BOZICH | Monday Muse: September schedule keys for U of L, UK, IU - WDRB 41 Louisville News

  • What is the key September game for the University of Louisville football team?

  • Thank you for participating in our poll. Here are the results so far:

    Purdue in Indy
    5%
    19 votes
    at North Carolina
    19%
    75 votes
    Clemson
    77%
    307 votes

BOZICH | Monday Muse: September schedule keys for U of L, UK, IU, WKU

Posted: Updated:
Rick Bozich presents his weekly Monday Muse. Rick Bozich presents his weekly Monday Muse.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) — Football is coming. Promise. I know you’re ready. Me, too. It’s almost time to break out my Preseason Top 10/Bottom 5.

But not yet.

I’ll stick with the Monday Muse, with a special focus on September road games that Louisville, Kentucky, Indiana and Western Kentucky need to win to deliver the 12-0 seasons their fans expect, right?

1. September Schedule Shakedown

Lamar Jackson moved to the head of the class in the Heisman Candidate race with his video game performance at Syracuse last season. That was a September game.

Indiana would not have returned to a bowl game without winning at FIU. Western Kentucky has proven its legitimacy the last two seasons by going 9-4 on the road, including an early win at Miami (Ohio) and a solid effort at Alabama.

Kentucky did its best road work late, saving its season by winning at Missouri and Louisville.

What does the road bring for the Cardinals, Wildcats, Hoosiers and Hilltoppers this season, especially in September when teams often build reputations that endure into December?

Let’s look.

*Louisville — North Carolina finished tied for second in the ACC Coastal Division last season, but Sept. 9 looks like the perfect time to visit Chapel Hill.

Without quarterback Mitch Trubisky, their top two running backs and top two receivers, the Tar Heels are expected to struggle in September. UNC was picked fifth in the Coastal, ahead of only Duke and Virginia.

Remember: This is Larry Fedora’s sixth season. He’s a solid coach who has had time to build depth. According to Phil Steele, Fedora will mix transfers from LSU, USC and Florida into his offense — and he’s at his most dangerous when underrated.

*Kentucky — Last season was the first time the Wildcats won more than one road game since 2009. Can they do it again?

They’d better if they want to achieve the whispers of eight victories. The Wildcats play two of their first three away.

Trips to Southern Miss (Sept. 2) and South Carolina (Sept. 16) will define the season. The Golden Eagles have the best running back (Ito Smith) and wide receiver (Allenzae Staggers) in Conference USA, but they were beaten at home by Troy and Charlotte last season. They’re without quarterback Nick Mullens.

The Wildcats need to win in Hattiesburg — and could win in Columbia, even though the Gamecocks were picked to finish ahead of UK at SEC Media Day.

The optimism with South Carolina stirs around an offense that returns its top two rushers as well as its top five receivers and flashed more octane after freshman Jake Bentley took over mid-season.

But South Carolina was at its best against bad teams. They wobbled to seven points against Florida and another seven against Clemson.

With three straight wins in the series, the Wildcats can make it four.

*Indiana — Beat Virginia.

It’s really that simple. In a season that has the Hoosiers playing five Big Ten games away from Bloomington, winning in Charlottesville is close to essential for Tom Allen’s team.

The Cavaliers were an overwhelming pick to finish last in the ACC Coastal Division. They finished 1-5 at home last season, stumbling against Richmond.

IU lost by 40 in Charlottesville in 2009 and by three in Bloomington six years ago. The Hoosiers need this one if they want to get to seven or even six wins.

*WKU — The road will be a critical place for Mike Sanford as the Hllltoppers play half their schedule away from Bowling Green.

Illinois, booked for Sept. 9, is the one that counts. Beating a Big Ten opponent, even a lower level Big Ten team, would be something Sanford could sell to recruits, fans and media.

WKU led at Illinois, 27-21, after three quarters three years ago. But the Hilltoppers were doomed by an interception and two fumbles.

Illinois is two seasons into the Lovie Smith Experiment. Smith has dismissed several guys since last season. The Illini lack a quarterback as proven as WKU’s Mike White. They were picked to finish tied for last in the Big Ten West at conference media day.

This is a game WKU can absolutely win.

2. Phil Steele Worried About Cards

Analyst Phil Steele believes Louisville remains a Top 25 football team. He ranked the Cardinals 17th, just ahead of South Florida and Notre Dame.

He gave U of L quarterback Lamar Jackson love on the cover of his pre-season magazine. He picked the Cardinals third in the ACC Atlantic, selecting four of Bobby Petrino’s players for his top two all-league teams.

But there is one match-up Steele does not like for the Cardinals:

At Florida State Oct. 21.

Steele picks the Seminoles third in the nation, tops in the ACC. He put nine FSU players on the top two ACC teams.

He suspects the 2016 U of L-FSU game has been replayed relentlessly in Tallahassee.

The Seminoles are not conditioned to losing by 43. Early projections have FSU favored by 6 1/2 in the rematch.

Steele says they’ll win by more.

Here is the link — in case somebody wants to post it in the Louisville locker room. (Warning: You might have to be an ESPN Insider to read the entire story.)

Sports Illustrated shares thoughts on all 10 college football conferences:

3. Big Ten > SEC > ACC

Two weeks ago there was endless fussing about the comparative strengths of ACC and SEC football. This league won this game. That league has this player. Blah, blah, blah. Yada, yada, yada.

Expect the Big Ten to join the fray. In fact, it already has — without comments by Urban Meyer, Jim Harbaugh or James Franklin. Big Ten Media began Monday in Chicago.

Sports Illustrated could not wait. Joan Niesen cooked up a story ranking the conferences. Her top three were Big Ten, SEC and ACC.

Excuse me?

I’ve followed the Big Ten closely since Woody Hayes and Bo Schembechler were puppies but I’m wondering how Niesen put the Big Ten on top, especially after Ohio State, Michigan, Penn State and Iowa lost their bowl games.

Niesen said her rankings were based on current depth, recent post-season success and foundation for future growth.

With Ohio State (Oklahoma) and Michigan (Florida) playing juicy September games, we’ll have plenty to discuss.

4. Saban Says Beware

Nick Saban has not dealt with an Alabama player sitting out a bowl game the way Leonard Fournette skipped one with Louisiana State or Christian McCaffrey did with Stanford.

But Saban knows it is coming.

Everywhere.

In fact, Saban is concerned the next step will be a high school player opting out of a team’s season to protect his scholarship against the risk of injury. (Link.)

He’s probably right.

Scholarship papers are not signed until the high school football season is over. If you’re banged up but holding an offer to the dream school, and you see what Fournette did at LSU, wouldn’t you consider removing the shoulder pads early?

5. Charlie Strong Emerges

I’m not certain how it could have worked any better for former U of L coach Charlie Strong: Lost his job at Texas, got paid and landed in a job that fits him better at South Florida.

Strong’s first USF team is likely to start this season ranked in the Top 25. He’s got a dynamite quarterback in Quinton Flowers, four non-league games his team should win and the press box lining up to write nice things about him.

Pete Thamel made Strong the subject of his first piece after he moved from Sports Illustrated to Yahoo Sports. Martin Fennelly of the Tampa Tribune decided it was time to praise Strong’s character in the aftermath of the Hugh Freeze Fiasco at Ole Miss.

6. The $10,000 Hook ‘em Hook Up

If you were an FBS athletic director with a spare $10,000 to invest in every player on your roster, how would you spend it?

Better tutors and computers? State-of-the-art nutrition? Training and medical personnel?

Texas likely has the best of those things The Longhorns invested in something sure to inspire a million Instagram — $10,000 lockers.

That is apparently the going rate for the best and brightest lockers in college football. It’s several steps beyond a hook and a hanger. Click on this link and stroll through the Texas locker room.

7. Hoosiers vs. Wildcats? Yes, Please

Word percolated last weekend of a looming Hoosiers vs. Wildcats basketball series.

But it’s not the Hoosiers vs. Wildcats series that ended after John Calipari took his team to Assembly Hall in 2011.

This will be the Hoosiers vs. Wildcats series that IU basketball coach Archie Miller suggested would be coming — Miller’s Hoosiers vs. the Wildcats of Arizona coached by his older brother, Sean.

According to FanRagSports.com, the three games between IU and Arizona will begin during the 2020-21 season in Tucson, move to Assembly Hall for game two and finish in Madison Square Garden during the 2022-2023 season.

Who said Hoosiers and Wildcats cannot get along, even through a big brother/little brother rivalry?

It beats another game with Delaware State.

8. Jim Boeheim’s Son Can Play

Jim Boeheim will turn 73 in November. He doesn’t need incentive to extend his career toward his Eighties. Mike Hopkins realized Boeheim had no intention of retiring so Hopkins gave up his Head Coach-in-Waiting status for the Washington job last spring.

Here is another reason for Boeheim to keep going. His son, Buddy, has emerged as a player who can give Boeheim the same thrill Al McGuire, Press Maravich, Jerry Tarkanian, Eddie Sutton, Ron Hunter, Greg McDermott and others enjoyed, the opportunity to coach a son.

Buddy Boeheim appeared destined to play mid-major basketball — until the summer evaluation periods. Boeheim added an offer from national runner-up Gonzaga to go with opportunities at Binghamton, Iona, UMass and Ivy League schools.

As this story notes, if Boeheim is good enough to play for Gonzaga, he’s good enough to play for his father, especially as a 6-foot-5 guard with shooting range.

9. Poll Results I

You’ve heard enough of which of the following sports figures:

LaVar Ball 69.9 percent

Johnny Manziel 16.7 percent

Tim Tebow 8.8 percent

Lane Kiffin 4.6 percent

10. Poll Results II

Which former local college basketball player is most likely to make the NBA all-rookie team?

Donovan Mitchell 57.6 percent

De’Aaron Fox, 29.2 percent

Bam Adebayo, 9.6 percent

Malik Monk 3.5 percent

Copyright 2017 WDRB Media. All Rights Reserved.

  • Sign Up for the WDRB Sports Newsletter

    * denotes required fields

    Thank you for signing up! You will receive a confirmation email shortly.
  • Sign Up for WDRB's Sports Newsletter

    * denotes required fields

    Thank you for signing up! You will receive a confirmation email shortly.
Powered by Frankly
All content © Copyright 2000 - 2017 WDRB. All Rights Reserved. For more information on this site, please read our Privacy Policy, and Terms of Service, and Ad Choices.