BOZICH | Report Cards: Final Grades on U of L, UK, IU, WKU footb - WDRB 41 Louisville News

BOZICH | Report Cards: Final Grades on U of L, UK, IU, WKU football seasons

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – Exam week is over. The tests have been taken, passed or failed. History takes over today.

It's time for final grades on the regular-season performances of the four local FBS college football programs.

Louisville

My Pre-Season Pick: 8-4. I expected losses to Clemson, Florida State, Notre Dame and one oddball game.

Regular season record: 9-3. The Cards beat Notre Dame, but lost the oddball game to Virginia.

Things to Like: Bobby Petrino proved he could win without a traditional Bobby Petrino-team, one more dependent upon defense than offense. The defense started strong against Miami and rarely let up, ranking in the Top 10 nationally in total defense, rushing defense and passing efficiency defense, while ball-hawking its way to a national best 25 interceptions. Bravo. Todd Grantham. I don't understand what Georgia fans were moaning about.

The offense rotated quarterbacks and halfbacks – and finally looked the way Petrino Ball is supposed to look when DeVante Parker got well. He led the team in touchdown receptions (five) and receiving yards (735) while playing only half the schedule. That has to be the stat of the year for the Cards.

The first win in school history at Notre Dame and four straight wins over Kentucky should translate to recruiting momentum.

Things to Question: Losing winnable games at Virginia and Clemson. Nothing spectacular at quarterback until Kyle Bolin's 40-minute explosion against Kentucky. Too many burps on special teams. An uneven season from James Quick. Modest contributions by the freshmen.

Final Takeaway: Considering it was Louisville's first dance through the ACC and the Cards were without their best player (Parker) for half the season, nine victories were proof that Petrino is still dialed into the winning frequency.

GRADE: A-minus

Kentucky

My Pre-Season Pick: 4-8. Thought the Wildcats would win three non-league games and beat Vanderbilt.

Regular season record: 5-7. Beating Steve Spurrier and South Carolina was a bonus. It doesn't seem as wonderful as it did in September, but it is still worth a laugh -- and will be for many months.

Things to Like: The Wildcats raised the bar. Instead of dwelling on the six straight losses to end the season, better to note that Kentucky more than doubled its 2013 victory total and exceeded the four-win predictions from most precincts. More fans came back to Commonwealth Stadium, where an upgrade will be complete by September.

Quarterback Patrick Towles had a solid season, which would have been even better with fewer drops. Team speed and athleticism looked improved on both sides of the ball. Josh Forrest emerged as a playmaker at linebacker. The Wildcats finished plus-8 on turnovers. Boom Williams showed potential as a dangerous running back. Plenty of pieces for future growth.

Things to Question: The rushing defense still has serious work to do, ranking 90th in the nation while giving up more than 190 yards per game. Still no stud receiver. The offensive line needs upgrades. The defensive line needs guys who can plug the running lanes and eliminate those 300-yard rushing performances by top SEC programs. Kickoffs were a big problem, too.

Final Takeaway: With offensive coordinator Neal Brown leaving to become the head coach at Troy, Mark Stoops has an important call to make on picking the offensive philosophy that works best with his defense. I wonder if he's comfortable with a hurry-up, pass-oriented attack.

GRADE: B

Indiana

My Pre-season pick: 6-6. Indiana State, Bowling Green, North Texas, Maryland, Penn State, Rutgers and Purdue all seemed winnable games.

Regular season record: 4-8. The Hoosiers weren't really competitive against Maryland or Rutgers, two Big Ten newbies.

Things to Like: Tevin Coleman was spectacular, a Heisman finalist if he played for a Top 40 team, rushing for more than 2,000 yards. The Old Oaken Bucket stays in Bloomington for consecutive seasons for the first time in two decades. The defense made a few more plays.

And did you hear? Indiana won at Missouri, champions of the SEC East, the team that plays Alabama for the league title Saturday.

Things to Question: Kevin Wilson is officially on the clock. He signed a seven-year deal and the first four seasons have resulted in no bowl trips and six Big Ten victories. Yes, the Hoosiers lost quarterback Nate Sudfeld to a shoulder injury midway through the season. But Wilson was billed as a quarterback guru and he didn't have a Big Ten caliber player to replace Sudfeld.

More concerning is the reality that Wilson has lost commitments from two players (Gunner Kiel and Tommy Stevens) who grew up an hour from Bloomington and that he also lost a two-year veteran (Tre Roberson) who could have stepped in for Sudfeld.

The defense made slight improvement, but not enough to overcome Indiana's major slide in the passing game. Memorial Stadium looked awfully empty for the Purdue game.

When you look at the improvements made by Minnesota and Illinois,Wilson hasn't done much.

Final Takeaway: The 2015 schedule features seven home games plus winnable road games with Wake Forest and Purdue. Wilson better pick six.

GRADE: C-minus

Western Kentucky

My Pre-season pick: 7-5. Thought the Toppers would lose to Bowling Green, Illinois and Marshall, for sure.

Regular season record: 7-5. Did not think the Toppers would lose to UAB or Florida Atlantic.

Things to Like: Think about this: The Hilltoppers have wins against five teams that are bowl eligible. They scored 50 or more four times. They soiled Marshall's perfect season – at Marshall. They won at Navy, always a tricky task. Brandon Doughty played like he could take over for the Bears by Sunday, a touchdown tornado. Jeff Brohm showed that he was ready to run his own program.

Things to Question: Tackling, anybody? It's legitimately stunning that the Hilltoppers won seven games, considering they ranked 119th in scoring defense, allowing more than 39 points per game. Some days it seemed like WKU was behind 21-0 before the opening kickoff was in the air.

Final Takeaway: Western played six games decided by eight points or less – and WKU lost four of them. The Hilltoppers were close to a truly spectacular season without being very close to many opposing receivers.

GRADE: B-plus

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