BOZICH | Monday Muse: Best college football opening weekend ever? Not locally
Is this the best opening weekend ever for college football? Even locally? Is the LA Times calling Louisville a Top 10 team? Whatever happened to Dwight Anderson? Or Charlie Strong?
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – You don’t need to stare at the countdown clock any more. You can put down the pre-season magazines – and clear your calendar from Thursday-through-Monday.
College football is back.
In fact, it’s back with so much gusto that several observers have argued this will be The Greatest Opening Weekend in History.
Hmm. Hang an asterisk on that one Coach Rockne.
Well, that’s why you’ve come to the Monday Muse, isn’t it?
1. Not The Greatest Opening Weekend for the Local Big Four
Louisville by 39 ½ over Charlotte. Give me the Cards by closer to 50.
Indiana by 9 ½ at Florida International. Why open on the road against a Conference USA opponent?
Western Kentucky by 16 ½ over Rice. Name one Rice player – without looking at a pre-season magazine.
Kentucky by 6 ½ over Southern Miss. DANGER.
About 75 percent of the local drama focuses on Kentucky. Can Drew Barker deliver at quarterback? Can the Wildcats stop an offense directed by a coordinator (Shannon Dawson) who failed to put sufficient sizzle in the UK offense? Will fans stuff Commonwealth Stadium Saturday night?
Can Indiana survive (on the road) without Nate Sudfeld, Jordan Howard and Jason Spriggs? Will WKU be WKU without Brandon Doughty?
Will Lamar Jackson show more of the finishing touches of a Bobby Petrino quarterback?
But game drama? A good bit at Kentucky. A reasonable amount with Indiana. Some with WKU. None with Louisville.
On a weekend when Kansas State plays Stanford, Louisiana State gets Wisconsin (in Green Bay!), Alabama messes with USC, Notre Dame visits Texas and Clemson tangles with Auburn, there’s isn’t a Top 10 game nationally on the local card.
If you remember the days before the U of L-UK series began to serve as the season opener in 1994, you remember when Louisville opened at Ohio State (1992) and West Virginia (1985).
In the Seventies, Kentucky opened with North Carolina (twice), Virginia Tech (three times), Clemson (once), Oregon State (once) and South Carolina (once).
Ask Lee Corso for the list of 10 teams he opened against at Indiana: Here it is: Illinois (twice); Minnesota (twice); Wisconsin; LSU; Iowa (twice); Northwestern (twice).
It’s a wonderful collection of games on opening weekend.
But locally, it’s Not The Greatest Opening Weekend.
2. Louisville in the Top 10
National media outlets are picking up on the positive vibe percolating in the Louisville football camp – all the way in Los Angeles.
Renee Griffin of the Los Angeles Times filed a preview of the Atlantic Coast Conference. The story is not heavy with information about Bobby Petrino’s team – until you get to the final paragraph.
The story closes with this nugget:
You read it here
Louisville will give the ACC Atlantic Division not one, not two, but three teams in the top 10 along with Clemson and Florida State. The Cardinals probably won’t be able to take down the Tigers or Seminoles, but they get those two teams out of the way early in the schedule and could easily go 7-0 to close out the year. Here is your link.
3. Will Charlie Strong Win More than Five or Six?
In case you’ve forgotten, Charlie Strong went 6-7 during his first season at Texas and backed up to 5-7 last season.
Shawn Watson, his offensive coordinator, paid the price, losing his play-calling responsibilities after one game in 2016 and then his job at season’s end. Watson now works at … Indiana, as a quality control assistant coach for the Hoosiers, who is not cleared to speak to the media. (I’ve asked. Twice.)
The next step after a coach fires a coordinator is either A) noticeable improvement or B) a severance check.
Strong is on year three of a five-year contract worth roughly $25 million.
Can Texas win more than five or six this season? Will that be enough to keep Strong in Austin? Is his freshman quarterback Steve Buechele as talented as advertised?
Phil Steele picks Texas as the Most Improved Team in college football. Las Vegas has set the over/under win total for the Longhorns at 6 ½. The Longhorns get a break. A year after starting the season with a 38-3 loss at Notre Dame, Texas plays host to the Fighting Irish Sunday. In case you missed it, Notre Dame has suffered several off the field matters the last two weeks.
This is what one Texas football website is saying.
4. Super-Sized Expectations at Tennessee
Tennessee has averaged six victories over the last five seasons but if you have been paying attention to the pre-season chatter around the UT program this summer, you have heard the road to the East Division title in the Southeastern Conference goes through Knoxville.
The Vols have everybody but Peyton Manning back on offense and a roster full of Reggie Whites on defense. The official count is 17 returning starters.
John Adams, a columnist in Knoxville, isn’t usually one to buy into the hype, but over the weekend Adams wrote the Vols are positioned for their best season in 15 years.
You can discover why Adams believes Tennessee will overtake Georgia and Florida, by clicking this link.
5. Whatever Happened to Dwight Anderson?
Remember The Blur?
Of course, you do if you’ve been a college basketball fan in his area for four or five decades. Dwight Anderson was one of the most acclaimed recruits Joe B. Hall signed at Kentucky, landing him in 1978. He joined the Wildcats the season after Hall won the NCAA title.
Anderson was from Dayton, Ohio, and guys like Isiah Thomas and Dominique Wilkins will tell you nobody was faster with the basketball.
Anderson played part of two seasons at UK and then departed – for Southern California. He did some great things there. He also did some unfortunate things. More unfortunate things than great things, sadly, so Anderson never became the pro that many thought that he would. Dwight Anderson has lived a difficult life.
Now Branson Wright, a sports reporter from Cleveland, has crafted a 26-minute documentary about Anderson, titled, “The Blur,” which was Anderson’s nickname.
I encourage you to watch this short preview. I believe you’ll enjoy it.
6. Even More No Respect Rankings
The Washington Post sometimes strays from the Redskins, Bryce Harper and Donald Trump. Woodward and Bernstein didn’t give the paper its chops covering college football, but the digital edition of the Post is trying to collect clicks from the Orange Bowl to the Rose Bowl.
I took the bait.
The Post ranked all 128 FBS teams.
Mandatory follow-up question: Where did Woodward and Bernstein rank U of L, UK, IU and WKU.
Kentucky – the Wildcats check in at 68th, with the obligatory mention that Mark Stoops is crossing the Rubicon. (link for UK, IU, WKU.)
Western Kentucky – the Hilltoppers sit at 62nd and are described as a legitimate contender to win Conference USA because of a superior offensive line.
Indiana – the Hoosiers creep to 59th, and even the Post knows the Hoosiers can score but not tackle.
Louisville – Give Bobby Petrino’s team the 20 slot, just behind USC – unless the Cardinals rise up to defeat Florida State or Clemson. (The Link.)
7. Corso: Jim Harbaugh is Urban Meyer’s Worst Nightmare
Southeastern Conference fans won’t want to read this, but the Michigan-Ohio State rivalry is on the brink of overtaking Alabama-Auburn to regain its place as the most compelling rivalry in college football.
Nobody in the SEC can touch Nick Saban, including Gus Malzahn of Auburn, who starts this season on the edge of the Hot Seat.
Meanwhile, in Ann Arbor, Jim Harbaugh has been marketing and coaching and recruiting like crazy. The Wolverines play six of their first seven at home – none against ranked opponents.
ESPN analyst Lee Corso is paying attention. Eleven Warriors, a website solidly attuned to Ohio State sports, is paying attention to Corso.
Corso called Harbaugh the “worst nightmare,” for Ohio State coach Urban Meyer. Eleven Warriors does not agree, claiming it could find somebody off the streets that could give “sh&%^$y opinions for half the price.”
If you enjoy Internet fussing, you should click this link.
8. ACC Hoops: Tougher Than Ever
I couldn’t deliver an entire Monday Muse without at least one basketball item, right?
Athlon Sports Yearbooks will be available next week, but Athlon’s Top 25 is available now. As usual, it’s packed with teams from the ACC. (The link.)
Like Duke, which is ranked first. And North Carolina, which is sixth. And Virginia, seventh, Louisville 13th, Virginia Tech 22nd and Florida State 25th.
Rob Dauster of NBC SportsTalk says Athlon is missing a team – Syracuse, especially now that the Orangemen have landed Andrew White, the former Nebraska three-point shooter who also took a brief look at Louisville before he decided to sign with Jim Boeheim.
I’m not an Andrew White fan. He’s a volume shooter who left Nebraska coach Tim Miles in a terrible spot.
9. Poll Results I
Which Pre-Season AP Top 25 Team is Louisville Most Likely To Beat This Season?
They’ll beat more than one – 48 percent
Houston 28.2 percent
Florida State 19.2 percent
Clemson 4.6 percent
10. Poll Results II
Las Vegas has set the over/under regular-season win total for Louisville at 8 ½. Are you taking the over or under?
Over 87.9 percent
Under 12.1 percent.
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