CRAWFORD | Monday Morning Quarterback: Week 5 Clemson hangover edition
WDRB's Eric Crawford makes his weekly run through College Football past and present in the Monday Morning quarterback.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- The Monday Morning quarterback’s ears are still ringing from the noise in Death Valley Saturday night, but there will be no false starting on the Week 5 edition of the QB. I’ve heard the complaints from University of Louisville fans (the down marker on the far side of the field, really? I’d rather hear, “The dog ate my first down.”) I have heard the cheers out of Bloomington, Ind. I can detect the faintest murmur of optimism in Lexington. Or was that for the start of basketball practice? Regardless, we march on. . . .
RED 7: The University of Louisville’s new ranking in the Associated Press poll. The good news is that the Cardinals are in fair stalking position of the all-important top four. The bad news is that there are few teams on the schedule ahead that serve as adequate rungs over which to climb. There are six ACC teams in this week’s AP poll. The five ACC teams left on Louisville’s schedule, get this luck, are unranked. But take heart. The only poll that matters is the College Football Playoff committee’s, which commences in Week 8. And Houston, ranked No. 6 currently, figures to be unbeaten when the teams meet in Houston on Nov. 17. Many things can happen.
RED 1: Lamar Jackson’s consensus position for the Heisman Trophy. It’s a rare player who can absorb a loss and still remain on top of the standings, but for national writers like Bruce Feldman, Stewart Mandel and others, Jackson is still the player to beat after throwing for 295 yards and running for 162 against Clemson. He also led the Cardinals from 18 points down to an eight-point lead on the road, and nearly engineered a game-winning drive after the Tigers came back to take the lead. The 28 touchdowns he’s responsible for this season already ranks No. 21 on the ACC’s single-season list.
CRIMSON 2: The number of wins over ranked opponents in the past three seasons for Indiana, after Saturday’s 24-21 overtime win over then-No. 17 Michigan State. That win was IU’s first over a ranked opponent since it knocked of Missouri in September of 2014. Just for comparison’s sake, the number of ranked wins for other local programs since the 2014 season: Kentucky 1, Louisville 1, Western Kentucky 0.
BLUE 53.2: Percentage of third down plays converted by Kentucky opponents this season, ranking 126th nationally out of 128 teams in the Football Bowl Subdivision. It’s the one stat coach Mark Stoops would like to change the most, no doubt, because improving that stat means more offensive opportunities and getting a thin defense off the field more. The Wildcats looked like they made progress, allowing South Carolina to convert only 3 of 13 first-down chances, but Alabama converted 9 of 14. Some good news for Kentucky: Vanderbilt comes into Saturday’s game converting just 35 percent of its third-down chances, 98th in FBS.
RED 5: National rank in receiving yards from Louisville native and Pleasure Ridge Park product Taywan Taylor, the WKU wideout who had seven catches for 146 yards and a touchdown in Saturday’s blowout win over Houston Baptist. He passed the 3,000-yard mark for his career with a catch in the first quarter, and the 80-yard TD pass he caught in the second quarter was the longest of his career.
HIKE, HIKE! Speculation on what the Louisville football must do to somehow claw its way to the College Football Playoffs. The MMQ has some advice -- don’t think about it. Too many things are going to happen between now and November to make it worth wasting time over. All the Cardinals can do now is keep improving. They can’t afford to look uninspired in any game they’re expected to win by a bunch of points -- and that will be all of them until they face Houston in the next-to-last game of the season. Florida State losing to North Carolina didn’t help. Louisville really needs Houston to stay unbeaten and for Florida State to get its act together. And Louisville also has a problem with Miami. Don’t look now (Georgia fans) but Mark Richt has the U in the AP Top 10 and has three straight games against ranked teams (Florida State, N.C. State and at Virginia Tech) coming up, with Notre Dame right after that. If Miami runs that table, watch out. Here’s what I would advise. Let’s wait to see how the College Football Playoff committee ranks the teams in a few weeks, see where Louisville stands, and then begin the worthless speculation. Deal? Probably not, I know.
TIMEOUT FOR MEASUREMENT: A great many Louisville fans have written complaining that the first-down marker often laid down on the sideline appeared to be well back of the sideline for James Quick’s final, fateful catch, in which the receiver went out of bounds a yard shy of the needed first down on a 4th and 12 play near the Clemson goal line. College rules stipulate that official first-down markers and line-of-gain indicators are to be kept on the sideline opposite the press box, which in the case of this game would’ve been the Louisville sideline, on the other side of the field from this play. The rules recommend that another line-of-gain indicator be kept on the other side of the field, but don’t require it. The indicator is to be six feet from the sideline. And in any event, this indicator is always unofficial. In other words, especially on a big play, you don’t rely on it. You know where you need to go. Clemson’s defensive player, in the same circumstance, knew exactly where he needed to stop Quick. In this case, it was up to Quick to know where he needed to be. At the same time, fans who are trashing him and spewing hate on social media should be ashamed. Quick was one of the reasons U of L was in position to go for a win in the first place. It was a painful play for Louisville, but I see no official conspiracy.
FIRST and 10: Louisville’s first-down efficiency this season has been something to behold. The Cardinals have passed the ball 42 percent of the time on first down this season, and completed 57 of 87 passes for 936 yards (16.4 yards per attempt) and nine touchdowns. They have gotten first-down yardage on 28 of those plays. That’s pretty good. But look at the running game. They’ve run it 58 percent of the time, gaining 979 yards on 118 carries (8.3 yards per attempt) and scored 14 touchdowns. They’ve gotten first-down yardage 30 times. Better than one in four first-down plays has yielded another first down. Of their 39 touchdowns this season, 23 have come on first-down plays.
THIRD and OUT? Pete Thamel of Sports Illustrated reports that he’s been told by a Texas source that the school is “very close” to being ready to make a move with Charlie Strong at the end of the season. The source said that Strong wouldn’t be fired during the season, in part because there’s no logical choice to coach the team on the staff. Regardless, Strong, who is 13-19 in his third season in Austin after back-to-back road losses to Cal and Oklahoma State, likely wouldn’t be out of work very long with the number of jobs opening up.
NINE TIME? David Teel of the Daily Press in Newport News, Va., has reported that with ACC athletic directors set to meet this week in Chapel Hill, there seems to be momentum growing for going to a nine-game football schedule. Louisville athletic director Tom Jurich, along with ADs from Clemson and Florida State, have said they’d like to stay at eight. Those three schools, along with Georgia Tech and Duke, Teel says prefer the current model of eight league games plus two non-league games against Power 5 opponents. Miami, North Carolina, Virginia, N.C. State, Wake Forest and Boston College appear to favor the nine-game model. That leaves Pitt, Virginia Tech and Syracuse yet to state a position, but if, as Teel reports, two of them prefer the 9-game season, then the ACC may be ready to make a change.
TV TIME: The Louisville-Clemson showdown earned a 6.0 Nielsen overnight rating and had a average per-minute audience of 200,000 streaming online. The game was the highest overnight for ABC’s Saturday Night Football since the 2014 ACC Championship game when Florida State defeated Georgia Tech.
PHOTO BOMB: This shot, from the Associated Press postgame photo gallery, pretty well tells the tale. I think if you looked up "total, abject disgust" on Wikipedia, Bobby Petrino probably returned as the result.
QUOTABLE: Ohio State coach Urban Meyer was asked last week if he preferred some system where players would have to sign a document when they committed but before they signed a national letter of intent. I’d say from this quote, you can put him down for a “no.”
“So, because 17-year-olds are decommitting, let's give them a legal document so they can't decommit. That's not very smart. Young people have a right to choose where they want to go to school. Period. Let them decommit 100 times. They're 17 years old. That's why they're called 17-year-olds.”
GAME BALLS: Let’s reward Indiana running back Devine Redding, who finished with 100 rushing yards on 19 carries in Saturday’s upset of Michigan State. He's now rushed for 100 yards or better in six of his past seven games. Lamar Jackson, for helping Louisville regain its composure and for leading a second-half comeback, gets one from Clemson. And let’s add one for Louisville punter Mason King, who boomed a 60-yard punt in the first quarter of the Cardinals loss at Clemson. Without his leg, Louisville’s disastrous second quarter might’ve been a lot worse. He averaged 48 yards per punt in the game, and a 47.8-yard net, with two punts of better than 50 yards and one downed inside the 20.
GAME BALL ADDITION: The original version of this column made an important omission. In my "Players of the Game" section right after the game, I went to some lengths to talk about the play of Louisville cornerback Jaire Alexander in the game. Ben Boulware, with 18 tackles, was the undisputed defensive stopper for Clemson. Alexander held the same role for Louisville. He had a pair of pass interceptions, forced a fumble that Louisville recovered and saved the Cardinals from another fumble when a punt bounced off a teammate's leg. Alexander was a game-changer, and saved the Cardinals more than once.
VEGAS SAYS: Louisiana Tech opened as a one-point favorite at home against Western Kentucky on VegasInsiders.com, but WKU now is a 3-point favorite. Ohio State is a 29-point favorite at home over Indiana, and Kentucky is a 3-point favorite at home over Vanderbilt.
THE PICKS: I’ll take Louisiana Tech at home over the Hilltoppers, Ohio State by 28 over Indiana and Kentucky by a touchdown over Vandy.
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