BOZICH | Monday Muse: Who's Number One? One vote for Louisville
Guess who is number one in one college basketball computer ranking? WKU and IU favored in their bowl games while U of L is an underdog? Who should win the Heisman? Time for the Monday Muse.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – The basketball/football overlap continues for at least another week. I was prepared to lead with football again, especially with Louisville, Western Kentucky and Indiana all bound for bowl games.
Then I looked at some college basketball information that was too good to bury. I have not been great at predictions lately, but I predict that you will agree this was the only way to launch the Monday Muse.
1. Who Loves Louisville? Jeff Sagarin Loves Louisville
Guess who is Number One in Jeff Sagarin's college basketball computer rankings?
Well, I guess I spoiled the ending with my headline. It's Louisville.
You have to dig into Sagarin's numbers to find the Cardinals on top. They're first in his predictor rankings, which are his preferred numbers because predictor factors in margin of victory.
Rick Pitino's team is also second in his blended ratings. Using Sagarin's formula, Louisville should be favored over Kentucky by 3.28 points in Rupp Arena on Dec. 26. (Please note that Ken Pomeroy's numbers project the Wildcats winning, 72-67.)
Where is Kentucky in Sagarin predictor?
Try Number 22 behind two Southeastern Conference teams (Vanderbilt and Florida).
Consider it a reminder that this early in the season you can find nuggets galore in the computer rankings. Here is a comparison of the top five in Sagarin predictor, Ken Pomeroy and the Ratings Percentage Index:
Sagarin: 1. Louisville; 2. Villanova; 3. Purdue; 4. Vanderbilt; 5. Michigan State.
Pomeroy: 1. Villanova; 2. Virginia; 3. Duke; 4. Purdue; 5. Kentucky.
RPI: 1. North Carolina; 2. Valparaiso; 3. Xavier; 4. Villanova; 5. Davidson.
2. Early Bowl Game Lines
I've been waiting most of the day for the point spreads for the 4.1 million bowl games that will be played. Rather than keep waiting, I went directly to my guy in Las Vegas – Brian Edwards. You can find his work at BrianEdwardsSports.com.
Edwards said the early numbers have Western Kentucky favored by 3 against South Florida and Indiana, the surprising pick by 2 points over Duke.
Louisville is listed as a 2 ½-point underdog at Texas A&M.
I'll talk to Edwards again before the games are played. But he said the South Florida-Western Kentucky game is one of his favorite games on the board and that Willie Taggart's team is hot, hot, hot.
3. Scouting Texas A&M
Random ruminations on the Aggies, Louisville's opponent in the Music City Bowl.
We know which team Charlie Strong will be pulling for in Nashville, don't we? There's nothing Strong and Longhorn Nation would enjoy seeing more than another Texas A&M meltdown.
The Aggies have developed a pattern the last two seasons: Start fast, and then wobble to the finish line. A&M won its first five last season and finished 8-5. A&M won its first five this season and lost four of its final seven.
It's tough to knock the Aggies' bowl record. They have won four straight. Over the last four seasons, they have beaten West Virginia, Duke, Oklahoma and Northwestern.
The teams had one common opponent – Auburn. Louisville lost its season opener to the Tigers by seven in Atlanta. Auburn went to College Station and beat Aggies by 16. I believe they call that a bad loss.
4. Scouting Duke
Random ruminations on the Blue Devils, Indiana's opponent in the Pinstripe Bowl.
I suspected Duke would be favored, but a closer look at the Duke record suggests this was not one of David Cutcliffe's better teams. Duke did not beat any FBS program that finished with a winning record and lost four of its last five.
The teams had one common opponent -- Wake Forest. Indiana won by seven in Winston Salem while Duke won by six.
You'd be safe predicting a shootout. Duke averaged more than 430 yards per game in total offense. But Duke's pass defense should help Indiana quarterback Nate Sudfeld improve his position in the 2016 NFL Draft. Duke allowed nearly 229 yards passing per game. Opponents celebrated 20 passing touchdowns, the third highest total in the Atlantic Coast Conference.
The Blue Devils are working on a three-game bowl losing streak – to Arizona State, Texas A&M and Cincinnati.
5. Scouting South Florida
In September, USF coach Willie Taggart was on every college football Hot Seat list that I checked. In late November, USF fans were wondering if Taggart was listed as a candidate for some of the best jobs that opened. He reportedly interviewed for the opening at South Carolina.
That's what happens when a team begins its season losing three of its first four (including an 18-point loss to Maryland) and then finishes by winning seven of its last eight.
Western Kentucky's offense will likely have to score at least 50 to beat the Bulls. They averaged 51 while winning their final three games against Temple, Cincinnati and Central Florida.
USF had the second-best running attack in the American Athletic Conference, averaging 303 yards per game over the last four games. Stop the run. There is your story line.
6. Remember Which Coach Preceded Mark Dantonio?
Michigan State is certain to be the underdog when the Spartans play Nick Saban and Alabama in the semifinals of the college football playoff. But Dantonio has already eclipsed Saban on one line on their resumes:
Which coach did a better job at Michigan State?
In five seasons with the Spartans, Saban won 58.5 percent of his games and lost three bowl games. He ran to the first available SEC job (LSU) that he could find.
In nine seasons with the Spartans, Dantonio has won 73.1 percent of his games, including four of eight bowl games. He likely had a chance to run to an SEC job at his alma mater (South Carolina) and passed.
Surely you have not forgotten that Dantonio inherited a losing program when he left Cincinnati for East Lansing after the 2006 season. His predecessor discovered that Michigan State is not a first-and-goal coaching situation.
That, of course, was former Louisville coach John L. Smith, who was fired after delivering three consecutive losing seasons.
7. Winning with offense – or defense?
The debate never disappears: Is the surest way to win in college football with dynamic offense or thunderous defense?
The success of guys like Urban Meyer, Brian Kelly, Chip Kelly, Gus Malzahn and Hugh Freeze seemed to tip the debate toward offense.
But that is not how this season has unfolded. Three of the four coaches competing in the national playoff carved out their career paths as defensive guys. Saban, Dantonio and Bob Stoops of Oklahoma are all former defensive coordinators. Dabo Swinney earned the Clemson job after coaching receivers there.
But look at the guys who have been hired in the SEC and Big Ten over the last month. Most of them are defensive guys – Will Muschamp at South Carolina; Kirby Smart at Georgia; D.J. Durkin at Maryland; Chris Ash at Rutgers and Barry Odom of Missouri.
Defense, defense, defense.
8. My Heisman Ballot
The New York Downtown Athletic Club requires voters for the Heisman Trophy to agree NOT to discuss their Heisman selections before the award is presented Saturday night.
I will follow that rule.
But I will say this: Chances are that I did not give my first-place vote to the player who will win the award. Chances are that I included one player who will not be rewarded with a trip to New York City with the rest of the finalists.
I've gone against the grain before, voting for Toby Gerhart of Stanford over Mark Ingram of Alabama in 2009 and Andrew Luck of Stanford over Robert Griffin III of Baylor and Trent Richardson of Alabama two years later.
I'd better not say another word before I lose my voting privileges. Enough hints. Let's see who can figure it out.
9. Props to More 502 Boys
Rick Pitino made a point of expressing his appreciation for the two homegrown players in his starting lineup -- point guard Quentin Snider and Raymond Spalding, his freshman forward. They're the guys know as the 502 Boys in the Louisville locker room.
But Snider and Spalding are not the only 502 Boys doing good things in college basketball this season. Don't forget Kelan Martin and Remy Abell.
Martin played with Snider at Ballard and then signed with Butler. He is on his way to becoming the Bulldogs' next star. Martin is the team's third-leading scorer (12.6 points per game). He is averaging more than 5 rebounds. He is making nearly 57 percent of his shots. Butler is a 6-1, a top 25 team.
Abell is also starting for a top 25 team. A former star at Eastern High School, Abell is playing his second and final season for Xavier after transferring from Indiana. He's averaging 7 points and 2 assists for the Musketeers, who are unbeaten in eight games.
10. Poll Results
What grade would you assign the Louisville football team for its 7-5 regular season?
C-plus 33.2 percent
C or lower 11
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