CRAWFORD | Monday Morning Quarterback: Midterm rankings edition - WDRB 41 Louisville News

CRAWFORD | Monday Morning Quarterback: Midterm rankings edition

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- The college football season is now officially halfway over, which allows the Monday Morning Quarterback to survey the status of the local programs in relation to the rest of the country. Huddle up . . .

RED 7: This is the University of Louisville’s national ranking in both the Associated Press and USA Today coaches polls this week, but more importantly, it’s the Cardinals’ ranking in a collection of 85 football rankings by the Massey Ratings Composite. Their highest ranking is No. 2 nationally by the BC Moore rankings out of Iowa. Their lowest is No. 23 by Michael Laurie’s Surplus Wins system. Only four of the 85 rankings has Louisville in the top 4, which illustrates their difficulty now in reaching the college football playoff, given that their strength of schedule in the second half of the season will be quite a bit lower than it was in the first half. The Cards will need a lot of help. But they can at least remain part of the conversation.

CRIMSON 54: Indiana is the second-highest rated team in the composite, with a high ranking of No. 32 in the Rissler rankings and a low of No. 91 in the Vern ratings. Don’t ask me what either of those are. I can tell you that Indiana gave Nebraska all it wanted on Saturday in a 27-22 loss to No. 10 Nebraska. Strangely enough, the problem for the Hoosiers right now isn’t defense, but offense. They’re moving the ball well enough, but not cashing in when they get the opportunity. The Hoosiers rank 122nd among 128 teams in touchdown percentage in the red zone, with just nine TDs in 20 attempts.

RED 64: We’ve got a horse race here in the mid-60s with the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers checking in just one spot ahead of the University of Kentucky. Their 44-43 win at Middle Tennessee in double-overtime was their most impressive performance of the season, and sets them up for another bowl season in 2016. WKU has a high ranking of No. 40 and a low of No. 106 among the 85 in the composite, but they outperformed the numbers at MTSU, going in as a 2 ½-point underdog. The Hilltoppers got another huge game from PRP product Taywan Taylor, who had career-highs of 12 receptions for 197 yards while adding 1 touchdown. It was his fifth game this season of 100 or more yards and 15th of his career. Another Louisville kid, Ace Wales from Central, carried for 158 yards and averaged nearly six yards per carry.

BLUE 65: The Wildcats are back on a winning track, and come off a bye week with another must-win against Mississippi State on Saturday if they want to stay on schedule for their first bowl game since the 2010 season. Kentucky’s highest ranking in the composite is No. 37; its lowest is No. 103.

HIKE, HIKE! Interest in Louisville’s homecoming opponent Saturday at noon in Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium. N.C. State should be coming to Louisville with a monumental upset of Clemson under its belt, but an icing-the-kicker move by Dabo Swinney and subsequent miss of the potential game-winner led to a Tigers win in overtime. It’s rare to get a do-over, but if the Wolfpack can throw that kind of scare into Clemson in Death Valley, they’re more than enough to get the attention of Louisville, which is coming off of a less-than efficient performance against Duke.

FIRST AND 10: Some advice when facing the two Kentucky FBS football teams who wear red -- watch out for the first down pass. WKU ranks third in FBS in first-down passing yards at 1,184 on the season. Louisville, which has played one fewer game, is fourth national it 1,041. Contrasting: Indiana has thrown for 738 yards on first down this season; Kentucky 338.

THIRD AND TROUBLE: Louisville’s defense has been among the top 10 in third-down percentage all season before dropping to No. 11 this week. But in its two conference games in October -- not so much. The Cards gave up eight conversions in 16 third-down attempts against Duke, not counting a personal foul which gave the Blue Devils another conversion by penalty. In October, U of L ranks 101st nationally in third-down percentage defense, at 48 percent. With an N.C. State team coming in that converts just over 46 percent of its third downs, the Cards figure to be making it a point of emphasis in preparations this week.

POINT AFTER: Deon Yelder had played in four games in three seasons at WKU after signing with the Hilltoppers out of Southern High School in Louisville, where he had been a starting guard on the basketball team in addition to playing football. He’s played in seven games this season and made one solo tackle. But his biggest play doesn’t show up on the stat sheet. After MTSU took a six-point lead on a TD in the second overtime period against WKU on Saturday, it was Yelder who got a hand on the extra point, blocking it to open the door for the Hilltoppers. WKU charged through it to get its biggest win of the season.

HEISMAN WATCH: Saturday’s win over Duke wasn’t Jackson’s best game. But it still was pretty impressive statistically. He ran for 144 yards and threw for 181 in the 24-14 victory, and remains atop practically everyone’s Heisman Watch. He can’t have too many off games -- particularly given the lack of marquee games ahead -- but Jackson’s ability to pile up big numbers, combined with his big lead early in the season, will make him hard to stop. His main competition remains Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson, Ohio State wideout J.T. Barrett and Michigan linebacker-safety Jabrill Peppers. In fact, Peppers might be the biggest threat. A defensive standout who also takes snaps out of the Wildcat and is one of the most dangerous return men in the nation. Having Jim Harbaugh leading your P.R. campaign also doesn’t hurt.

QUOTABLE: Credit Bobby Petrino for best summing up Louisville’s sometimes frustrating experience against Duke on Saturday. His thoughts: “I think every season that you win games and you have a good season, there's going to be one or two games that are very close and difficult and hard. I know that from over the years there's been games you go in and you think okay this is going to be a high-scoring game, and it's a low-scoring game. Or this one's going to be a defensive thing and it ends up being both offenses score a lot of points. You never know what's going to happen until you go out and play.”

WILDCAT TAKES THE HELM: In the wake of Darrell Hazel’s firing at Purdue, former UK wide receiver Gerad Parker has taken over in the interim. Parker, who was a standout at Lawrence County before going to UK, where he played from 2001 to 2004. He had 15 catches as a senior for Rich Brooks. He also was voted the team’s most inspirational player. Parker was selected because of the respect he’s earned among Purdue’s current players. After leaving UK, he served as passing game coordinator at MTSU and coached at Marshall before joining Hazell’s staff at Purdue.

PHOTO BOMB: Swinney's look of relief is all you need.

GAME BALLS: Hand them to Taylor, Wales, Yelder and Mike White at WKU after the big win. Also provide one to the IU defense, which slowed Nebraska, just not quite enough. And save a big one for Louisville defensive end Drew Bailey, who had a career night against Duke: 11 tackles (the most for a Louisville D-lineman since Elvis Dumervil had 11 against Kentucky in 20015), three for loss.

VEGAS SAYS: Indiana is a 2.5-point underdog at Northwestern, Louisville is a 19-point favorite over an N.C. State team that just took Clemson to overtime, Mississippi State is a 3.5-point favorite at Kentucky and Western Kentucky is a 13.5-point favorite at home over Old Dominion.

THE PICKS: Indiana by 3 at Northwestern, Louisville by 14 over N.C. State, Kentucky by 3 over Mississippi State and WKU by 7 over Old Dominion.

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