BOZICH | Monday Muse: Grading U of L, UK, IU, WKU football; Blakeney speaks
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – Another month, another round of report cards as we hit the closing stretch of the college football season.
I've prepared my reports on Louisville, Kentucky, Indiana and Western Kentucky. I don't see anybody surging like American Pharoah.
Antonio Blakeney, a former University of Louisville recruit now at Louisiana State, sat down for an interview. More college football jobs have opened. The Associated Press college basketball pre-season Top 25 arrives Monday.
Time for the latest edition of The Monday Muse.
1. GRADING LOUISVILLE
Most of the reasonable pre-season projections around the Cardinals were in the 8-4 range. That was my forecast. That's still a possibility for Bobby Petrino's 4-4 team. But only if the Cards are flawless, a state that has eluded this team.
If the Cards keep playing offense the way they played it against Boston College and Wake Forest, they won't get to 8-4. The running game, ranked 103rd nationally, still cannot be trusted to create short yardage situations.
The passing game does not remind you of the passing game from the Chris Redman, Brian Brohm or Teddy Bridgewater eras. Enough words have been written about the offensive line.
The Cards still win with defense. The combined record of their final four opponents is 16-16. It's an average group, topped by Pittsburgh, a team Louisville plays on the road.
After eight games, Louisville's signature achievement is beating a 5-3 North Carolina State team on the road. Winning out would top that.
ESPN FINAL RECORD PROJECTION: 6.6-5.4.
SAGARIN PREDICTOR RANKING: 39.
2. GRADING KENTUCKY
A one-sided, three-touchdown loss to a rival program that has also been rebuilding will make a fan base pause and wonder about how much progress has been made at Kentucky this season.
That is the spot Mark Stoops finds himself this week after the 52-21 loss to Tennessee, which followed a one-sided loss at Mississippi State.
Yes, the Wildcats do have a road win at South Carolina as well as a home victory over the team (Missouri) that won the East Division of the Southeastern Conference last season. But with eight home games, Kentucky fans expected more. A win at floundering Georgia would help. Or beating Louisville to close the season.
The upgrade that new coordinator Shannon Dawson was supposed to bring to the offense has not been evident. Kentucky is averaging about 5 points (down from 29.2 to 24.3) per game less than last season. Although UK's total offense has increased by three yards per game, the running game is off by about 11.
There's still a direct path to bowl eligibility, but my pre-season pick of seven victories looks shaky.
ESPN FINAL RECORD PROJECTION: 6.0-6.0.
SAGARIN PREDICTOR RANKING: 75.
3. GRADING INDIANA
Which Indiana team will show up the last four games?
The one that beat Western Kentucky or the one that collapsed against Rutgers? The one that went toe-to-toe with Ohio State for four quarters or the one that was no threat to beat Penn State?
The defense has made modest improvement, but it still isn't the kind of defense that can go out and win a football game. The offense has not been able to stay healthy at running back or quarterback.
Losing a 25-point lead in the second-half against Rutgers will remain the defining moment of the season – unless Kevin Wilson's team can find a way to shock Iowa or Michigan at home the next two weekends and then get to six victories. Not likely.
ESPN FINAL RECORD PROJECTION: 5.3-6.7.
SAGARIN PREDICTOR RANKING: 86.
4. GRADING WESTERN KENTUCKY
Jeff Brohm's team (7-2) just keeps performing, even with key pieces missing, especially on offense.
The Hilltoppers win the games they are supposed to win – and they do it with authority. WKU ranks fifth nationally in passing offense, 10th in total offense and ninth in scoring at better than 42 points per game.
It's solid, sound, entertaining and winning football. With games remaining against Florida Atlantic, Florida International and Marshall, WKU can finish 10-2 and put itself in position for the best available bowl trip offered to a team from Conference USA. Western has handled the burden of expectations well. That's usually a tricky thing to do.
ESPN FINAL RECORD PROJECTION: 10.1-2.7.
SAGARIN PREDICTOR RANKING: 52.
5. ANTONIO BLAKENEY SPEAKS
Calm down. There's nothing for NCAA Investigators to see here.
Blakeney did a lengthy interview with The Tiger Rag, a site devoted to athletics at Louisiana State, where Blakeney will be a freshman guard this season.
The interview (with link) was interesting, but it was also what you'd expect from a fan publication. Lots of fluff and adoration -- about Blakeney and the state of LSU basketball.
Not a single question about whether Blakeney has spoken to NCAA investigators. Several media outlets have reported that Blakeney has been interviewed because he was one of the former University of Louisville recruits mentioned in Katina Powell’s book, Breaking Cardinal Rules. Blakeney, remember, once gave an oral commitment to Rick Pitino and Louisville and then reneged.
It's interesting that the story began with an anecdote about how Blakeney celebrated his 19th birthday with an extra basketball workout. The story says there was, "No night on the town, no trips to Tigerland, no parties to speak of. No girls, no dancing and no music …"
It also says that the reason Blakeney chose LSU (over U of L, UK and others) was because of his relationship with LSU's other star freshman, Ben Simmons.
6. COLLEGE FOOTBALL JOB DRAFT -- PART 2
A week ago there were seven jobs open in college football. The number has climbed to 10 – with more sure to come as other programs collapse. It's not a good year to be at the bottom of this list of schools trying to find a coach. You're likely to be stuck with your second or even third choice in a seller's market.
Let's re-rank the openings:
1. USC – You can win a national title at Troy – and you'd better deliver; 2. Miami – You can win a national title at South Beach, but you won’t make as much money; 3. Virginia Tech – Beware: It's tricky following a legend like Frank Beamer; 4. South Carolina – Lou Holtz and Steve Spurrier learned this is not an easy spot to win the SEC East; 5. Minnesota – Jerry Kill has given you a program that doesn't have to be rebuilt.
6. Maryland – Under Armour wants to win at its headquarters program; 7. UCF – Get to a bowl and get to the next job; 8. Illinois – Better to be in the Big Ten West than the East; 9. Hawaii – The weather is a blessing, but the distance from the mainland is not, especially in recruiting; 10. North Texas – Get in, get out.
7. TROUBLES WITH CHARLIE (PART 27)
When Chip Brown writes something about the Texas football program, it is wise to listen. He's not the UT athletic director, but he certainly could be. It seems as if Brown knows everything that goes down in Austin before anybody else knows it.
What Brown knows these days is that Charlie Strong needs another new voice calling plays in Austin.
That's the kind of stuff fans will endorse when their favorite team is 3-5 and has just been shut out by Iowa State. Brown was not a fan of former UT offensive coordinator Shawn Watson, who was dumped for Jay Norvell after one game.
He's also not a fan of Norvell, at least not as a play-caller. Brown wrote a lengthy piece at Horns' Digest advocating that Jeff Traylor, the run-game coordinator, needs to call the plays at Texas, which faces a must-win game against Kansas Saturday.
Will Charlie listen?
8. FIXING THE DUKE-MIAMI RESULT
This should not be complicated. Anybody who has seen the replay of the eight-lateral fiasco that ended the Miami-Duke game Saturday night knows that officials from the ACC blew the call on the field and in the replay booth.
One Miami ball-carrier was down. There was at least one block in the back. ACC administrators admitted that Sunday when the league announced suspensions for the officiating and replay crews.
The object of replay is to get the call right. An analysis of the replay shows that one Miami ball-carrier was down.
Was that so difficult, if the goal of replay is truly to get it right?
9. AP COLLEGE BASKETBALL POLL DROPS MONDAY
Sources say the Associated Press college basketball poll will be released Monday, likely in the late morning. The AP has asked voters not to post their complete ballots until about an hour of that moment.
My guess for the top five? North Carolina, Kentucky, Maryland, Duke, Kansas.
10. Which team would you vote Number One in the AP pre-season college basketball poll?
North Carolina 28 percent.
Kentucky 27 percent.
Duke 23 percent.
Other 12 percent.
Maryland 9 percent.
Kansas 1 percent.
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