BOZICH | Monday Muse: Louisville's ailing D; Kentucky's poll snub
More statistical evidence of Louisville's defensive malaise. Is Kentucky being snubbed by the college football polls? More love for Mark Richt and Nick Saban.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – There’s been a 24-second gap between breaking news, game results, missed tackles, officiating blunders and other head-shaking developments on the local sports scene.
That’s barely time for the return of the Monday Muse, a casualty of non-stop headlines of the last 14 days.
Without further delay …
1. Where’s the D?
Before the season, the primary question about the University of Louisville football team was the offensive line. Would new line coach Mike Summers create a unit that powered the Cardinals’ running game while keeping Lamar Jackson protected?
That is not the question asked around the Cardinals this week as they begin the second half of the season with a home game against Boston College Saturday. These questions keep percolating:
Why the sloppy tackling? Why can’t this defense stop the deep ball? Why does this unit appear to lack the speed of recent teams?
How will head coach Bobby Petrino and defensive coordinator Peter Sirmon fix a defense that has allowed an average of 37.3 points against Purdue, North Carolina, Clemson and North Carolina State?
Until answers emerge, more numbers to digest:
Louisville has already allowed more points this season (162) than the Cardinals allowed the entire 2013 season (158).
The Cards are allowing 5.36 yards per play, their highest total since 2009 (5.80).
They’re also allowing 7.7 yard per passing attempt, most since 2009 (8.2).
The overall yards per game allowed (351.3) is the most since … you guessed it, 2009, when Louisville allowed 371.1 ypg.
Boston College has the worst offense in the Atlantic Coast Conference, averaging 322.5 yards. Florida State, Louisville’s opponent Oct. 21, ranks 13th. If the Cards’ defense gets pushed around the next two Saturdays, beware.
2. Kentucky Snubbed By Polls?
Kentucky inched closer to Top 25 recognition Sunday. The Wildcats moved to 28th in the USA Today coaches’ poll and No. 31 in the Associated Press writers’ poll.
They’ll need at least three Top 25 teams to stumble during their off week or a win during their Oct. 21 trip to Mississippi State to complete their climb.
A closer look at the numbers revealed this tidbit: Including Notre Dame, 15 Power Five programs have won at least five games this season. You know the names. Alabama. Clemson, Penn State. Washington.
One Power Five program with five victories has not cracked the Top 25 – Kentucky.
My list: Close wins against blah opponents like Eastern Michigan and Missouri. The Wildcats’ strength of schedule is 88th in Jeff Sagarin’s computer formula and 127th in college football RPI.
Sagarin has UK No. 67 in his predictor rankings. The Wildcats are 49th in the Massey Rankings, another formula used in the retired BCS system. That’s a healthy gap from Top 25 ready.
Don’t forget this: The mid-October human rankings are formed by the August rankings. Kentucky has been missing from the top 25 for years. UK football is not a brand that voters are conditioned to use to complete their ballots.
That can change with several Top 25 stumbles this weekend – and a Kentucky victory at Mississippi State.
3. Take a Bow, Mike Aresco
Hat tip to local radio host Mark Ennis for this delightful item:
Take a look at the latest AP Top 25. Study the teams. Identify the surprises and disappointments. Make a note of who is there and who is missing.
Then categorize everybody by conference affiliation.
What do you notice?
Ennis noticed this: The American Athletic Conference has as many Top 25 representatives as the league of the $4 million coaches – the Southeastern Conference.
That would be three – Alabama, Georgia and Auburn from the SEC and South Florida, Central Florida and Navy from the AAC.
The SEC and AAC have the same number of teams in the coaches top 25.— Mark Ennis (@MarkEnnis) October 8, 2017
Take a bow Mike Aresco. The local narrative was to forget the AAC after Louisville made its one-season exit for the Atlantic Coast Conference. Nice folks in that league, but the AAC was nothing more than a connecting flight on the Cards’ trip to better days.
Turns out the AAC, led by Aresco, its commissioner, has rebounded with authority.
4. Harbaugh Alert in Bloomington
This should be a fun Saturday in Bloomington. Indiana plays its third Big Ten East heavyweight in six games when the Hoosiers host Michigan, a program IU has defeated once since 1967.
Tom Allen’s team opened as a 7-point underdog, but the number has moved to 5 ½. Credit that to the Wolverines’ uninspired play in a rivalry loss to Michigan State Saturday night more than Indiana’s 27-0 shutout win over Charleston Southern.
Somebody has noted that Harbaugh, the $6.9 Million Man, has won one of five games in two-plus seasons against Michigan State and Ohio State.
The Spartans, Buckeyes and Penn State are the teams that he was hired to beat.
But he did take a nice spring practice trip to Italy.
If you remember the fit that Harbaugh threw last March when Indiana fired basketball coach Tom Crean, his brother-in-law, you understand this is not just another game against a program that Michigan has dominated for Harbaugh.
Harbaugh’s Go-To media mole, Michael Rosenberg of Sports Illustrated, unloaded on Indiana not once but twice during the coaching change. Rosenberg did not unload on Illinois, Georgetown, LSU or any other school twice after they made basketball or football coaching changes last season. Hmmm.
Odds are that Harbaugh will want to win one for the family. But after the Michigan State game, Harbaugh better win one for himself.
5. Why I Love Mark Richt, Part XXXL
The Georgia/Mark Richt dissolution has worked about as well as coaching split can work. The Bulldogs are 6-0, roaring down a collision course with Alabama for the SEC title game.
Richt, meanwhile, has Miami back in the national discussion, too. After their victory at Florida State Saturday, the Hurricanes moved to 4-0 and No. 10 in the USA Today coaches’ poll.
Richt has handled the transition with poise and dignity. He refrained from taking shots at Georgia on his way out the door, wishing the Bulldogs’ well on multiple occasions. Even Michael Rosenberg did not bash Georgia for firing somebody that most agree is a wonderful person.
Saturday in Tallahassee, Richt showed that he understands there is a right way to win. The coach was perturbed when he spotted several Miami players celebrating success the wrong way.
Richt ordered his players to step away from the midfield Seminole logo at Doak Campbell Stadium after the Hurricanes’ 24-20 victory. Do your dancing elsewhere.
More Mark Richt, please.
6. Why I love Nick Saban (hold the rat poison)
More Nick Saban, too.
Nobody does a better job of convincing a 6-0 team they’re actually 0-6 than Saban. Lots of coaches recruit great players. Saban takes those players, makes them submit to the team agenda and stirs Alabama to national championship performances.
One of his secrets is Saban is as annoyed by unmerited praise as much as he is annoyed by holding penalties. Watch this post-game video from Alabama’s victory at Texas A&M Saturday night.
I wonder if there is a sponsorship deal with d-CON in Saban’s future.
7. Donovan Mitchell in the Spotlight
News flash: The NBA season starts nearly two weeks earlier than usual as the league has worked to mix more off days into the schedule.
Former Louisville star Donovan Mitchell will make his debut Oct. 18 when Denver visits Salt Lake City. Mitchell should be in line to earn plenty of minutes with Utah because the Jazz lost guard Dante Exum to shoulder surgery.
Some outlets have Mitchell listed as the team’s third-team shooting guard behind Joe Ingles and Alec Burks, but Mitchell played 26 minutes in the team’s last exhibition game, his first after missing time with a tender hamstring.
Consider that exhibition game a reminder the transition from college sophomore to NBA rookie will be packed with potholes. Mitchell missed 13 of 16 shots, including all four from distance, while turning the ball over three times in 26 minutes.
But getting minutes should not be an issue for Mitchell.
8. Have a Day Chicago
There are rarely boring days on the Chicago sports scene. But some are considerably more intriguing than others.
Monday is one of those days.
If you have the $$$ and a helicopter, you can celebrate a Monday To Remember. Start your journey at 4 p.m. at Wrigley Field where the Nationals (Max Scherzer pitching) and Cubs (Jake Arrieta) play Game Three of the tied National League Division series.
Then, at 8:30 p.m. the Bears will celebrate the Mitch Trubisky Era by giving the rookie his first career start at quarterback against the Vikings at Soldier Field.
It’s 8.3 miles from Wrigley Field to Soldier Field, but I’d recommend the helicopter. And a short detour to Guaranteed Rate Field at 35th and Shields, simply to pay your respects.
9. McKay, Adell Still #1
Baseball has been very, very good to the Louisville area. Two players with local ties were selected in the first round of the MLB Free Agent Draft last June – and they’re still making headlines.
Former Ballard star Jo Adell and former Louisville ace Brendan McKay were voted the top prospects in their leagues by Baseball America magazine, which ranks the Top 20 prospects in every minor league. (The stories are available at BaseballAmerica.com but they’re behind a pay wall.)
Adell was ranked the top prospect in the short-season Pioneer League, where he hit .376 with eight extra-base hits in 18 games after a promotion by the Los Angeles Angels.
McKay had a stronger debut on the mound than as a hitter, allowing only 4 runs in 20 innings (with 21 strikeouts) for Tampa Bay. As a hitter, McKay hit .232 with 22 runs batted in during 36 games. McKay’s overall skills made him the top prospect in the New York-Penn League.
10. Poll Results (from my Twitter page)
Most Pressing Fix for the Louisville Football Team
Coverage by secondary 55 percent
Tackling 24 percent
Pass rush 12
Offensive line 9 percent
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