BOZICH | Monday Muse: U of L, UK, IU, WKU Report Card Edition - WDRB 41 Louisville News

BOZICH | Monday Muse: U of L, UK, IU, WKU Report Card Edition

Posted: Updated:
At the one-third mark of the college football season, Rick Bozich distributes report cards. At the one-third mark of the college football season, Rick Bozich distributes report cards.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – Fifteen seconds ago we were waiting for the college football season to begin. Check your calendar. It's one-third complete.

Louisville has played half of its home games. Kentucky has played three league games. Indiana has played all of its non-league games. The Heisman Trophy race is over. (Read on.) I've seen a lot.

What should a responsible columnist do?

Jump to conclusions. React – and sometimes overreact. Distribute grades.

Welcome to the Report Card Edition of the Monday Muse. Please have your grades signed by your parents and returned to my desk by Friday morning.

1. LOUISVILLE

Work with me here because I'm trying to work with the person who schedules games for the University of Louisville.

The next time you put together an opening stretch that Jeff Sagarin's computer formula ranks among the 25 most difficult in the nation, put the ice cream cone in the middle, not the end.

At 1-3, Bobby Petrino's team sits two games behind where many fans thought the Cardinals would be and one game behind what many reasonable people expected.

But instead of playing the games in this order – Auburn, Houston, Clemson, Samford – imagine if Samford would have been game two, not game four.

That would have given U of L the necessary exhibition to make fixes and time to provide more positive experience for young players.

Louisville lost a game it should have won against Houston and a game it could have won against Clemson.

I don't mean to be Mr. Broken Record, but reasonable people expected uncertainty at quarterback and along the offensive line. They did not expect the Louisville defense to rank 75th nationally against the run or 46th in total defense, giving up nearly 348 yards per game.

North Carolina State is an essential win for the Cards Saturday. Louisville, as a wise man once said, needs to pack its defense.

ESPN's latest projection for the Cardinals is 5.6 wins.

GRADE: C.

2. KENTUCKY

The Wildcats are the only team in this group to beat a ranked team. They are the only team in this group to play three league games. They are the only team in this group to play four FBS opponents that finished last season in a bowl game.

Somebody might have predicted Kentucky to start the season to 4-0, but nobody would have listened. The Wildcats are what I thought they would be – 3-1 (with the third win against Florida, not Missouri. Details, details.)

Kentucky is positioned to win as many as eight or even nine games. Yes, I said nine. If you have watched Auburn, you realize that game hardly looks as one-sided as it appeared in August.

Ask Tammy from the Paul Finebaum Show.

The Wildcats don't rank in the Top 50 in either total offense (No. 100) or total defense (62). That's a good thing. Mark Stoops has plenty of material to show his players where they need to improve.

ESPN projects the Wildcats precisely where I had them in August – 7-5.

GRADE: A-minus

3. INDIANA

The Hoosiers have the worst computer power rankings of any team in this regional quartet. They were an extra-point away from losing to Southern Illinois, one pass from losing to Western Kentucky and one more pass from overtime against Wake Forest.

They have benefited from a reduced (and reasonable) schedule.

Doesn't matter.

In past seasons, no way Indiana would have navigated its way to 4-0. The Hoosiers have yet to allow a point in the third quarter this season. They have been able to pass the football with quarterback Nate Sudfeld or run it with halfback Jordan Howard. The defense started to look faster and improved when the suspended and injured players returned.

Cam Cameron couldn't start 4-0 at Indiana. Neither could Gerry DiNardo, Terry Hoeppner or Bill Lynch.

Credit to Kevin Wilson, who has put together an entertaining product. On Saturday we'll discover if IU can fill Memorial Stadium for a game with top-ranked Ohio State (and considerable assistance from OSU fans).

Bowl bid for Indiana? The ESPN power index believes so, projecting 6.7 wins for the Hoosiers.

GRADE: A-minus

4. WESTERN KENTUCKY

The surest sign of growth in the WKU program is that some are muttering that the Hilltoppers should be 4-0, not 3-1.

You can make that argument. If quarterback Brandon Doughty would have put a little more juice into that first third-quarter throw that was intercepted outside the end zone at Indiana, maybe WKU wins that game.

But remember this: The Hilltoppers have won three games without their two best running backs and other injured players. They won on the road at Vanderbilt, which just made Ole Miss squirm. They routed a Miami (Ohio) team that went cleat-to-cleat with Cincinnati.

The Hilltoppers are surviving without a running game (123rd in the nation) or a formidable defense (109). If Jeff Brohm and his staff can make fixes in at least one of those areas, WKU should be positioned to reach its season goals.

The ESPN index wanted to give the Hilltoppers nine victories, but it stopped at 8.8.

GRADE: B-plus.

5. PRE-SEASON POLL VOTERS

Auburn ranked sixth? Arkansas ranked 18th? Arizona State 15th?

Cue the laugh track.

This will never happen, but I'll repeat it anyway: Sensible writers have argued for years that pre-season polls should be eliminated in college football and basketball.

They're always based on how a team played over the final games of the previous season. Connections to the upcoming season are strictly coincidental.

The intelligent approach would be to wait at least six weeks before spitting out a Top 25.

But the pre-season rankings create talk during the quieter months of summer. They sell magazines. They feed the insatiable demand for football, football, football.

Even when the rankings are as upside down as they have been this season.

Here is the list of nine teams who have disappeared from the Associated Press pre-season Top 25:

Auburn ranked 6th; Oregon 7; Arizona State 15; Georgia Tech 16; Arkansas 18; Arizona 22; Boise State 23; Missouri 24; Tennessee 25.

If you're scoring at home, that's four teams from the Southeastern Conference, three from the Pac-12, one from the Atlantic Coast and one from the Mountain West.

The newcomers:

Utah 10; Texas A&M 14; Northwestern 16; Oklahoma State 20; Mississippi State 21; Michigan 22; West Virginia 23; California 24; Florida 25

The breakdown: SEC 3; Pac-12 2; Big Ten 2; Big 12 2.

GRADE: D-minus

6. ACC FOOTBALL

A quick point from the previous item: The only conference not to add a newcomer to the rankings has been the ACC. The only Power 5 league without a single team ranked in the Top 10 is the ACC.

Virginia Tech was expected to be that team. But the Hokies can't tackle. It showed in their loss to East Carolina.

North Carolina State (4-0) and Miami (3-0) join Florida State (No. 11) and Clemson (12) as the league's only unbeatens.

But N. C. State has scheduled as if the Wolfpack are not convinced they're a Top 50 team. All people are saying about the Hurricanes is they need a coaching change.

It's not a good look. As Cecil Hurt of the Tuscaloosa News tweeted (at former Florida State quarterback Danny Kannell):

"ACC is a pathetic 3-9 vs. Power 5/Notre Dame but the jaws flap on and on…"

GRADE: C-minus

7. LEONARD FOURNETTE

Once upon a time a running back won the Heisman Trophy nearly every year. It was The Glamour Position in college football.

The only two running backs to win the Heisman in the last 15 seasons have been Reggie Bush of USC (2005) and Mark Ingram Jr. of Alabama (2009).

That will change this season. A comic book hero has not emerged at quarterback. Superman carries the football for Louisiana State.

After three games, Leonard Fournette is averaging 210 yards per game for the Tigers. He has eight touchdowns. He delivered a 71-yard run against Auburn and another for 62 yards against Syracuse. He is averaging 10.6 yards per carry in the third quarter.

Louisville halfback Brandon Radcliff has 200 yards total in four games. Fournette has more rushing yards in three games than the entire Kentucky roster has in four.

My only question: Why does he have to remain in college for another season?

GRADE: A-Plus

8. JORDAN HOWARD

Here is the easiest way to describe what Howard has meant to IU sports: He’s the best thing to come out of Birmingham since Christian Watford.

Tevin Coleman looked like the most irreplaceable player in the Big Ten before the season but Howard has arrived from UAB's disbanded program and put up numbers that would make Coleman blink.

He's run for at least 145 yards in every game. According to IU running backs coach Deland McCullough, Howard is the first back in 20 years to deliver at least 145 yards in his first four games at a school.

Howard has averaged at least 5 yards per carry in all four IU wins and is averaging better than 6 yards per carry over the season. He's not a burner, but Howard is fast enough to keep linebackers honest. And he's looked tougher than any linebacker he has taken on, averaging nearly 28 carries in IU's four victories.

GRADE: A

9. CHARLIE STRONG'S SPECIAL TEAMS

Poor Charlie.

All the Texas punter had to do was catch a perfect snap and finish his job and the Longhorns were assured of at least overtime in a game they should have won against Oklahoma State Saturday.

He dropped the ball, panicked and kicked one with his left foot that traveled about 10 yards.

Oklahoma State 30, Texas 27.

That came a week after the Longhorns' place kicker missed an extra point with 1:11 to play against California.

Cal 45, Texas 44.

The Longhorns are 1-3 – and facing games against three consecutive unbeaten teams (TCU, Oklahoma and Kansas State).

"We're doing it to ourselves," Strong said. "It's all about being able to pick yourself back up again."

GRADE: F

10. POLL RESULTS

What has been the most unlikely development locally in the 2015 college football season?

Louisville's starting 0-3    69.1 percent

Indiana at 3-0    28 percent

Kentucky's 2-1 start    2.5 percent

Western Kentucky at 2-1    0.4 percent

Copyright 2015 WDRB News. All Rights Reserved.

  • Sign Up for the WDRB Sports Newsletter

    * denotes required fields

    Thank you for signing up! You will receive a confirmation email shortly.
  • Sign Up for WDRB's Sports Newsletter

    * denotes required fields

    Thank you for signing up! You will receive a confirmation email shortly.
Powered by Frankly
All content © Copyright 2000 - 2017 WDRB. All Rights Reserved. For more information on this site, please read our Privacy Policy, and Terms of Service, and Ad Choices.