BOZICH | We were WRONG about U of L, UK, WKU football picks? Why?
By Rick Bozich
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- I was wrong. We were wrong.
That didn’t feel so bad. It felt necessary. So I’ll say it again:
I was WRONG. We were WRONG. Everybody was WRONG.
That felt even better because the WDRB Sports staff members were not the only ones who whiffed badly on (most) of our preseason predictions for the local college football teams.
We believed too much of the Got-Better-In-The-Weight-Room hype from Louisville and Western Kentucky. We nodded (at least I did) when Bobby Petrino said the Cards' offense could be better without Lamar Jackson.
We didn’t trust Kentucky’s ability to run the ball or stop the run.
Indiana was easier to forecast because Big Ten guidelines mandate that the Hoosiers carry a 5-win record into the season finale against Purdue. It’s in the bylaws.
With one weekend to play in the regular season, this is the perfect day to remember what was expected from the Cardinals, Wildcats, Hoosiers and Hilltoppers in August.
Generally, considerably more than was delivered.
1. Louisville Flops
Bobby Petrino got on the bad side of some folks during his coaching career, but I suspect that not even Arthur Blank expected this kind of season from the guy Blank once entrusted with the Atlanta Falcons.
With the Cards rolling toward a 2-10 season, the most discouraging prediction from the WDRB Sports staff was 7-5 -- by me, Eric Crawford and Tom Lane.
John Lewis and Aaron Matas went with 8-4. Ooops.
Vegas planted the Cards’ pre-season over/under win total at 7 and ESPN’s football power index also forecast 7-5.
A few folks thought we were being “too negative,” at 7-5. Strangely, I have not heard much from those folks the last six weeks.
What went wrong?
Everything went wrong. Quarterback remained an ineffective revolving door, which made it impossible for the Cards to take advantage of talented receivers They don't have a halfback who has gained even 300 yards. The Cardinals have allowed more than 271 yards per game rushing, which is at least 50 yards more than the next-worse defense in the Atlantic Coast Conference.
2. Kentucky Soars
I am happy to report that John Lewis and I were the only two WDRB staffers who forecast winning seasons from Mark Stoops’ team. I am not expecting applause. We both said 7-5.
But only do that if you cashed a preseason over/under win ticket on Kentucky that shows that you had the Wildcats winning more than 5.5 games. ESPN forecast 5.2 wins.
A 7-win forecast doesn’t seem so stupid in that environment.
What went right?
Kentucky has played Top 20 defense all season. Louisville allows 271 yards per game rushing. One opponent (Georgia, 331, has run for that many yards on Kentucky in 11 games). The Wildcats have played only two games decided by 10 points or less -- and they won both of them.
3. Indiana Maintains
Few things in life are more certain than a 5-7 record from the IU football team. That will be the 2018 scenario unless the Hoosiers upset Purdue (and some cat named Jeff Brohm) Saturday in Bloomington. The Boilermakers are favored by 4.
If Indiana loses Lewis, Crawford and Lane deserve recognition for saying 5-7. If IU wins, Matas can (and will) trash talk about his 6-6 pick.
I said 4-8. I guess I didn’t think Indiana would beat Virginia.
Why are the Hoosiers stuck in the 5-7 rut?
The talent gap between IU and the best of the Big Ten across the offensive and defensive lines remains too much to overcome.
4. WKU Flops
Everybody on our staff predicted WKU would win at least five games. Lane and Matas said six. The Vegas over/under was 5. ESPN’s computer projected 4.5
Unless WKU delivers as an 11-point underdog at Louisiana Tech Saturday, the Hilltoppers will slide to 2-10.
And the debate will rage about head coach Mike Sanford. Keep him. Start over.
What say you?
5. Where’s Teddy?
Lamar Jackson grabbed the national headlines Sunday by stepping in for Joe Flacco and leading the Baltimore Ravens past Cincinnati and back to the fringe of NFL playoff consideration.
Jackson played like a difference maker -- and anybody who has watched Louisville play this season understands that the difference in having Jackson and not having Jackson translated into about six more defeats for the Cardinals.
But what about the other former Louisville quarterback in the NFL -- Mr. Teddy Bridgewater?
He has the best seat for a quarterback having one of the best seasons in NFL history. With Drew Brees throwing 25 touchdowns with only one interception while leading the Saints to a 9-1 record, Bridgewater has been safely tucked along the sidelines.
He has thrown one pass. It was not complete.
But Bridgewater does appear to be having a wonderful time.
6. Kentucky vs. Northwestern, Part II
In the college football bowl world, there are playoff games, prestige games, warm weather games and everything else.
By defeating Louisville Saturday, Kentucky can move to 9-3 and safely into the Warm Weather area of the bowl forecast.
I like this suggestion by Bryan Fischer of NBC Sports. He has Kentucky aligned for a rematch with Northwestern but at the Citrus Bowl in Orlando, not the Music City Bowl in Nashville.
7. Les Miles to Kansas: Thumbs up or thumbs down?
Kansas moved quickly to fill its coaching spot, recruiting former Oklahoma State and Louisiana State coach Les Miles to live in Bill Self’s shadow.
The move has earned mixed reviews. Some called it unimaginative. Others said it was worth the risk of hiring a guy with a career winning percentage of .721.
I don’t think Miles will win big at Kansas. Certainly not .721 big. He was losing his fastball late in his career at LSU. He turned 65 nine days ago.
But I don’t think anybody else was a great bet to win big at Kansas. It’s my pick as the most difficult Power Five job.
You could argue that the move has already been a winner because this will likely be the last time Kansas football cracks the Monday Muse. But winning games? Gale Sayers isn't walking through that door.
8. Rondo and Lonzo: Besties?
Skeptics wondered how Lakers point guard Lonzo Ball would deal with competing against Rajon Rondo in practice as they battled for minutes in Los Angeles.
Ball was the No. 2 overall pick in the 2017 NBA Draft, the guy who was supposed to return the Lakers to their dynasty days. Just ask his Dad.
Rondo has been occasionally contrary, dating back to his high school days in Louisville and his time at the University of Kentucky. He excels at running teams and giving instructions. Friends of Rondo say that he intends to become a head coach in the NBA.
Would Ball listen to him, especially now that Rondo has a seat on the bench with a broken hand?
In fact, Ball said that he enjoys Rondo’s feisty vocabulary. (The link.)
9. This Zach Smith/Tom Herman Love Affair
The most entertaining off-the-field story from this college football season has been how the mess at Ohio State has spilled over into a mess at Texas.
Once upon a time, Smith and former Ohio State offensive coordinator Tom Herman were good buddies, who worked together to make the Buckeyes’ offense roll. They won a national title for Urban Meyer. They signed the best of the best recruits.
Not any more.
Smith has railed on Twitter that Herman and his family have been behind some of the unsettling reporting that Brett McMurphy has done about the Buckeyes. Herman has waved Smith off as somebody who should not be believed.
Smith does not like being waved off, so his blast Tweets last week were uglier and more personal about Herman’s marriage.
The Hermans returned volley last weekend.
Your move, Zach.
10. Rick Pitino Tweet of the Week
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