MONDAY MORNING QUARTERBACK | Week 4: Louisville vs. Clemson Edition
Eric Crawford is a bit delayed with the Monday Morning Quarterback -- but don't worry, the Week 4 edition is here.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- What? Another Game of the Year? It seems like we just had one of those. All right, let’s do it again. College GameDay. Louisville at Clemson. Top-five matchup. College Football Playoff implications. Who needs to sleep? Today’s edition of the MMQ was delayed for a bit to deal with a snake in the house. It was a very small one, but those are sometimes the toughest to catch.
RED 1: The Cardinals once again lead the nation in scoring (63.5 points per game) and total offense (682 yards per game). A missed field goal, however, deprived them of a fourth straight 60-point game. The NCAA record was five. You can’t have everything.
RED 25: This is Lamar Jackson’s touchdown total (13 passing, 12 rushing), and it is worth pausing for a moment to consider, especially since (thanks Kelly Dickey @RealCardGame for this stat) no other TEAM in the nation has scored 25 offensive touchdowns. So, I’m no statistician, but that’s pretty good, I think. Jackson is sixth in the nation in rushing yards at 526. He’s ninth in the nation in passing yards at 1,330. He threw for a career-high 417 yards against Marshall. And gave his effort an “F.” I checked with the NCAA Clearinghouse. Based on Jackson’s grading, all of college football is ineligible for Week 5.
BLUE 10: Kentucky running back Boom Williams’ rank in the NCAA in rushing yards, with 464, after his 15 carries for 123 yards and a touchdown helped lead Kentucky back to the .500 mark with a 17-10 win over South Carolina Saturday. The more the Wildcats use him, the better it will go. He’s carried 33 times for 304 yards and two touchdowns the past two games. Kentucky has run 242 plays this season (only four teams who have played at least four games have run fewer). Williams has had the ball on 61 of them. So, he’s accounting for 25 percent of the offensive plays, but 30 percent of its yards.
BLUE 3: With 30 solo tackles in four games, Kentucky sophomore linebacker Jordan Jones ranks third nationally in per-game average in that statistic, at 7.5 per game.
RED 2: WKU coach Jeff Brohm will take some heat for going for two at the end of overtime in Saturday’s 31-30 home loss to Vanderbilt, but he knows his team, and he felt like the fatigue level was only going to hurt the Hilltoppers more in subsequent possessions. He showed confidence in his offense. He had sound reasoning, he made his call. You live with the result. Here’s hoping the record crowd for 23,674 will be back for the next game.
CRIMSON 5: Number of turnovers for Indiana in its 33-28 loss to Wake Forest in Bloomington on Saturday. That’s the only stat that matters. IU outgained Wake 611 to 352 and quarterback Richard Lagow threw for 489 yards -- but he also threw five interceptions. Indiana is still the best team locally when it comes to turnover margin -- with a net zero. The others, WKU and Louisville at minus-3 and Kentucky at minus-6, rank in the bottom 30 nationally.
HIKE, HIKE! Ready or not, more hype is coming. Louisville is heading to Clemson off a performance that was just a bit off, though you couldn’t tell it by looking at the stat sheet. You develop some respect for the ability of players to handle this kind of grind mentally, because it’s a bit tough to go to the energy well again for me, and all I’m doing is writing about the games. Of course, when I first started covering U of L in 2001, that game the Cards just played in Huntington, in front of the second-largest crowd ever at Marshall, would’ve been one of the games of the year. So the next word of complaint you hear from me will be the first. These games are why you do the job. John Lewis, Katie George, Sterling Riggs, photographer Jacob Davis and I will head to Clemson Thursday to begin coverage on WDRB News in the Morning on Friday.
FIRST AND 9.41: This, folks, might be the most impressive offensive stat of all Louisville’s impressive offensive stats. And that’s saying something. That number, 9.41, is the number of yards the Cardinals are averaging on first down runs. Not passes, runs. The next-best first-down rushing team in the nation is Army, averaging 5.64 yards per carry. The Cardinals have scored 13 of their 19 rushing touchdowns on first down.
THIRD AND DIFFICULT: In addition to being two of the nation’s top five-ranked teams, Clemson and Louisville are both among the best third-down defensive teams in the nation. Clemson ranks No. 4 in opponent third-down percentage, allowing opponents to convert just 17.2 percent of the time. Louisville ranks eighth, giving up a first down just 21.9 percent of the time.
AWARD WINNER: Congrats to UK defensive end Denzil Ware, who was named SEC defensive lineman of the week on Monday. Ware finished with five tackles and a pair of sacks as UK’s defense got a much needed shot of confidence against South Carolina on Saturday. “That’s how we need to play defensively,” Wildcats coach Mark Stoops said after the game. Of course, that’ll be easier said than done at Alabama on Saturday.
LESS MILES, MORE SPECULATION: This time, it was no false alarm. After LSU lost a last-second victory over Auburn when replays showed that the ball wasn’t snapped in time, the clock ran out on Les Miles at LSU. It throws open the door to speculation about a replacement, but don’t expect Louisville coach Bobby Petrino to be part of that mix. I’d expect Miles to resurface next season, somewhere. At least, I hope so. He’s first team all-quotable.
Miles handled his firing in a classy way Monday Morning on the Dan Patrick Show, saying he wasn’t going to fight LSU leadership.
“It was beyond fighting,” Miles said. “The enjoyment of being here, the enjoyment of community, the experiences my family has had, they’re too important for me to fight over. It’s history, it’s what we are. And if they see a change makes the Tigers better, then I am for them.”
UM, DUKE. Don’t look now Louisville, but the team you play right after Clemson (following a bye week) somehow knocked off Notre Dame last weekend, 38-35. It was a costly loss for the Blue Devils. Senior defensive back DeVon Edwards, one of the ACC’s best, and one of the best kick returners in the league, was lost for the season after tearing both the MCL and ACL in his left knee on the opening kickoff. He’s the second captain Duke has lost to injury this season.
QUOTABLE: WKRD’s Howie Lindsey asked Petrino about a personal foul called on Louisville during a Marshall fake punt in Saturday’s game. The Cardinals were called for a late hit, but the ball carrier was still in bounds. The penalty stood, and no explanation was offered. After Lindsey asked Petrino about it, the coach said, “Are you trying to get me in trouble? Because you could get me in trouble tonight. But I’m going to keep my poise.” On his way out of the news conference, Petrino said, “Thanks, Howie.”
PHOTO BOMB: I mean, who doesn’t like Teddy Bridgewater? Poor form, Marshall.
GAME BALLS: Hand them out to Devonte Fields, who wreaked havoc on Marshall all night and snagged a diving interception, and to James Hearns, who ranks 10th nationally in sacks and tied for second with three forced fumbles in four games. Throw a tight spiral to Louisville tight end Cole Hikutini who caught four passes for 85 yards and two touchdowns. Toss one Boom Williams’ way as well, and to Kentucky’s Ware and Jordan Jones, for anchoring a big defensive effort when the Wildcats needed it.
VEGAS SAYS: Alabama is a 34.5-point favorite over Kentucky. Michigan State is favored by 8.5 over Indiana. Clemson opened as a 3-point favorite over Louisville, but has dropped to 1.5 at the Wynn Casino sportsbook, and is now a consensus 2-point favorite. Odds courtesy of VegasInsider.com.
THE PICKS: I’m taking Louisville by 3 at Clemson, Alabama by 35 over Kentucky, WKU by 50 over Houston Baptist and Michigan State by 14 over Indiana.
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