BOZICH | Monday Muse: WKU has earned center stage over U of L, UK this weekend
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – Louisville did not play defense during the second half against Florida State Saturday. Kentucky did not finish the job against Auburn Thursday night. I have no explanation or words for what Indiana did against Rutgers Saturday afternoon.
I do know this: The Western Kentucky Hilltoppers are the team that has earned the leadoff position in the Monday Muse this week. WKU should be the talk of Kentuckiana until Saturday.
So let the countdown begin with Brandon Doughty, Ace Wales and friends.
1. Can Western upset Louisiana State Saturday night in Death Valley?
Jeff Brohm’s WKU football team has already toppled one Southeastern Conference opponent this season while roaring to a 6-1 start. Can the Hilltoppers do it again Saturday in Baton Rouge?
The national vital signs say Absolutely Not. Beating LSU isn't like beating Vanderbilt.
The Tigers are favored by 16 ½. ESPN’s power index gives WKU a 15 percent chance to win the game. LSU ranks fourth nationally in rushing offense at 325.5 yards per game. WKU ranks 77th in rushing defense, allowing nearly 173 yards per game. Look for the Tigers to pound, pound, pound.
LSU will try to intimidate WKU in Tiger Stadium. I've seen it happen there.
Only Oscar Brohm is predicting a WKU victory. LSU is the last unbeaten team in the SEC. The Tigers believe the four-team national playoff is their destiny. Leonard Fournette, the LSU tailback, has run for at least 158 yards in all six games, averaging 8 yards per carry.
Nearly every Heisman Trophy poll ranks Fournette as the guy to beat. He put 180 yards on a Florida defense that had been giving up less than 100 yards rushing per game.
But … Jeff Sagarin’s predictor computer formula does not forecast a game as one-sided as the one suggested by the early point spread. Sagarin’s formula likes LSU, but only by 10.34.
WKU ranks third nationally in passing offense, averaging more than 407 yards per game. LSU has allowed 11 passing touchdowns in six games. Ole Miss is the only SEC team to allow more passing TDs. If Brandon Doughty goes crazy ...
Just a thought. Otherwise the Cards will be scrambling in late November.
2. Louisville facing Must Win, followed by Must Win, followed by …
Bobby Petrino’s team has likely played the four most difficult teams on its schedule. The record shows the Cardinals lost all four.
The Cards will have to win out, including a bowl game, to match the 9-4 record they delivered last season. After going 41-9 during his first four-season stay at Louisville, Bobby Petrino is merely 11-8 during the last 1 ½ seasons.
The safest trip for the Cards to secure another bowl bid would be to win the next four.
Louisville figures to be an underdog in its final two – at Pittsburgh and at Kentucky. The Panthers inched into the Associated Press Top 25 by beating Georgia Tech Saturday. Chris Andrews of AgainsttheNumber.com confirmed to me last week that UK is currently favored by 1 ½ points for the Governor’s Cup game booked for Commonwealth Stadium Nov. 28.
Beating Boston College, Virginia and Syracuse at home and Wake Forest on the road is the surest ticket for Petrino’s team.
3. Kentucky Facing the SEC’s Best Quarterback
I like quarterbacks who don’t make dumb plays. Guys who value the football. Guys who don’t turn it over. Guys who take control.
By that metric, the quarterback that Kentucky will face Saturday in Starkville is the finest quarterback in the SEC.
Dak Prescott of Mississippi State has thrown 225 passes for the Bulldogs this season. Not one has been intercepted.
That’s impressive, more impressive than Prescott’s 65 percent completion percentage or his 11 touchdowns. Prescott doesn’t throw a string of deep balls. He is averaging less than 8 yards per passing attempt. But Prescott has only thrown one pick in his last nine games.
Kentucky’s offensive line will also have to do good work. The Bulldogs rank fourth in the SEC with 19 sacks.
4. Season On The Brink at Indiana
You can’t score 52 points in the first three quarters at home and lose. You can’t average a season-best 8.25 yards per offensive play and lose. You can’t lead by 25 points in the third quarter and lose.
Indiana did all of that Saturday against Rutgers. Now the Hoosiers have become an unlikely pick to win six games and make a bowl trip. Two of their next three opponents – Michigan State and Iowa – are unbeaten. Michigan comes to Memorial Stadium next month.
That likely means Indiana must defeat Maryland and Purdue in back-to-back Big Ten road games.
I’ve done my research. Extensive research. Indiana has lost 11 consecutive Big Ten road games. The Hoosiers have not won back-to-back conference road games since 1993 when one of Bill Mallory’s better clubs beat Minnesota and Northwestern.
5. Will Louisville Get a Break From the NCAA?
Reid Forgrave of FoxSports.com is the latest national college hoops writer to file his opinion on the Louisville basketball scandal.
His take won’t be considered warm and fuzzy by Rick Pitino and friends. Although Forgrave concludes that it is plausible that Pitino did not know anything about what Katina Powell alleges happened in Minardi Hall from 2010-14, he also says that even if the story is true Pitino has little to fear from the NCAA.
Forgrave says that if Pitino receives a show-cause penalty similar to the one that Bruce Pearl got from the NCAA that he will print his column and eat it.
He also quotes an anonymous major-college head coach saying this about the stories percolating around Louisville and SMU:
“If Rick Pitino and Larry Brown (the SMU coach) are still coaches at the end of the year, the message the NCAA is sending schools is that it pays to cheat.”
It’s a take similar to the old Jerry Tarkanian quote that when the NCAA gets upset with a big-time program, they show their anger by giving Cleveland State two extra years of probation.
It’s too soon for that. First we need the results of investigations by U of L and the NCAA. Then we need to know the extent of the penalties.
6. Please Stop, Everybody. Please Stop
Michigan athletic director Jim Hackett is not happy at the blast of social media garbage that has been directed at the school’s punter after the bungled punt on the final play of the game allowed Michigan State to score and defeat the Wolverines. (I’m not going to type the name of the punter to make certain I don’t add to his grief.)
He asked them to please stop.
I’ve got a better idea.
Why not research the identity of the Twitter bullies a little deeper? Uncover their names. If they’re Michigan students or season ticket holders, how about pulling their football and basketball tickets for the next five years?
That would be a more effective way to stop the nonsense.
7. The Weekly Ode to Kyle Schwarber
They flashed an amazing statistic about former Indiana baseball player Kyle Schwarber on the screen during the TBS Cubs-Mets broadcast Sunday night.
Name the players age 23 and under who have hit four home runs in the post-season. Schwarber, a rookie, has hit four home runs for the Cubs during the 2015 post-season.
That would be Mickey Mantle, Andruw Jones, Miguel Cabrera and Bryce Harper.
Quite an exclusive club to join. The first four have a combined 1,475 big-league homers (Mantle, 536; Jones 434; Cabrera 408; Harper 97).
8. More Cubs Fodder
For the record, I have pledged to abstain from Cubs’ bashing – at least until they play the White Sox in spring training. In fact, if the Cubs make the World Series, I have agreed to put my White Sox Fan Card at risk by agreeing to sing “Go Cubs, Go,” on Dan Dakich’s radio show on ESPN 1070 The Fan in Indianapolis.
But … I can share this interesting retweet that I found from Dan Barreiro, a confirmed Cubs’ fan who hosts a radio show on KFAN in Minneapolis.
Name of the cursed Cubs billy goat: Murphy
1908 Cubs owner: Charles Murphy
1969 Mets general manager: Johnny Murphy
1969 Mets announcer: Bob Murphy
1984 NLCS Site: Jack Murphy Stadium.
2015 NLCS Hero: Mets’ second baseman Daniel Murphy.
If the Cubs can overcome their 0-2 start against the Mets in the NLCS, they should be able to exhale in the World Series. I don’t see any Murphys to fear from the Royals or Blue Jays.
9. America(n) The Beautiful
The last place we should hear any bashing of the American Athletic Conference is here in Louisville. U of L made a one-season stop in the AAC while the Cardinals jumped from the Big East to the Atlantic Coast Conference.
That was a fun season. The Cards lost the AAC football title to UCF in 2013 but finished 12-1 with a bowl victory over Miami. Then Rick Pitino’s basketball team won the AAC basketball tournament in Memphis.
Take a look at AAC football this season. Three unbeatens. Three Top 25 teams. Three teams angling for a New Year’s Day bowl game.
Those three teams would be Houston, Temple and Memphis, squads that are a combined 18-0 with victories over Louisville (by Houston), Penn State (Temple) and Ole Miss (Memphis).
The league’s three Top 25 teams are as many as the powerful Pac-12 and just one less than the ACC, Big Ten and Big 12.
10. Poll Results
Which team has a better chance to deliver an upset this week?
Kentucky 52 percent.
Louisville 48 percent.
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