BOZICH | Hot Reads: Nation's Most Improved Football Teams? Check - WDRB 41 Louisville News

BOZICH | Hot Reads: Nation's Most Improved Football Teams? Check Commonwealth Stadium Saturday

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Mark Stoops has Kentucky three games ahead of its pace from 2013. Mark Stoops has Kentucky three games ahead of its pace from 2013.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Staying ahead of the chains while tackling other college football clichés and Week Nine of my College Football Hot Reads.

I scrambled to find the perfect topic, but then it hit me like a crack-back block:

Who are the most improved teams in college football this season?

A hint: You'll see two of the top 11 in Commonwealth Stadium Saturday afternoon at 3:30. With the help of the invaluable Gridiron 2014 iPad app, I researched the 2013 and 2014 schedules of every FBS program.

I compared teams for an equal number of games over both seasons. In other words, if a team is 5-2 this year, I measured how that program performed over seven games last season.

I limited my lists to teams that have improved by at least three games – or declined by three or more games.

Two of the most 11 improved teams will indeed play Saturday at Commonwealth. That would be Mark Stoops and Kentucky (plus-4) and Dan Mullen of Mississippi State (plus-3). If the Wildcats deliver the upset, they'd remain plus-four because their eighth game last season was a home victory over Alabama State.

Here's the list:

PLUS FOUR

Kentucky (from 1-6 to 5-2) – For the Wildcats, the signature win remains beating Steve Spurrier and South Carolina. They're already guaranteed plus-three for the entire season.

Temple (from 0-6 to 4-2) – A 30-point win at Vanderbilt to start the season gave the Owls some juice. But don't be surprised if Temple only wins one more.

Western Michigan (0-7 to 4-3) – The Broncos have handled Ball State and Bowling Green on back-to-back weekends. That's big in the MAC.

Air Force (1-6 to 5-2) – Not sure how the Falcons stumbled to that dreadful start last season, but they have figured it out.

PLUS THREE

Kansas State (from 2-4 to 5-1); Akron (1-6 to 4-3); Colorado State (3-4 to 6-1); California (1-6 to 4-3); Mississippi State (3-3 to 6-0); Ole Miss (4-3 to 7-0); Southern Miss (0-7 to 3-4).

BIGGEST LOSERS

Minus Five

There's only one team in the nation that has taken a five-game swing in either direction. That would be Fresno. A year ago the Bulldogs were 8-0. Today they are 3-5, losing to USC, Utah, Nebraska, Boise and UNLV. They need to fire the guy who makes the schedule.

The minus-four programs are Texas Tech and Ball State. That might explain why we're not seeing as many stories written about Texas Tech coach Kliff Kingsbury. Tulane, Michigan and Troy are all three games behind their paces from 2013.

HOT READS (five stories to stir your interest in this weekend's games)

1. Most schools won't let you bring umbrellas into the stadium. Arizona State has banned tortillas. Really. Not sure how I missed this story earlier.

2. Unbeaten Marshall has not been able to play its way into the college football playoff debate, so Conference USA has hired a public relations firm to change the discussion. I'll say this: If Marshall makes the playoff, the organizers of the playoff will have to hire a public relations firm to quell the complaining.

3. Chris Dufresne of the Los Angeles Times ranks his Sweet 16 – for football, not basketball.

4. Is Southern Methodist really ready to pay former Texas coach Mack Brown $4 million per season to coach its football team? Don't laugh. This is the school that hired Larry Brown to coach a sport it doesn't really care about. Money will not be an issue.

5. Who are the best – and worst – teams against the spread this season? SBNation has done the homework.

THE NUMBERS (a quick look at Saturday's games of interest)

Mississippi State at Kentucky, 3:30 p.m., CBS – The Bulldogs have been a team able to score at least 34 on everybody. Can Kentucky's offense keep pace?

The Line: MSU by 15. Jeff Sagarin's Predictor computer formula likes the visitors by 12.96.

The Pick: MSU 31, Kentucky 17.

Old Dominion at Western Kentucky, 4 p.m. – Tackle somebody Hilltoppers. Get off some blocks. Give your offense a chance. For once.

The Line: Hilltoppers by 13. Sagarin predictor says WKU by 13.73.

The Pick: WKU 51, ODU 37.

Ole Miss at Louisiana State, 7:15 p.m., ESPN – A loss won't knock the Rebels out of the SEC West race but Mississippi State has already shown the ability to win at Tiger Stadium.

The Line: Rebels by 3 ½. Sagarin says Ole Miss is the best team in the nation, favored by 4.38 in Death Valley.

The Pick: Ole Miss 27, LSU 21.

Texas at Kansas State, noon, ESPN – Charlie Strong needs three wins in his final five games to become bowl eligible and his offense has started to play better.

The Line: K-State by 10. Sagarin Predictor likes the home team by 12.32.

The Pick: Kansas State 31, Texas 21.

SEASON NUMBERS: It's never a good sign when you're 0-1 before the story even hits the Internet, but Eric Crawford and I both picked Virginia Tech to handle visiting Miami Thursday night.

Wrong.

Eric also agrees with me on every other pick. So I can't gain the ground I need to gain. He's 24-16 for the season, and I'm only 21-19.

FAB FOUR (national playoff frontrunners)

1. Mississippi State (6-0) – The Bulldogs have to navigate three road games – at Alabama Nov. 15, at Ole Miss Nov. 29 and at Commonwealth Stadium Saturday.

2. Florida State (7-0) – If Louisville doesn't beat the Seminoles Thursday night in Papa John's Cardinal Stadium, who is going to beat Jameis Winston University?

3. Ole Miss (7-0) – If the Rebels survive LSU Saturday night, their only remaining road game is Arkansas Nov. 22.

4. Oregon (6-1) – Both the Ducks and Michigan State are 6-1 but the tie goes to the team that won the regular-season matchup, which is Oregon.

HEISMAN THREE (three leading contenders to strike the pose in December)

1. Dak Prescott, Mississippi State quarterback – He was first on my list last week and considering he is coming to Commonwealth Stadium, I'll leave him on top until I get an in-person look.

2. Marcus Mariota, Oregon quarterback – He's at the top of all the watch lists – and he's on television Friday night at California.

3. Tevin Coleman, Indiana halfback – He's still leading the nation in rushing, even after playing against Michigan State for an IU team desperately searching for a quarterback.

FAMILIAR FACE (college football figure with ties to Kentuckiana) – Art Valero

Remember Valero, John L. Smith's assistant head coach over his first four seasons at Louisville? Well, Valero is in his 33rd year coaching football and his second working with another former John L. guy – Jim McElwain at Colorado State. Valero coaches the Rams' tight ends.

LOOKING AHEAD (who next week's local opponents are playing this week)

Florida State (at Louisville Thursday night) – The Seminoles can sit around and talk about their win over Notre Dame while watching the other national contenders because they're idle.

Missouri (hosts Kentucky Nov. 1) – The Tigers should move to 6-2 because Vanderbilt visits Columbia, and the Commodores are dreadful.

Michigan (hosts Indiana Nov. 1) – The Wolverines need to win three of their last five to become bowl eligible but Saturday at Michigan State won't be one of them.

Louisiana Tech (hosts WKU Nov. 1) – Tech goes on the road to play an improved Southern Miss program.

LOOKING BACK (who last week's local opponents are playing this week)

North Carolina State (lost to Louisville) – The Wolfpack will not lose their fifth straight game this week. They're idle.

LSU (beat Kentucky) – Are the Tigers as good as they appeared against UK? They'll have to prove it against Ole Miss.

Michigan State (beat Indiana) – The Spartans love beating Michigan as much as they love beating anybody.

Florida Atlantic (beat Western Kentucky) – The Owls have yet to win two straight this season. They won't do it again this week because they visit unbeaten Marshall.

SAY WHAT?

Louisiana State coach Les Miles, after he was told that Katy Perry, an Ole Miss fan, said that Tiger Stadium smelled like corn dogs:

“Oh no she didn't. I guess there's things to talk about that are important and things that are not, right? I'd have to say that people who make observations about how other people smell based on the fact that their nose doesn't work well. I guess if that's the issue -- I want you to know one thing and I'll say it very honestly: I have gone to Tiger Stadium and never smelled corn dogs.”

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