BOZICH | Monday Muse: Predictions gone wrong; Jabrill Peppers chases Lamar Jackson
It's been a bad year for the college football preview magazines, Charlie Strong and former U of L quarterback Will Gardner, but a good year for Jabrill Peppers and Willie Taggart.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Making predictions is the biggest growth industry in sports journalism. I typed these words into a Google search Monday morning:
Next football coach at Texas
Only 3.17 million results -- and Charlie Strong has not been dismissed (yet).
That's Sports Talk 101 today.
Which teams will make the playoffs or tournament? Which coach will be hired to replace the coach that you were first to predict would be fired? Who will strike the Heisman pose? Who will sign the recruit most likely to strike the 2017, 2018 or 2019 Heisman poses?
Yada, yada, yada.
At the Monday Muse, I have no problem looking ahead. Guilty as charged. But occasionally we could all use an extra-strength dose of looking back.
Monday is one of those occasions. I paid $12.99 for my Phil Steele College Football Yearbook. I wonder if it comes with any guarantees.
But, first a Muse Update: Louisville football coach Bobby Petrino was asked about one item that appeared in the Muse Monday, more evidence that the Muse is really getting around these days.
1. Peppers Pursues Jackson
As the college football season cruises to the halfway point, Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson remains the guy to catch if you want to win the Heisman Trophy. Jackson is the leader on all the Heisman Projection boards that matter.
Here is my pick as the most serious contender to challenge and possibly overtake Jackson -- Michigan linebacker/safety/punt returner/running back Jabrill Peppers.
Peppers is filling the stat sheet in multiple categories -- and Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh has touted him as the Best Player in College football as the Wolverines have danced to a 6-0 start.
Punt returns? Peppers has averaged nearly 18 yards while fielding 14, taking one back for a touchdowns.
Dependable runner in the Wildcat attack? The Wolverines have given him the ball five times. Peppers has delivered nearly 100 yards and a pair of touchdowns.
Peppers has not quit his day job. He projects as a first-round pick in the 2017 NFL Draft as a hybrid safety/linebacker. Credit Peppers with 38 tackles in six games.
No wonder Harbaugh entered Peppers' name in the Heisman sweepstakes after the Wolverines edged Rutgers, 78-0, Saturday. Remember that Michigan had a defensive player win the Heisman one other time. Charles Woodson took down Peyton Manning.
MUSE UPDATE: U of L football coach Bobby Petrino was asked about Harbaugh's comments and about Peppers at Petrino's weekly Monday press conference.
Has Petrino seen a player more impressive than his quarterback?
"No," he said. "Uh-uh."
Is Petrino compelled to promote Jackson?
"I really don't know," Petrino said. "I don't think so. I think Lamar has set the bar very high with the way he's performed, with the numbers he's put up and how exciting a football player he is and the style of football he has played. I think he's set the bar very high for everybody else.
"Maybe I do need to start promoting him, I'm not really sure. I haven't been associated with this before. I kinda feel you let the body of work speak for itself, but that doesn't mean I'm right."
2. Phil Steele Fumbles
Busted Coverage: Charlie Strong wishes it was true but Texas will not be the Most Improved Team in America as Steele forecasted. After winning five last season, the Longhorns will be fortunate to get to seven this season. Florida State Number One? I'll let Lamar Jackson tackle that question. Florida State, Oklahoma and Louisiana State joining Alabama in the playoff? I've always enjoyed the magazine so I'll stop there.
Bingo: Yes, Washington is in the hunt for Biggest Surprise team and unbeaten Nebraska has earned a roulette chip in that category.
3. ESPN Magazine False Start
Busted Coverage -- Sorry, Bob Stoops, but Oklahoma will not lose the championship game to Clemson as ESPN promised. Ohio State is closer to No. 1 than No. 10. Louisville is not No. 25, Washington is not No. 17. You might want to reshoot one of those cover photos with Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield and replace it with Lamar Jackson.
Hits -- Washington to win the Pac-12. And Rod Gilmore did identify Michigan as the team with the best defensive backs on the planet.
4. Sports Illustrated Stumbles
Busted Coverage: A long, overcooked profile of chatty UCLA quarterback Josh Rosen, who ranks third in the Pac-12 in passing but first in running his mouth. Florida State third, LSU fifth, Oklahoma sixth, Stanford 11th, Notre Dame 12th and Michigan State 13th. Stick to the Swimsuit edition.
Bingo: Alabama, Clemson and Michigan identified as playoff teams. SI placed five playoff contenders (add Ohio State and Washington) in its top nine.
5. Athlon Off Sides
Busted Coverage: FSU second? Iowa to win the Big Ten West? UCLA best in the Pac 12 South? Oklahoma's Mayfield second team all-American? Yuck.
Bingo: Athlon didn't buy the Texas hype, ranking Texas 43rd with Charlie Strong batting leadoff on the Hot Seat list, just ahead of Purdue's Darrell Hazell (2) and Les Miles of LSU (7). Also identified Mike Jinks of Bowling Green as the worst coaching hire -- and he's made them proud by starting 1-5.
6. Whatever Happened to Will Gardner?
Two seasons ago Will Gardner threw a dozen touchdown passes with only three interceptions for the University of Louisville. Given time, he threw a tight, often accurate ball. Last season injuries and three better quarterbacks kept Gardner parked on the Cardinals' sideline.
But Gardner was not finished with football or content holding a clipboard. He had one more season to play -- even if he was not going to play it for Bobby Petrino.
Gardner, a Georgia native, returned to his home state to play for West Georgia. That's a Division II (not FCS, Division II) program in Carrollton.
Gardner has started all six games, but so far this has not been the farewell to football the quarterback envisioned. He threw four interceptions Saturday as West Georgia slipped to 4-2 with a loss to Valdosta State. For the season, Gardner has more picks (12) than touchdown passes (8) -- after dropping down two levels of competition.
He's not getting a ton of help from another name local football fans remember: Former Trinity and Kentucky defensive end Jason Hatcher. Dismissed by Kentucky, Hatcher took his last chance at West Georgia, too. But in six games, Hatcher has managed only 10 tackles and two sacks.
That's not what the recruiting gurus were predicting when somebody lined up a hotel room at the Hyatt in downtown Louisville for Hatcher to announce he had committed to Southern California. (A press conference that Trinity coach Bob Beatty wisely avoided.)
7. All Eyes on Willie (Taggart)
How many prime-time college football jobs are going to open after this college football season?
Louisiana State. Texas. Oregon. USC. Notre Dame. At least two, probably three and perhaps all five.
Here is a name to keep on your Job Search radar: Former Western Kentucky coach Willie Taggart.
All he's done during his third season at South Florida is win five of six games and position the Bulls to make a serious run for the American Athletic Conference title.
As Martin Fennelly noted in this column about USF's win against East Carolina Saturday, Taggart found his name on those Hot Seat Lists in 2015 when the Bulls started 1-3.
Saturday Taggart was questioned about running up the score after he called not one, but two passing plays in the end zone with USF leading 38-22. East Carolina coach Scott Montgomery was not impressed. Willie Taggart was not apologetic.
"We're trying to score," Taggart said. "To take a knee for anybody, where is it in the rule book where it says you have to do that? For anyone to be upset, that's not my fault, you know. We're trying to score points."
There is Jim Harbaugh DNA in Taggart. He won't be in Tampa long.
8. Run, Charlie, Run
ESPN college football analyst Kirk Herbstreit was a Charlie Strong fan before Tom Jurich recruited Strong from Louisville to revive the Louisville football program nearly seven years ago. Like a few others, Herbstreit was not always sold on the concept of Strong leaving U of L to become Mack Brown's replacement at Texas. Terrible fit. Who didn't see this coming?
With Texas sitting on a three-game losing steak and his defense in the dumpster, Strong has been required to answer questions about his job security.
On Saturday, Herbstreit basically told Strong that the best thing for his future would be to get the $10 million buyout for the final two years of his contract and escape the "cesspool," of Texas football.
Plenty of solid jobs will open in December. Start over at a place that does not demand 10-2 or better in Year Three.
Agree. But I'm guessing the folks in Austin did not appreciate the word, "cesspool."
9. Poll Results I
Which team will win the 2016 World Series?
Cubs -- 43 percent
Giants -- 19.8 percent
Red Sox -- 15.5 percent
Other -- 12 percent
Dodgers -- 5.8 percent
Rangers -- 3.9 percent.
10. Poll Results II
Will Charlie Strong turn it around at Texas and make it to the 2017 season?
No -- 87.8 percent.
Yes -- 12.2 percent.
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