the success that UK coach Mark Stoops has enjoyed during recruiting. Wrote Lassan, "The talent at the skill positions has improved, and Nebraska transfer Braylon Heard should team with Jojo Kemp to form an effective one-two punch in the backfield."
Indiana has edged from one victory to four to five over the last three seasons. Getting to six victories will be a challenge because getting to six victories is always a challenge in Bloomington.
The schedule does not help, especially with non-league road games at Missouri and Bowling Green.
But the Hoosiers have one of the best running backs (Tevin Coleman) and quarterbacks (Nate Sudfeld) in the Big Ten – as well five returning offensive linemen. The story at IU has not changed. The Hoosiers can't keep giving up 7 yards per carry on first down. Average defense would put Indiana at six wins.
Lassan also agrees with most of that, crediting Wilson for his ability to coach offense but wondering when the defense will finally show an upgrade. Wrote Lassan, "With 16 starters back, Indiana should be a better overall team in 2014 but getting to six or seven wins will be difficult."
Here is Athlon’s top tier of Most Improved Teams:
North Carolina State
Here is Athlon’s second tier of teams it believes will be improved although it might not show in the record: