BOZICH | Monday Muse -- Louisville's playoff picture; NBA previe - WDRB 41 Louisville News

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BOZICH | Monday Muse -- Louisville's playoff picture; NBA preview; Cubs win

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Eight days from the release of the first rankings from the college football playoff committee, Rick Bozich looks at the credentials of the Top 10 teams. Eight days from the release of the first rankings from the college football playoff committee, Rick Bozich looks at the credentials of the Top 10 teams.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Won't this be a delightful week?

More turmoil and poll uncertainly in the forecast for college football. The start of the most-hyped World Series in years (starts Tuesday night at 8 on WDRB). The start of the NBA season. Inching closer to the start of college basketball.

In many seasons, college basketball would already be the primary local topic. Not this season, not with Louisville scrambling for prime consideration for the college football playoff when the first official rankings are delivered by the committee Nov. 1 and with Lamar Jackson The Guy To Beat in the Heisman Trophy race.

Time to sort through it with the Monday Muse.

1. Rankings Rundown

The college football playoff committee will deliver its first set of rankings in eight days. The committee waits until more than half the regular season has been played to share its first rankings for a reason -- they work to assess the teams on what they have achieved this season, not on what they were expected to do in the pre-season rankings.

Wise move. Where you finish should be determined by what you have done more than by where you started.

That said, this is a good time to consider what the Top 10 teams in the latest Associated Press poll have done.

Alabama

Best Moments: Take your pick. Seven of Bama's eight wins have been by 19 points or more. They've overpowered ranked teams in back-to-back games.

Worst Moments: Ole Miss made them sweat in a 48-43 Bama win and if you look closely the Rebels are lugging a 3-4 record.

Strength of schedule: 11th, according to Jeff Sagarin's numbers.

Final Takeaway: Clearly the best team in the country to date.

Michigan

Best Moments: Better than I thought. The Wolverines have three wins against teams currently ranked in the AP Top 25 -- Colorado, Penn State and Wisconsin -- and the 49-10 win against Penn State has to make Urban Meyer frown.

Worst Moments: Beat Wisconsin by a touchdown.

Strength of schedule: Only 50 according to Sagarin.

Final Takeaway: After playing a Chamber of Commerce schedule (six of their first seven at home), the Wolverines are on the road for three of their final five, but face only one ranked team (Ohio State). They're certainly in a prime position, but it's fair to wonder if they're No. 2, No. 3 or No. 4.

Clemson

Best Moments: The Tigers' road win against No. 15 Auburn brings nearly as many style points as their home win against Louisville now that Gus Malzahn has Auburn rolling again.

Worst Moments: Struggled with Troy. Overtime with North Carolina State.

Strength of schedule: No. 24, heading to the Tigers' trip to Tallahassee Saturday.

Final Takeaway: Auburn's recent surge has helped Clemson's resume. Like Michigan, this group could be No. 2, No. 3 or No. 4.

Washington

Best Moments: The only team with a winning record the Huskies have beaten is Stanford -- and the Cardinal (4-3 overall, 2-3 in the Pac-12) has only memories of being ranked in the Top 10 before the season.

Worst Moments: Huffed and puffed to beat (2-5) Arizona.

Strength of schedule: No. 85, clearly a reason for skepticism.

Final Takeaway: The Huskies might be No. 4 or they might be a creation of their schedule. We're about to find about because Washington's final five opponents have winning records.

Louisville

Best Moments: The 43-point win over Florida State, followed by the 41-point win over North Carolina State.

Worst Moments: Losing a winnable game at Clemson. Letting Duke hang around into late in the fourth quarter.

Strength of schedule: No. 42 and likely to slide over the final five games.

Final Takeaway: Margin of victory must be the Cardinals' focus because the disappearance of Houston means their only win over a ranked team will be against Florida State. Until Washington loses, the Cards are likely on the outside, fighting for inclusion with the Big 12 winner as well as the Big Ten and SEC runners-up.

Ohio State

Best Moments: Beating Oklahoma and Wisconsin, a pair of Top 20 teams.

Worst Moment: The fourth quarter at Penn State.

Strength of schedule: No. 40.

Final Takeaway: The Buckeyes still have a direct path to the playoff by winning their next five and the Big Ten title game.

Nebraska

Best Moments: Hmmm. No wins over a ranked opponent. It's probably a 24-13 win over improving Northwestern.

Worst Moments: Beating Indiana by five on the road or Purdue by 13 at home, take your pick.

Strength of schedule: No. 72 after playing Indiana and Purdue on consecutive weekends.

Final Takeaway: If the Cornhuskers lose the next two -- at Wisconsin and at Ohio State -- they'll be overtaken by the Badgers in the Big Ten West. If they win one of those two, they'll likely decide their fate in the Big Ten title game.

Baylor

Best Moments: An 11-point win over Oklahoma State is the Bears' only victory against a team with a winning record.

Worst Moments: Playoff teams are not supposed to need a late field goal to beat (1-6) Iowa State. Baylor did.

Strength of schedule: 114, one reason it’s difficult to evaluate the Bears.

Final Takeaway: The Bears will remain a pretender unless they win out.

Texas A&M

Best Moments: Credit the Aggies for handling Auburn on the road and Tennessee at College Station.

Worst Moments: Until they lost at Alabama Saturday, it was only beating South Carolina by 11.

Strength of schedule: No. 6 -- impressive.

Final Takeaway: The Aggies would need the committee to take two teams from the SEC to get to the final four, but they’ve got similar credentials to Louisville because their only loss was on the road to a likely playoff team.

West Virginia

Best Moments: The Mountaineers have won their last two Big 12 games by 31 and 24 points.

Worst Moments: A three-point home win over BYU followed by a one-point home win over Kansas State.

Strength of schedule: No. 28, higher than I expected.

Final Takeaway: The Mountaineers will have to win their final six and if that happens they'll have wins against two ranked opponents (Oklahoma, Baylor) and a serious seat at the table.

2. The Road Ahead

In case you had not guessed, this playoff thing is a big deal, especially if Louisville makes the four-team cut.

In addition to looking back, it's fair to look ahead. I checked ESPN's FPI (Football Power Index) numbers, which include the win probability for every team’s remaining schedule.

Guess which team in the Top 10 is projected to have the best chance of winning out?

Bobby Petrino's team. 

Here are the numbers on the 10 prime playoff contenders.

Louisville 69.9 -- The Cards' win probability sits at 95.9 percent or higher for every game except their trip to sagging Houston, where it's 82.6.

Michigan 40.9 -- Take away the Ohio State game (56.4 percent) and the Wolverines' win chances are 82.4 in their next four games.

Alabama 40.6 -- Surprised by this number? Me, too. But Bama's win probability has slipped to 64.5 against LSU and 77.6 against Auburn, both road games. Bama would likely have to lose one of those games and the SEC title game to miss the playoff, right?

Clemson 33.0 -- Florida State (55.8 win probability for Clemson) and Pittsburgh (88.7) will have to deliver because Louisville needs the Tigers to lose twice.

Texas A&M 27.8 -- The Aggies have a better than 50 percent chance to win every game because they get Ole Miss and LSU at home. They need Alabama to lose twice to get to the SEC title game, but they'll make an argument similar to the one Louisville will make: They lost to a playoff team on the road.

Ohio State 25.3 -- The FPI must have been alarmed by the Buckeyes' meltdown at Penn State because Ohio State's win probability at home against Michigan has shriveled to 43.6.

Washington 24.2 -- The Huskies have three games with projected winning percentages of less than 80 percent, all on the road -- Utah, California, Washington State.

West Virginia 7.7 -- Don't be surprised if the Mountaineers slip at Oklahoma State this weekend.

Baylor 3.6 -- The Bears face desperate Texas, talented Oklahoma and unbeaten West Virginia away from home.

Nebraska 0.1 -- The party is about to end for the Cornhuskers who are expected to lose their next two against Wisconsin and Ohio State.

3. The Pomeroy Ratings Have Arrived

The college basketball regular season begins Nov. 11 but Ken Pomeroy, as usual, is highly prepared. His preseason rankings were posted at his fabulous website -- kenpom.com -- Sunday night.

I’m not going to share much information beyond the basics because it's a pay site. I'll simply encourage you to spend the $19.95 and enjoy.

Here is what I will say:

His top 10 teams are: 1. Duke; 2.Villanova; 3. Kansas; 4. Kentucky; 5. North Carolina; 6. Oregon; 7.Virginia; 8. Wisconsin; 9. Louisville; 10. Arizona.

Indiana is picked 16th in a four-way tie for second place in the Big Ten with Ohio State, Purdue and Michigan State.

4. The Charlie Chronicles

I read at least four stories predicting impending unemployment for Charlie Strong at Texas after the Longhorns lost at Kansas State Saturday.

A friend asked what I meant when I wrote that Louisville athletic director Tom Jurich never said, "No comment," when asked about Strong during his four seasons at U of L.

Well, "No comment," was the only comment Texas AD Mike Perrin had after Strong's team slipped to 3-4 Saturday.

But the nicest and most sportsmanlike comment of the week came from Kansas State coach Bill Snyder, who remembers a time when coaches had more than three years to build a football program.

In this clip, Fox Sports caught Snyder saying this to Strong:

"Hang in there, you're doing -- I mean this from the bottom of my heart -- you are the guy [for the job]. You are the guy."

5. Virginia Turmoil

Generally there is no reason to discuss Virginia football here -- even in a week when Louisville is favored to travel to Charlottesville and defeat the Cavaliers by about four touchdowns

But Virginia beat Louisville in Charlottesville two seasons ago. The Cavaliers have a new coach, Bronco Mendenhall, who won games at BYU.

The Cavaliers lost a home game to North Carolina Saturday, slipping to 2-5. But that was not the only story of the day.

Virginia is dealing with a lawsuit filed by a former player who alleges that a hazing incident occurred during summer workouts. The player who filed the lawsuit has transferred to Robert Morris, but two players listed in the suit are on the UVa team.

Here is the link to the Washington Post story.

Mendenhall made the kind of vague reply that coaches usually make when confronted with allegations like these, saying that he loved the young men that he coaches and family comes first.

6. Burning Bielama

When Bret Bielama coached the University of Wisconsin, nobody enjoyed padding the scoreboard more than he did.

There was the 70 points he hung on Nebraska in 2012, the 62 he put on Purdue in 2011, the 83 he scored on Indiana and 70 on Northwestern in 2010 and there was the two-point conversion in the fourth quarter of a game Wisconsin led by 25 against Minnesota also in 2010.

Bielama's teams are not scoring 70 or 83 at Arkansas. On Saturday at Auburn, Arkansas scored three.

Auburn scored 56 -- and ran for 543 yards, a school record.

"We have a lot to be concerned about at this point," Bielama said in this story.

Like a 1-3 record in the SEC.

7. Keeping Score of NBA Rosters

The NBA season tips off Tuesday. Roster shuffling will continue until the season begins. Teams are allowed to keep 15 guys and dress a dozen. The names of active players change every day.

That's a long way of saying I looked at the roster of all 30 NBA teams Sunday night and here is the latest count of players with ties to Louisville, Kentucky and Indiana.

Kentucky 23

James Young (Boston); Aaron Harrison, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (Charlotte); Rajon Rondo (Chicago); DeAndre Liggins (Cleveland); Jamal Murray (Denver); Julius Randle (LA Lakers); Andrew Harrison (Memphis); Karl-Anthony Towns (Minnesota); Anthony Davis, Terrence Jones (New Orleans); Jodie Meeks (Orlando); Nerlens Noel (Philadelphia); Eric Bledsoe, Devin Booker; Brandon Knight, Tyler Ulis (Phoenix); DeMarcus Cousins, Willie Cauley-Stein, Skal Labissiere (Sacramento); Patrick Patterson (Toronto); Trey Lyles (Utah); John Wall (Washington).

Louisville 4

Terry Rozier (Boston); Montrezl Harrell, Chinanu Onuaku (Houston); Gorgui Dieng (Minnesota)

Indiana 5

Cody Zeller (Charlotte); Eric Gordon (Houston); Troy Williams (Memphis); Victor Oladipo (Oklahoma City); Noah Vonleh (Portland).

If you're wondering how Kentucky scores against Duke, I had it Wildcats 23, Blue Devils 19.

But as I said, on days like today the numbers change every hour. In fact, they changed on Monday when Phoenix released former UK guard Archie Goodwin.

8. NBA Predictions

I'm sorry to fast-forward from October to June but am I the only one who thinks we're killing time waiting for Part III of the Warriors vs. Cavaliers?

I didn't think so.

The Warriors were already the best in the West before they added Kevin Durant. Case closed there. Cleveland retained its core and Lebron James needs to collect another title or three in his pursuit of Michael Jordan.

See you in June.

9. Cubs vs. Indians

The Cubs were the trendy pick of everybody to win the World Series, starting last February.

The Indians were more likely to finish fourth than first in the American League Central.

The Cubs have the likely National League MVP (Kris Bryant) and another RBI machine in first baseman Anthony Rizzo.

The Indians' best hitter, Michael Brantley, has not played since May 9.

The Cubs have one of baseball's best October pitchers (Jon Lester), the likely 2016 NL Cy Young winner (Kyle Hendricks) and the 2015 Cy Young winner (Jake Arrieta).

The Indians are already without Carlos Carrasco, probably without Danny Salazar and possibly without a completely healthy Trevor Bauer.

If the Indians can take this to six games, they should throw a parade.

Cubs in five.

10. Poll Results

Which team will be ranked first in the AP pre-season college basketball poll?

Duke 74.5 percent

Kentucky 10.6 percent

North Carolina 5.8 percent

Villanova 4.5 percent

Kansas 3.2 percent

Oregon 1.4 percent

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