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PFF Speaks

BOZICH | Would you buy Kentucky football at No. 17, Indiana No. 24?

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Memo to Kentucky football fans who were perturbed Monday after I shared the news that a columnist in Oklahoma ranked UK's non-conference schedule as the most user-friendly of any Power 5 program:

What if I told you the Wildcats were the 17th best team in college football this season?

That the only two Southeastern Conference East Division teams they trailed were No. 4 Georgia and No. 6 Florida?

Would you buy that?

And how about Indiana fans? What do I have to say to make the Hoosier faithful more excited than they already are about IU's shot to build on its 6-2 record from last season?

How about ranking Indiana No. 24 in America, behind only Ohio State (No. 3) and Penn State (No. 19) in the Big Ten East? That's correct, ahead of Michigan.

I haven't forgotten Louisville or Western Kentucky.

This is the most encouraging thing that I can say about the Cardinals -- a fifth-place finish in the Atlantic Division of the Atlantic Coast Conference, ahead of Florida State and sagging Syracuse.

For WKU, how about a place as one of the Top 100 teams in America -- at No. 99, sixth best in Conference USA?

Would everybody buy those things?

To be more precise would everybody spend from $7.99 to $9.99 to buy those things because those are the 2021 projections from ProFootballFocus, which dropped its mammoth 604-page college football preview magazine this week. (The price will depend on the level of your subscription.)

This is not a hard-copy product, unless you want to download and print it for yourself. PFF is a subscription-based, analytics site that evaluates game video. It grades and ranks players from video of every game. These 2021 projections are video and analytics driven.

They're high on what Mark Stoops has built at Kentucky, especially with the Wildcats' running game. PFF ranked UK's backs as the fourth-best in the SEC and its offensive line as third best. It named tackle Darrian Kinnard a first-team all-American.

Quarterback, of course, remains an issue. The Wildcats are searching for the next Tim Couch, Jared Lorenzen or Andre Woodson. PFF ranked UK's quarterbacks the 11th best in the SEC and No. 97 in America.

PFF said that Penn State transfer Will Levis "did not move the needle much" as the Nittany Lions' quarterback. Joey Gatewood, UK's other likely option, was also criticized for being, "a little hectic in the pocket, choosing to scramble a little too much … both quarterbacks leave a lot to be desired."

With Kentucky, PFF mentioned two other guys as players to watch -- cornerback Cedrick Dort as a breakout performer and receiver Josh Ali as an X-factor.

Quarterback will not be the issue at Indiana -- if Michael Penix Jr. is completely healed from his knee injury and can remain healthy. PFF ranked IU's quarterbacks as the best unit in the Big Ten, with the IU receivers third. Ty Fryfogle earned honorable mention status as receiver.

Offensive line remains an issue. PFF put IU last in the Big Ten in that category, which is a problem if Tom Allen's team expects to live up to its No. 24 ranking.

Here are the two IU players that PFF says to watch -- receiver D.J. Matthews, a transfer from Florida State, as a breakout guy and lineman Matthew Bedford, an X-factor who needs to become a mainstay while entering his junior season.

PFF ranked Louisville at No. 54, behind Clemson (2), surprising Boston College (32), North Carolina State (44) and Wake Forest (49) in the ACC Atlantic.

The Cards' highest ranked unit was their secondary -- No. 6 in the ACC. The receivers ranked next to last, with quarterback Malik Cunningham at 8.

PFF said Louisville ran too many outside passing routes last season, suggesting the offense needs to add play-action pass plays as well as more deep crossing routes.

The two Louisville players that PFF said to watch were edge rusher Yasir Abdullah as a breakout star and receiver Braden Smith, the Cards' X-factor.

PFF gave Western Kentucky an 8 percent chance of winning the Conference USA title as quarterback Bailey Zappe transfers in from Houston Baptist. It ranked the Hilltoppers' offensive line as the second best in CUSA but the defensive line as the second worst.

Said PFF, "The Hilltoppers need not just Bailey Zappe to match his play from Houston Baptist, but also multiple offensive skill position players to emerge in order for them to make some major noise in 2021."

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