BOZICH/CRAWFORD | Previewing (and picking) the U of L, UK and IU - WDRB 41 Louisville News

BOZICH/CRAWFORD | Previewing (and picking) the U of L, UK and IU football games

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Eric Crawford and Rick Bozich share their picks for five college football games this weekend. Eric Crawford and Rick Bozich share their picks for five college football games this weekend.

By Rick Bozich and Eric Crawford

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – Rick Bozich typing here. Every Wednesday Eric Crawford and I pick scores for five college football games on our SportsPageLive web chat, which airs at WDRB.com at 10:30 a.m. (Replays on demand.)

Interest in college football locally has grown every season. We had so many questions last Wednesday we didn’t have time to answer all of them.

So I’ve decided to take the prediction portion of SportsPageLive and bring it WDRB.com every Friday.

The plan is to preview the five games we have discussed – and share our predictions. I’ll also include a poll.

Let’s get started.

Houston at Louisville

Just the facts: Noon kickoff. Game televised by Fox Sports. Houston 1-0, Louisville 0-1. Cougars are coached by Tom Herman, former offensive coordinator at Ohio State. Louisville coached by Bobby Petrino.

This one has all the elements of a classic trap game. The Cards had a major test against a Southeastern Conference opponent last Saturday and face another sexy national game when ESPN visits for Clemson Thursday night.

In between sits Houston, winners of eight games last season. The Cougars also rolled in their season opener against Tennessee Tech.

A closer look at Houston's 8-5 finish a year ago shows the Cougars beat only one team (Memphis) with a winning record and that Houston threw in ugly losses to Tulane and Texas-San Antonio.

Houston's defense stuffed the running game last week, allowing only 29 yards on 33 carries. But the visitors did allow a dozen yards per passing attempt.

Can Lamar Jackson, Louisville's true freshman quarterback, take advantage of that weakness? Against Auburn, his first instinct often appeared to be tuck and run.

Defensively, watch how U of L coordinator Todd Grantham defends Houston quarterback Greg Ward Jr., who ran (107) and passed (275) for 382 yards of total offense in the opener.

That was no fluke. Ward put up 400 yards of total offense against Cincinnati in November 2014.

Louisville has won its last three games against Houston, including a 20-13 victory on Nov. 6, 2013.


THE PICKS:

Vegas Line: The line opened with U of L favored by 12 ½. It slipped to 11 but then grew to 14 Thursday afternoon. At 11 a.m. Friday, Louisville was favored by 13 ½.

Sagarin Ratings: Louisville by 12.52.

Eric: U of L 35, Houston 17

Rick: U of L 30, Houston 20


Kentucky at South Carolina

Just the facts: Game starts at 7:30 p.m. on the SEC Network with Brent Musburger on play by play. Both teams won their openers. South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier has won 20 of 22 games against the Wildcats, which matches his career record against Vanderbilt. No current FBS coach has 21 victories against a single opponent.

As I said on the WDRB News at 10 Thursday night, this is really very simple for Mark Stoops and his football team:

There are 10 SEC teams ranked in the latest Associated Press Top 25.Two of the unranked teams are Vanderbilt and Kentucky.

The other two are the next two games on Kentucky's schedule – South Carolina and Florida.

If the Wildcats intend to finish higher than sixth in the SEC East, they need to win at least one of these games.

Can UK beat South Carolina?

Absolutely. The Wildcats handled the Gamecocks last season. Kentucky is stronger at quarterback than Spurrier's team – if Patrick Towles plays to his potential.

But Stoops went 0-10 in games away from Commonwealth Stadium during his first two seasons. South Carolina’s strength appears to be running the football. The Gamecocks averaged 5.4 yards per rushing attempt while defeating North Carolina. Kentucky let Louisiana Lafayette rush for 5.26 yards per attempt in UK's opener last Saturday.

That won’t work in Columbia, where Kentucky has lost seven straight.

Vegas Line: Kentucky opened as a 9-point underdog. By 11 a.m. Friday, UK was only getting 8 points.

Sagarin Ratings: South Carolina by 12.17.

Eric: South Carolina 28, Kentucky 24

Rick: South Carolina 24, Kentucky 21


Florida International at Indiana

Just the facts: Game kicks at 8 p.m. on the Big Ten Network. Both teams won their openers. FIU is coached by Ron Turner, the former head coach at Illinois. IU has a 13-7-2 record against Conference USA opponents.

If you watched even a quarter of the Hoosiers’ 48-47 victory against Southern Illinois last Saturday, you have to be tempted to predict a 1-11 finish for Kevin Wilson’s team.

IU surrendered a ridiculous 659 yards of total offense against an FBS opponent, watching helplessly as the Salukis completed 75 percent of their passes.

The only plusses for Indiana were that quarterback Nate Sudfeld looked sharp and comfortable throwing the ball (especially to Ricky Jones) and halfback Jordan Howard (a transfer from UAB) looked as good as projected.

The return of defensive linemen Darius Latham and Ralph Green as well as linebacker Greg Gooch and safety Chase Dutra, should help the IU defense improve.

But 659 yards?

Vegas Line: This game either has no movement or no action. IU opened as a 7-½ point favorite. With the exception of a 4 hour and 20 minute stretch on Sunday when the number dipped to 7, the Hoosiers have remained the pick by 7-1/2.

Sagarin Ratings: Indiana by 6.78

Eric: Indiana 41, FIU 38

Rick: Indiana 37, FIU 34


Oklahoma at Tennessee

Just the facts: Game kicks at 6 p.m. on ESPN. Both programs won their openers with ease against Mid-American Conference opponents. Oklahoma rolled Akron, 41-3, while Tennessee handled Bowling Green, 59-30.

The two signature games of the day are Oregon at Michigan State and the Sooners’ trip to Knoxville. We picked this one because the line is tighter and the stakes are higher.

Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops needs a victory to stop the grumbling about the way his team finished last season, losing five of their final nine, including smackdown defeats to Clemson (40-6) and Baylor (48-14).

Tennessee coach Butch Jones needs a victory to justify the Volunteers' position in the Top 25, considering UT went 0-4 in games against Top 25 opponents and lost to the Sooners last season. Should be fun.

Vegas Line: This remains one of the most challenging games on the board. The Sooners opened as 3-point favorite. By late Sunday afternoon, the Vols were the pick by a point. At 11 a.m. Friday, Oklahoma remained favored by 1 ½ points.

Sagarin Ratings: Oklahoma by 2.19

Eric: Oklahoma 24, Tennessee 17

Rick: Tennessee 21, Oklahoma 20

Louisiana Tech at Western Kentucky

(WKU won the game Thursday night, but the picks were made on the Wednesday morning SportsPageLive webchat. Promise.)

Eric: La Tech 31, WKU 28

Rick: WKU 27, La Tech 24

SEASON RECORDS

Rick: 5-0

Eric: 4-1

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