BOZICH | Monday Muse: Final Football Grades for U of L, UK, IU, WKU Edition
It's final grade time for U of L, UK, IU and WKU football. Which league is favored in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge? What does somebody need to tell Nick Saban? Time for the Monday Muse.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – It’s officially transition week on the local college sports calendar. Louisville will visit Michigan State, Kentucky is bound for UCLA and Indiana is booked for Duke in college basketball games this week.
Western Kentucky missed the memo. The Hilltoppers keep performing as if they don’t want the college football season to end – at least not until they have won a dozen games, including the Conference USA championship game Saturday against Southern Mississippi.
In honor of WKU’s 10-win season, the Monday Muse will buckle up its chinstrap and lead with college football one more time. It’s time to distribute final report cards.
The Cardinals were leaning toward low C, high D category at halftime of the Wake Forest game. Then they woke up against the Demon Deacons, giving Bobby Petrino’s team back-to-back wins. The closing kick continued against the user-friendly part of the schedule. The Cards won five of their last six.
The Cards beat the teams they were supposed to beat – unless you believe they should have handled Auburn (actually, yes, I do after watching the blah Tigers all season) and Houston (not really).
Most of the pre-season predictions leaned toward 8-4, not 7-5. Petrino never settled on a quarterback. He’s still filling the gaps that Charlie Strong left on the offensive line. The best thing is his team kept grinding.
The combined record of the five teams that beat Louisville was a dazzling (47-13, .783 winning percentage). It wasn’t as if they lost to Vanderbilt. In a season when the combined record of the FBS teams the Cards defeated was 26-46, their only win against a certain bowl team was North Carolina State.
BLENDED FINAL RANKING: 45th nationally (taking the average of eight computer rankings)
Eight home games. Year Three. Veteran quarterback. Increased team speed. Road win at South Carolina. Four wins in the first five games. Leading 21-0 about 10 minutes into the game against Louisville. Yada, yada, yada.
Most of the pre-season predictions for Mark Stoops’ team were 7-5 or 6-6, not 5-7. The Eastern Division of the Southeastern Conference was there to be taken advantage of, but the Wildcats could not handle Vanderbilt -- and Commodores were nothing special. They were no match for Auburn, Mississippi State, Tennessee or Georgia.
Kentucky’s best win? Missouri, I guess. The combined record of the four FBS programs UK defeated was 14-33 (.298) while the teams that beat the Wildcats finished 52-32 (.652).
The quarterback remains unproven. The receivers drop too many passes. The offensive line is barely OK. The defense needs more speed and depth. Yes, the honeymoon is officially over for Stoops.
BLENDED FINAL RANKING: 82nd nationally
The Hoosiers should have beaten Rutgers. But they could have easily lost to Southern Illinois. They could have beaten Ohio State or Michigan. But they could have lost to Western Kentucky or Florida International.
I wonder if any team in the nation played more coin flip games than Kevin Wilson’s group. Winning six was huge for a coach in his fifth season, especially considering IU won two Big Ten road games for the first time in 22 years and kept the Old Oaken Bucket in Bloomington for the first time in more than 60 seasons.
IU’s victory over WKU looked better every week. The five FBS programs the Hoosiers defeated went 23-37 (.383) while their six defeats came against teams that won 75 percent of their games. Two of those teams -- Iowa and Michigan State -- will play for the Big Ten title.
Wilson will have to replace the underrated Nate Sudfeld at quarterback and hope that Jordan Howard returns for a final season at tailback. Improvement on defense is also mandatory.
BLENDED FINAL RANKING: 64th nationally
4. Western Kentucky
I hope WKU fans appreciate what a wonderful season their football team has delivered so far because the Hilltoppers are A) entertaining; B) relentless; C) consistent and D) well-coached.
WKU overcame significant injuries. The Hilltoppers scheduled ambitiously, playing Vanderbilt, Indiana and Louisiana State on the road. They won with people expecting them to win. In other words, they could not play the No Respect card.
They’re favored, by 7 ½ points, to win the Conference USA title in only their second season in the league Saturday in Bowling Green.
Western beat three teams that won at least seven games. The overall record of the 10 teams WKU beat was 50-70 (.417). They lost to IU and Louisiana State, which finished.
Nicely done, Jeff Brohm and company. WKU's biggest fear has to be losing Brohm to a better job.
BLENDED FINAL RANKING: 31st nationally
5. Grading the college football magazines
In June, July and August, when the sports calendar is bare, the college football magazines fill the void with predictions and watch lists.
How insightful do they look today? Which magazine did the best job of identifying the four best teams in the nation?
It’s too soon for a final final grade. But let’s assume the four playoff teams are Oklahoma and three other teams favored to win league championship games Saturday – Clemson, Alabama and Michigan State.
I checked where five publications – Phil Steele, ESPN, The Sporting News, Athlon and Sports Illustrated – ranked that group, assigning them one point for their ranking position.
A perfect score – nailing the top four during the summer – would be 10 points.
Here is how the magazines performed:
1. Athlon – 40 points: Alabama 2, Michigan State 7, Clemson 14, Oklahoma 17.
2. Sporting News – 44 points: Alabama 5, Michigan State 8, Clemson 11, Oklahoma 20.
3. Sports Illustrated 45 points: Alabama 5, Michigan State 7, Clemson 12, Oklahoma 21.
4. Phil Steele – 48 points: Alabama 4, Michigan State 9, Clemson 17, Oklahoma 18.
5. ESPN – Incomplete: Alabama 7, Michigan State 8, Clemson 10, Oklahoma unranked.
I remind you to hold all tickets for another week.
6. The Big Ten/ACC Challenge Forecast
The Big Ten/ACC Challenge begins Monday night with two games, continues with six more Tuesday and concludes with a final six Wednesday.
This is how Ken Pomeroy’s computer forecasts the results:
ACC 9, Big Ten 5.
Wake Forest by 4 at Rutgers Monday.
Virginia by 6 at Ohio State Tuesday.
Duke by 10 over Indiana Wednesday.
North Carolina by 7 over Maryland Tuesday.
Miami by 5 over Nebraska Tuesday.
Syracuse by 5 over Wisconsin Wednesday.
Notre Dame by 2 at Illinois Wednesday.
North Carolina State by 1 over Michigan Tuesday.
Boston College by 3 over Penn State Wednesday.
BIG TEN WINS
Minnesota by 1 over Clemson Monday.
Michigan State by 5 over Louisville Wednesday.
Purdue by 1 at Pittsburgh Tuesday.
Iowa by 8 over Florida State Wednesday.
Northwestern by 1 at Virginia Tech Tuesday.
7. Friendly College Football Recruiting Reminder
Nate Sudfeld came to Indiana in 2012 after Gunner Kiel of Columbus East decided that he did not want the scholarship that he initially accepted from Kevin Wilson.
The recruiting world shrugged. Sudfeld was ranked the 63rd best quarterback in the 2012 class by Scout.com as well as the ninth-best quarterback in California.
That is the same Nate Sudfeld who has been named the Big Ten offensive player of the week on consecutive Mondays as well as the Sudfeld who will leave IU after the Hoosiers’ bowl game with all of the school’s important passing records.
You are now free to return to obsessing about recruiting.
8. Somebody Share the Secret Sauce with Saban
I had to laugh at Nick Saban’s reaction Sunday to the news that Georgia coach Mark Richt had “resigned,’ his spot as the Bulldogs head coach.
If you missed it, this is what Saban said:
“I don’t know what the world is coming to in our profession. Mark Richt has been a really good coach and a really positive person in our profession for a long, long time. I think when you win nine games that’s a pretty good season, especially with the body of work he has been able to put together there.”
Dear Nick: Richt is not the problem. You are the problem.
You dominate the SEC too much. Some LSU folks have become tired of it and wanted to show Les Miles the door because he can't beat you. Georgia fans saw Alabama beat the Bulldogs 38-10 in Athens and they howled about the gap between Georgia and a legitimate national contender. Losing to Florida made it much worse for Richt.
In case, nobody has told you, coach, I will: You, Nick Saban, are the problem for the other working stiffs trying to survive in the SEC.
9. Great ACC Football Stat
Credit to David Hale of ESPN.com for this cute college football statistic:
In the last two seasons, ranked SEC teams are 10-10 in non-conference games against Power 5 opponents.
Ranked ACC teams in non-conference games against Power 5 opponent? The ACC is 12-5.
But the national media will keep feeding you that S-E-C, S-E-C junk.
10. Poll Results
This was the question last week: Which quarterback should Louisville start against Kentucky?
Kyle Bolin 46.3 percent.
Lamar Jackson 53.7 percent.
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