BOZICH | Monday Muse: What a difference a year makes for Louisville and Kentucky
Grumbling in Louisville and anticipation in Lexington? The college football script has flipped from a year ago in the Bluegrass. Thoughts on Jeff Brohm, Mitchell Robinson and more.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Louisville has two weekends to figure out what it needs to figure out. Kentucky has a legitimate chance to surge into the Top 25. Indiana has to move past an unexpected Bye Week.
I'm not sure how to characterize what is going on at Western Kentucky other than to say that part of becoming a program with major ambition is folks start to expect 9- or 10-win seasons -- and howl when they don't see the results they expect.
It's not great for the social media accounts of coaching staffs, but it keeps things percolating at the Monday Muse.
1. What a Difference a Year Makes
It was the third weekend in September 2016 when fireworks crackled in Louisville as the sky fell in Lexington.
Louisville beat Florida State the way nobody is supposed to beat Florida State -- by 43 points. Lamar Jackson officially introduced himself as a Heisman Trophy threat.
The Cardinals surged to Number 3 in the Associated Press Top 25, drawing more first-place votes (6) than the Number Two team, Ohio State.
In Lexington, Kentucky trailed New Mexico State midway through the second quarter. The Wildcats avoided an 0-3 start because Stephen Johnson emerged as a dependable quarterback and Benny Snell showed he was capable of running for 136 yards on 17 carries.
Mark Stoops had a prominent spot on those national Hot Seat Lists. He had already survived some crazy Tweets that he would not survive the season.
The only way to write about the Cardinals and the Wildcats in the same sentence then was by discussing the season finale they would play at Papa John's Cardinal Stadium.
This week there is grumbling at Louisville and there is anticipation in Lexington.
The Cardinals rank 105th in total defense, 53 spots behind the Wildcats, who have actually played the third-best rushing defense in America.
Lamar Jackson misfired half of his throws against Clemson, and the plays Bobby Petrino called suggested that he did not believe his team could run the ball against the powerful Tigers, who earned a believer in former Kentucky coach Bill Curry.
Leaders: Watch teams who win big, lose great players, then excel again. Clemson vs. L'ville-297 y rushing, new QB, blowout win-tough again!— Bill Curry (@coachbillcurry) September 18, 2017
Louisville needs to figure it out against lowly Kent State and Murray State before making a Thursday night appearance at North Carolina State.
Kentucky owns the local spotlight this weekend. The Wildcats have not beaten Florida in 30 consecutive cracks, a streak that stretches to 1986.
But the Florida team that beat Tennessee on a Hail Mary Saturday surrendered 442 yards and turned the ball over 3 times. Florida quarterback Feleipe Franks will make his third career start -- and he fumbled before getting pulled against Michigan and threw an interception against Tennessee.
He's not Tim Tebow or even Rex Grossman -- yet.
ESPN's FPI computer power index puts the Wildcats' win probability Saturday at a healthy 42.9 percent -- and if UK handles Florida, the Wildcats should push ahead to 6-0 against Eastern Michigan and Missouri.
It's not September 2016 any more.
2. Cats over Cards -- With One AP Voter
Kentucky did not creep in the Associated Press Top 25 this week but the Wildcats, ranked 34th, are an upset victory over Florida from getting there.
Four AP voters do not require more proof that Stoops' team is Top 25 worthy -- Pat Dooley of the Gainesville (Fla.) Sun; John Clay of the Lexington Herald-Leader; Matt Baker of the Tampa Bay Times and Sam McKewon of the Omaha World-Herald listed the Wildcats on their ballots Sunday.
In fact, one had the Wildcats 19th, one spot ahead of the Cardinals.
That voter was Dooley. I asked him for a short explanation. (His ballot.)
"Maybe I am too impressed with winning at South Carolina," he wrote. "But the beat-down Louisville received from Clemson is hard to rinse out of your mouth.
"I was the only guy who had Kentucky rated in the pre-season (AP poll). I like what Stoops is doing there."
Considering the Wildcats are 3-0 with a pair of road wins and that they won their regular-season finale at Papa John's Cardinal Stadium last season, I'm actually surprised Dooley was the only voter who went with UK over U of L.
For the record, Clay had UK 24th, U of L 22nd. Baker had it UK 25th, U of L 20th. McKewon said UK 25th and U of L 18th.
3. America Noticing The Brohm Effect
The Game of the Week in college football is likely TCU at Oklahoma State or Mississippi State at Georgia. Those are the only meetings of Top 25 teams.
But the Game of the Week in the Big Ten will be played in West Lafayette, Ind., where the Boilermakers should be greeted by their biggest home crowd in years after Jeff Brohm directed Purdue to a 35-3 victory at Missouri Saturday.
Now Brohm gets his first crack at Jim Harbaugh and undefeated Michigan. The Wolverines have won the last three in the series but with the Big Ten locked in division play the teams have not played in five years.
People in Louisville and Bowling Green are not the only observers starting to recognize The Brohm Effect. Purdue earned this headline on Sports Illustrated's website. And also this Tweet (and story) from the Chicago Tribune:
4. Conference Scorecard
1. Pac 12 (2-1 last week; 6-2 overall) -- The record was not as wonderful as it looks. UCLA could not beat Memphis and San Diego State whipped Stanford outside the Power Five guidelines. Hey, nobody's perfect these days.
2. Big Ten (1-0 last week, 7-5 overall) -- Good thing Brohm and Purdue won at Missouri because Nebraska coach Mike Riley started losing his fan base by losing to Northern Illinois and Illinois was outclassed by South Florida.
3. SEC (1-2 last week; 5-7 overall) -- Move over Missouri. Ole Miss also fell to California. Props to Vanderbilt, which earned Top 25 consideration by toppling Kansas State.
4. Big 12 (2-3 last week; 4-6 overall) -- Burps by Kansas State, Texas and Baylor as well as Kansas losing at Ohio U. This league will be an Oklahoma State vs. Oklahoma production this season.
5. ACC (1-2 last week; 5-8 overall -- Duke delivered (again) by handling lowly Baylor but Boston College was not good enough to stop Notre Dame. Don’t ask about Pitt and Oklahoma State.
5. North Carolina State: Cradle of Quarterbacks
Purdue was the first school to chirp about all the quarterbacks it has produced, starting with Len Dawson, Bob Griese, Mike Phipps, Gary Danielson, Mark Herrmann, Jim Everett and finally Drew Brees.
Miami had a nice run with George Mira, Jim Kelly, Vinny Testaverde, Bernie Kosar and Steve Walsh.
You know the names at Louisville, starting with Johnny Unitas, stretching to Teddy Bridgewater.
But this was the most surprising nugget from Week 2 in the NFL: One college program had four guys performing in the NFL. It wasn't Purdue, Miami, Louisville, Alabama or Notre Dame.
It was North Carolina State. (The link.)
I was able to name three: Philip Rivers with the Chargers, Mike Glennon with the Bears and Jacoby Brissett with the Colts.
Of course, it was Russell Wilson in Seattle, who actually finished his college career at Wisconsin but is still considered family by most of NC State.
6. Alabama-Clemson III
If you were at Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium Saturday night, chances are you’re feeling what the football wise guys are feeling:
Alabama and Clemson are on a collision course toward playing for the national title for the third consecutive season -- and the only variable is which two teams will join them in the four-team playoff.
Both teams rank in the Top 20 in rushing defense. Clemson has a Top 20 rushing attack -- and a quarterback (Kelly Bryant) with surging confidence. Alabama has not played great offense (64th nationally in total offense) and still delivered three stinging victories. The Tide face a interesting trip to Nashville (where Nick Saban has a partial ownership in a car dealership) Saturday.
Which two teams will join them?
Give me Penn State and Oklahoma State.
7. Here’s To You, Mr. Robinson
One day maybe we'll know the whole story. Somebody will spend time with Mitchell Robinson and get something more than the P.R. mumbo jumbo that has emerged from his camp during this entire sorry saga. Robinson has only been gone from WKU for days and the questioning of his ability has begun.
One high-ranking NBA exec on Mitchell Robinson: “He’s a huge red flag. … and I’m not sure he’s even that good.”— Jeff Goodman (@GoodmanESPN) September 18, 2017
Somebody will explain why Robinson was going to Western Kentucky, then leaving Western Kentucky, then returning to Bowling Green and then leaving Bowling Green -- this time apparently for good, to live in Dallas and train for the 2018 NBA Draft.
Somebody will huddle with Robinson’s people and a more detailed explanation will emerge about why Robinson kept teasing WKU fans about the possibility of a McDonald’s all-American center playing for the Hilltoppers.
Until then, however, I'll stick with what I wrote after Robinson left WKU the first time:
Darrin Horn and Ralph Willard showed how to build a solid NCAA Tournament team at Western Kentucky without plunging into the foolishness of Mitchell Robinson.
Maybe Robinson is the next Big Thing and maybe he is the Kwame Brown. I hope he figures it out.
8. Jim Boeheim Will Outlast Every-Buddy
I'm starting to believe Richard Pitino, Archie Miller and Chris Collins will retire before Jim Boeheim gives up his Hall of Fame run at Syracuse.
Mike Hopkins obviously agreed because he walked away from his Head Coach in Waiting spot at Syracuse to replace Lorenzo Romar at Washington.
It appears Hopkins knew what Boeheim was thinking. That he planned to remain the head coach until his son, Buddy, is finished playing for the Orange. (The link.)
Buddy Boeheim is preparing for his senior season of high school. His college career will conclude in 2022 -- unless works a redshirt season into his schedule. Then it will be 2023.
That will put Jim Boeheim at Syracuse until he is 77 or 78.
Unless he has a younger son.
9. Poll Results I
Bigger GameDay Visit for Louisville Football
Clemson 2017 77.4
Florida State 2016 22.6
10. Poll Results II
The Key to the Clemson-Louisville football game?
Louisville offensive line against Clemson defensive front 79.2 percent
Louisville pass defense against inexperienced Clemson QB 12.1 percent
Clemson containing Lamar Jackson 7.1 percent
Special teams 1.6 percent
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