Yesterday, I told you there are a lot of big games in Week 1. Today, we keep it rolling. Here are some notes on three more games you’ll be watching this holiday weekend: Continue reading Not Another List of Big Games: Week 1 (Pt. 2)
Will ACC football do it again? I could answer this question in a couple sentences, but that wouldn’t be any fun for anyone.
ACC football was on a roll at the end of the year last year, with ACC teams winning the overwhelming majority of the bowl games in which they played. Not to mention, Clemson eventually won the National Championship Game.
With a new season less than a few weeks away, now is definitely the time to ponder whether the ACC can (and will) do it again. For me, it depends on what exactly “it” is. If the ACC must win the title and win the same number of bowl games, I just don’t see that happening again. If the ACC simply must have a playoff participant and win most of its bowl games, then maybe “it” can be done.
The playoff participant I’d expect to emerge from the ACC this season would not be the Clemson Tigers, though. If anything, I expect the Florida State Seminoles to earn a spot in the College Football Playoffs this postseason and be the ACC team mostly likely to win the title. Vegas says I’m not alone in this expectation.
Florida State may have lost running back Dalvin Cook, but it looks ready to reload and move forward this season. Cam Akers is expected to pick up where Cook left off, so Seminole fans need not worry about that loss. Redshirt sophomore quarterback Deondre Francois also has an entire season of experience now, which should help him better lead the Florida State offense. The Seminole defense returns countless starters and will have Derwin James back this season (if he can stay healthy). This combination of offensive and defensive power is what makes Vegas (and me) hot on Florida State this year.
On the other hand, Clemson is in for a rebuilding year after losing its dual-threat quarterback Deshaun Watson to the NFL. The Tigers lost multiple other starters that leave a few big holes on both sides of the ball. Two major departures that come to mind are Ben Boulware (defense) and Mike Williams (offense). Clemson fans might place their confidence in Dorian O’Daniel and Hunter Renfrow to step up to replace those two, but I don’t have that same confidence—yet.
As far as the non-conference games during the season and the bowl games during the postseason go, there are countless other ACC football teams that look ready to take on formidable opponents. I’ll be brief, but here are a few teams worth giving some attention.
Virginia Tech had a great first season under one of my favorite head coaches, Justin Fuente. If the Hokies can improve their ball security, they may even finish above that 9-3 mark from last season.
Miami had a solid season under Mark Richt as well. Hurricane fans remain confident as ever, but I’m not entirely sure what to make of this team now that quarterback Brad Kaaya is gone. He may not have been elite, but he was an important part of Richt’s offense.
Louisville was flying high behind Heisman trophy winner Lamar Jackson early last season, but fell from grace by the end of the year. After watching that collapse, the Cardinals are another team that I really don’t know what to think about yet.
Georgia Tech had an interesting season last year, finishing 8-4 in the regular season and beating two SEC teams during that time. The Yellow Jackets beat the Vanderbilt Commodores and the in-state rival Georgia Bulldogs during the regular season. Georgia Tech also went on to beat Kentucky in its bowl game. This season, Georgia Tech gets a chance to prove itself early against another SEC foe—the Tennessee Volunteers. Let it be known right now that I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Yellow Jackets take down the Vols in this season opener.
The Pittsburgh Panthers, North Carolina Tar Heels, and NC State Wolfpack are a few other teams to keep on the radar in the ACC this season.
To wrap things up I’m also going to give you my prediction for the end-of-year standings in the ACC.
ACC Atlantic Division:
- Florida State
- NC State
- Wake Forest
- Boston College
ACC Coastal Division:
- Virginia Tech
- Georgia Tech
- North Carolina
With those being my standings, I would expect Florida State to beat Virginia Tech in the ACC Championship game and secure a spot in the College Football Playoffs.
While the ACC may not be quite as good as last year, I do still expect a championship contender from the conference and a strong record in non-conference games.
You can email Kristen at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter @KristenBotica.
Featured photo courtesy of Ashley Romanosky.
I love college football just as much as the next guy. Saturdays aren’t for the boys so much as they are for the boys to gather around a big screen, drinking as many 96-calorie Miller Lite’s as they’d like. We’ve yet to find anything that comes anywhere near college football’s ability to help us justify that weekly decision.
We owe a lot to college football Saturdays. When I pick through the Week 1 schedule we have lined up for Labor Day weekend, though, it feels like college football owes us a little more.
Stanford is beginning its season with a game in Sydney, Australia. That’s cool. The fact that the Rice Owls are the opposition is not cool. There’s a Florida rivalry game right off the bat. Unfortunately, it’s between Florida International and Central Florida. University Alabama-Birmingham makes its glorious return to football after a two-year hiatus, against Alabama A&M. How have we possibly contained our excitement all summer?
In all seriousness, there are some things worth looking forward to. P.J. Fleck, Lane Kiffin, and Tom Herman take the field with their new teams for the first time. Ohio State opens on the road, on a Thursday night, against a conference opponent for the first time in… probably ever. Florida State and Alabama collide in a top-five matchup in Atlanta. Michigan and Florida head for Jerry World and a top-15ish meeting. West Virginia and Virginia Tech will likely both be ranked for their opening contest in Landover, Maryland.
If you’re not a fan of those programs, you’ll probably be forced to watch your team playing in a glorified scrimmage. Whether your team is the one laying the beat down or getting its ass kicked makes no difference, really. Nobody wins if the boys had to finish the Miller Lite by halftime just to make it interesting.
At what point do we stop flooding to football just because it’s back? At what point do we demand more as consumers, as opposed to blindly accepting whatever we’re given? My guess is that will never happen. Until it does, we’ll continue to receive a mediocre slate of games on opening weekend, with the only ones truly worth watching happening hundreds of miles off campus, in NFL stadiums.
This is big business we’re talking about and there’s a ton of money involved in these neutral-site games. I understand that. Still, it pisses me off. These are essentially bowl games. Actually, these games are more important because the whole season is still ahead. If money grabbing is what we’re doing now, and it most certainly is, then why not take it to the extreme?
What Can We Do?
Let’s schedule bowl game rematches for the first week of the season. Think for just a second about the storylines. Would Clemson be able to pull off another upset of Alabama eight months after their instant classic? Could USC and Penn State replicate the craziness of last year’s Rose Bowl Game? Is Lamar Jackson really that containable, or did LSU’s defense just do everything right that day?
Wouldn’t it be fun if the two semifinal losers got a crack at each other to start the new season? Imagine the hype that would surround a Washington-Ohio State clash in a couple weeks. Automatically, one of the top contenders to reach the playoff would have an impressive feather tucked into its cap. The four-letter network could have a field day with that buildup.
If your team was not invited to participate in a bowl game the previous year, it can do whatever it would like. Honestly, nobody outside of the school gives a damn about your five-win team. I’m only concerned with the primetime programs here. And in tying them all up in these bowl game rematches, I am, in turn, saving a lot of you from an opening week embarrassment anyway. It’s a win-win, even for the losers. You should be thanking me for ignoring your meaningless team.
Is this grand idea ever going to materialize? No, it won’t. Like so many things in the world of college football, it makes too much sense to become a reality. Still, it doesn’t hurt to dream, especially when the boys still have two weeks to save up their beer money.
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I know we still have a while to go until we get our beloved SEC football Saturdays back, but I just can’t wait. SEC football is on my mind all the time. So here are just a few of my recurring thoughts about this coming season.
Georgia will be the team to beat in the East
Let’s be honest, Kirby Smart’s first season in Athens was a little underwhelming. The worst moment of the season for the Dawgs had to be that last-minute loss to the Vols at home. Just when Jacob Eason had led them down the field to take the lead, Josh Dobbs and Jauan Jennings connected for an unbelievable Hail Mary. I fully expect Georgia fans to be able to put that pain behind them next season. Eason will have more experience, the defense will have more experience, and coach Smart will also have more head coaching experience.
South Carolina will have more than one good upset win
This past season wasn’t particularly impressive for South Carolina in its first year under Will Muschamp. But, the Gamecocks did manage to get a pretty nice upset win over the Vols. They were a huge part of why Tennessee never made it to Atlanta. The Gamecocks showed promise in most games, even many of the losses. The only game they might want to erase from memory is that Clemson thrashing at the end of the season. But with another year under Muschamp’s guidance and with his recruits coming in, I anticipate two upset wins out of the Gamecocks this season.
Butch Jones will get run out of Knoxville
This call may be a little early. But with all his press conference clichés, I think this might be the year Tennessee fans grab their pitchforks and run Jones out of town. Heck, after that Vanderbilt loss to end the regular season my dad had decided not to renew his season tickets for 2017. Guess he doesn’t want to be part of another championship of life. Or maybe he just doesn’t have that five-star heart. All this being said, the Vols may be in trouble next season. Their defense is a huge question mark and now they have a question mark starting at quarterback too. Just ask the Gators how well that second question mark works out in the SEC.
Alabama will win the West…again
No other team was truly a tough match for Alabama in the West last year, with the biggest challenges coming from LSU and Ole Miss. Ole Miss later lost star quarterback Chad Kelly to injury and its season tanked. The Rebels were more of a pretender than an actual contender. LSU had a slow start, but ended up in some good games under then-interim (now head) coach Ed Orgeron. But at the end of the day, Alabama was still dominant in the SEC. Alabama dominated all the way until the national championship game that it lost to Clemson. That loss may sting, but with quarterback Jalen Hurts having more experience, I expect Alabama to be number one in the West and headed right back to Atlanta again in December. Also, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that Alabama still has Nick Saban.
But LSU will make it close
The LSU Tigers had arguably one of the most interesting seasons out of the entire SEC in 2016. Les Miles was fired and replaced on an interim basis by Defensive Line Coach Ed Orgeron. Orgeron led the team to a 5-2 finish (after starting the season 2-2 under Miles). Additionally, LSU dominated Louisville and its Heisman-winning quarterback Lamar Jackson in the Citrus Bowl. On top of all this, Orgeron put together a top ten recruiting class in his first time recruiting as LSU’s head coach. With Orgeron leading, talent returning, and talent coming in, the Tigers are poised to finish second in the SEC West and maybe even give the Crimson Tide a run for its money.
You can email Kristen at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter @KristenBotica.
Image courtesy of Sean Davis, Flickr.
At the end of any given football season, I always love going back through my articles and checking out all the brilliant things I said throughout the year. Then, when I come across all the completely dumb things I said, I enjoy that part even more. Laughter is good for the soul.
So, first of all, let me brag to you about the things I said that have turned out to be absolutely brilliant in retrospect. I don’t get to brag about being right about football too often, so let me have my moment.
“SEC East Sleeper: Remember the Gators” This was a title for one of my articles early in the year.
“This year, I am still cautious about all the optimism surrounding the Tennessee football program.” Good call here, even if my dad was convinced otherwise.
“With the return of Mike Williams from injury, Watson should have a great target downfield for those longer plays.” Deshaun Watson proved to be a huge asset in Clemson’s championship game, but so did Mike Williams.
“I would not be surprised to see a Heisman winner from an ACC football program this year.” It may not have been Deshaun Watson, but the Heisman winner was from the ACC.
“And as much as I ride for SEC football, I have to admit I do expect the Seminoles to come out victorious.” This was the one SEC game I really wanted to see during week one, even if I did expect Ole Miss to drop this game.
“Do I expect Ole Miss to get its third victory in a row in this series? No, but I do anticipate a very interesting football game.” This came from that same article and was referring to watching Alabama’s trip Ole Miss. I was right about this year, even though Ole Miss had given Alabama trouble lately.
“They’ve actually won eleven in a row in this rivalry…but who’s counting? This year I truly do expect that winning streak to come to an end.” This is yet another gem from that same article about watching only one SEC football game each week. Tennessee had been hitting a huge mental roadblock in the Florida game–until this year.
“ACC football is not to be taken lightly this season.” Early in the season, I warned everyone to give ACC football some respect this year. After the conference’s bowl season performance, it was definitely earned.
“To be totally honest, at this point the regular season is just Alabama getting warmed up for its playoff appearance.” This came from my Alabama-Ole Miss smackdown piece, but really was not an exaggeration at all.
“Florida’s offense is still nothing special.” Although this was from my smackdown piece before the Florida-Tennessee game, it turned out to be very true. No surprise there.
“I know the Auburn Tigers are ranked a little below the Arkansas Razorbacks, but they’re going to beat them anyways.” Yet another smackdown piece that proved to be correct.
“It will be funny to see Great Value DBU shut down the Heisman winner though. I must say…” This was a personal tweet referring to LSU shutting down Lamar Jackson, which did eventually happen.
So I was right, at least to some extent, pretty often. But what I hope you’ll find much more amusing is all those really stupid things I said. Maybe my sense of humor is strange, but I thought some of these were pretty hilarious.
“If Mark Richt can do that, they could have a very impressive non-conference win in his first season as head coach.” I really thought Miami’s trip to South Bend would be a noteworthy non-conference game this season. Unfortunately, beating Notre Dame wasn’t exactly an impressive feat.
“But if the Vols do get that win then it’s safe to say they are national contenders and Alabama better watch out for them in a couple weeks.” Remember when everyone thought the Vols were potential national contenders before the season even started? I bought into that hype when discussing how I wanted to watch the Vols play at Georgia in Week 5 of SEC football.
“I don’t know that I’m right about this but I think the Vols will have a good chance to win at home over the Crimson Tide.” I wanted to watch the Alabama-Tennessee game in Week 7 if I could only watch one SEC game. Poor choice there.
“Labor Day is just a welcomed day off from both work and school for most people. But for Ole Miss this year, it’s the day [it takes] down the Florida State Seminoles.” From a Smackdown Friday piece so I didn’t really mean it. But still hilarious. Plus, that whole article was hilarious if you like hating on Florida State.
“…if I had money to bet I’d be putting it all on the Tennessee Vols to win the SEC East right now.” It’s a good thing I was broke. I would’ve wasted a lot of money thinking that the Vols were really going to win the SEC East.
“I hate to break it to Clemson fans, but Lamar Jackson is about the shatter your hopes and dreams.” This Smackdown was off. Lamar Jackson did take Deshaun Watson’s Heisman trophy. But Clemson still lived out its dream of winning a national championship again.
“Coastal Division Is Worse for ACC Football than East Is for SEC Football” Even just the title of this article is off. After bowl season, there’s not much that can be said for the SEC East, aside from Florida and Tennessee.
“It’s not that the Razorbacks can’t beat the Gators. It’s just that they won’t.” Another Smackdown Friday article gone wrong. The Razorbacks could and did beat the Gators–in convincing fashion.
E-mail Kristen at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter @KristenBotica.
Photo from Public Domain Pictures.
Now is when I tell you about the good and the bad from this past season of ACC football. I’ve been brainstorming for this article since the day after Clemson won it all, but I’ve still run into a problem of sorts. All in all, there was just much more good in ACC football than there was bad this season.
That isn’t to say that there was no bad in ACC football. Trust me, there was. There is even one play from one particular ACC game this season that still bothers me. I’ll get to that later, though.
What all the good did do for the conference was offer evidence that maybe these schools are capable of being among the best in the country in more than just one sport. Without further ado, I present you with the proof.
The Best of ACC Football
Clemson won the College Football Playoff National Championship game. I am sure nothing else that any conference carried out can top that. But Clemson’s victory over mighty Alabama in that game wasn’t all the good they provided for ACC football this year. The Tigers were 14-1 by the end of it all, having lost that one game by a single point. They also shut out Ohio State in their first playoff game.
Deshaun Watson, our favorite (black) dual-threat quarterback, ended up accounting for a total of 50 touchdowns and over 5,000 yards between passing and rushing for Clemson. Running back Wayne Gallman contributed 17 more touchdowns this season. And there was wide receiver Mike Williams who came back from injury and ended up having quite the season as well, racking up 11 touchdowns.
The Clemson defense was also nothing to scoff at, allowing an average of 314 yards per game. Clemson was very good for the ACC.
Florida State, overall, was also pretty dang good for ACC football. There was some definite bad in that 63-20 loss to Louisville early in the season, but the Seminoles still managed to bounce back and have an impressive year. Star running back Dalvin Cook was essential to Florida State’s success, with 288 carries for 1,765 yards and 19 touchdowns. The fact that he was not a Heisman finalist still baffles me. But aside from Dalvin Cook’s success, the team was successful as well, finishing the year at 10-3. Not to mention, Florida State beat Michigan 33-32 in its bowl game when Michigan was arguably a playoff contender at the end of the season.
There’s also Virginia Tech and coach Justin Fuente on the “good” side of things. In his first season as head coach of the Hokies, Fuente took the team to the ACC Championship Game. And, the Hokies actually gave Clemson a good game. Fuente and the Hokies finished with a record of 9-4 and an impressive comeback win over Arkansas in their bowl game. This is why Fuente, in my mind, was clearly the best coaching hire from last year.
There’s one more name I’d be crazy for not mentioning, regardless of how his season ended. Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson had an incredible year. It was so incredible that he won the Heisman trophy. With 51 touchdowns throughout the season, it’s safe to say that Jackson was the key to Louisville’s success. Jackson is also only a sophomore, which means he has at least one year left with the Cardinals. That’s very good for them.
I can think of one last name I should also mention when praising the good in ACC football. Pittsburgh running back James Conner returned this season after being diagnosed with and treated for cancer. He clearly didn’t let his cancer slow him down considering he had 16 rushing touchdowns and four receiving touchdowns this year. Here’s to Conner, because he’s about as good as it gets–aside from Clemson’s championship.
The Worst of ACC Football
The few bad things I could come up with off the top of my head require much less explanation.
There are the only three teams from the ACC that did not play in bowl games: Virginia, Duke and Syracuse. Virginia and Duke both were 1-7 in conference play while Syracuse was 2-6. None of these teams won more than four games this season. When you’re a member of a Power Five conference, those kinds of records are beyond bad.
The other major “bad” that I saw in ACC football this year was Lamar Jackson’s supporting cast. Jackson did get some help from his teammates at times. But most the work rested on Jackson’s shoulders, and because of that the Cardinals had a hard time winning when their opponents could contain him.
This brings me to the one horrible play I mentioned above. The Louisville vs. Clemson game was one of the best games of the regular season. That game really did come down to the wire. And the Cardinals could’ve beaten the Tigers if it weren’t for a huge mistake James Quick made on a pass play from Jackson at the end of the game. Instead of getting the yardage necessary to get a first down, Quick went out of bounds to stop the clock only to realize he had done so on fourth down and had not gained enough to get the first down. And that was the end of the game. SO BAD!
One last fact worth mentioning when speaking of the bad in ACC football this season has to do with the North Carolina Tar Heels. They were actually a pretty good team this season with a top 20 defense. But somehow the Tar Heels managed to only grab one interception (as a team) during the entire season. For most of the season, it looked like they might make history and not end up with any interceptions at all. That one interception came against The Citadel, too, so it wasn’t even all that impressive. What gives, Tar Heels?
Even with these bad things I just mentioned, it stays clear that this was a mostly good season for ACC football. Only three teams in the entire conference weren’t bowl eligible. Then, the ACC won eight of its eleven bowl games, not including the National Championship Game. Dabo Swinney took down Nick Saban in that one. I’d say that’s good—especially for a basketball conference.
You can email Kristen at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter @KristenBotica.
Photo from Flickr user Jason A G.
The proverbial “roar” had not been restored to Missouri football in 1997. At 7-5, the team was still just a blip on the radar of college football. That 3rd place finish in the Big 12 North gave hope to the Missouri fan base and provided a glimpse of what the program could be. And for that, Corby Jones deserves more credit that he gets even from Missouri fans.
A 7-5 record may not look like much to many, but it meant the world to a program that hadn’t enjoyed a winning season since 1983. For 13 long, cold, dark years, Missouri fans suffered through an average of three wins a season. And then Larry Smith struck recruiting gold with the local quarterback recruit from Columbia.
Jones was recruited by the best-of-the-best blue blood programs when Nebraska’s Tom Osborne tasked Turner Gill with bringing Jones to Lincoln. Smith had an ace up his sleeve, though. Jones’ father had been retained by Smith when Bob Stull and his coaching staff were fired after the 1993 season. It’s not a stretch to say that this relationship helped seal the recruiting deal that kept Jones in Columbia.
The Missouri fans who spin Tiger folklore consider Brad Smith to be the savior of Tiger football. Smith was as exciting a player as Missouri and college football had experienced in quite some time. Think of a 2001-2005 version of Lamar Jackson. Smith either held or holds countless Missouri, Big 12 and NCAA records. He was more electrifying than Jones had been but excitement only counts for so much.
Jones’ best win and one that is too often forgotten about was the 1997 game against Oklahoma State. Played in Stillwater, Missouri not only took the 12th ranked team in the country to overtime, but the Tigers beat that ranked Cowboys team on the road. That win meant enough to the program that I remember where I was as Jones hit Ricky Ross down the sideline to tie the game with 20 seconds left in regulation. I was at a friend’s wedding. I know. Who gets married on a football Saturday?
This is the game that truly put the Missouri program back on the road to recovery and it had everything to do with the quarterback who most thought was destined to go to Nebraska to be the heir apparent to Tommy Frazier. Later in the 1997 season, Nebraska would have first-hand experience of the impact that Jones’ athletic ability and desire to win could have on a football game.
It was that 1997 game against the top-ranked Huskers that made the nation really take notice of what was going on at Missouri. Moral victories aside, that 45-38 overtime loss to Nebraska was symbolic. For starters, Missouri had lost 51-7 to Nebraska in 1996. That was the kind of score that had become all too common in this series. Taking a Tom Osborne coached Nebraska team into overtime only to lose by a touchdown felt good. And the 38 points that Jones helped to orchestrate was the most points a Tiger team had scored against Nebraska since scoring 47 in 1947.
It’s this game against Nebraska that Missouri fans like to reminisce about when thinking about the 1997 season. The notion is that Missouri somehow won in losing. This game did mean something but not what so many Missouri fans think it meant. What playing Nebraska into overtime showed was that Missouri could be competitive against programs like Osborne’s Nebraska machine. I’ll still take that road victory over Oklahoma State as the crowning achievement of the 1997 season.
In beating Oklahoma State, Jones proved what Missouri football had become and Jones was the centerpiece of that tangible accomplishment. And in losing a heart-breaker to Nebraska, Jones offered a glimpse of what the future could hold for Missouri football.
That future became reality when, in 1998, Jones led Missouri to another winning season as the Tigers finished the year at 8-4. Unlike the 1997 season, there wasn’t that signature win over a ranked team. The four losses did include some near upsets of ranked Nebraska, Texas A&M and Kansas State teams. But 1998 was about the season in aggregate, not the individual games.
The 1997 season had been the first winning season in 13 years for the Missouri program to enjoy. Having experienced a 13-year drought of winning, expecting back-to-back winning seasons wouldn’t have seemed like a reasonable expectation. But that is precisely what the Missouri football team did on the back of Jones.
Missouri fans like to romanticize what Brad Smith meant to Missouri football. He filled up the stat sheet and in 2003 he was the first Missouri quarterback to beat Nebraska since 1978. The accomplishment of beating Nebraska was remarkable and one that I remember fondly. But again, it was just one game.
Brad Smith’s accomplishments were awe inspiring, but we shouldn’t allow Smith’s highlight reel to mask what Corby Jones meant to the program as a whole. Each of these quarterbacks deserves to have their Tiger legacy’s acknowledged. Including Jones.
E-mail Seth at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @SethMerenbloom.
Photo: Wikimedia Commons
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It was awards week in college football, and an epic showdown between Army and Navy highlighted this week’s action.
“You’ve sunk my midshipmen!”
The Army Black Knights got their first victory over the Midshipmen of Navy in over 15 years on Saturday by a score of 21-17. After getting out to a 14-0 lead, it seemed like Army was going to dominate. Their four turnovers kept Navy in the game.
Despite losing starting quarterback Will Worth, starting running back Toneo Gulley, and wide receiver Tony Carmona, Navy clawed its way back to a 17-14 lead after quarterback replacement Zach Abey’s beastly 41-yard touchdown run gave the Midshipmen the lead with 12:42 remaining.
On the ensuing possession, Army marched down the field, burning more than six minutes off the clock. The Black Knights converted two third downs and a fourth and inches in the red zone on their way to a go-ahead touchdown run by Ahmad Bradshaw (Not that Ahmad Bradshaw, this Ahmad Bradshaw).
As he took a final knee to break the streak, Bradshaw turned to the cadets and watched as they poured over the barriers and celebrated with the players.
Most orderly field storming in history
— CJ Fogler (@cjzero) December 10, 2016
— CJ Fogler (@cjzero) December 10, 2016
It was at that moment you could see just how much this game meant to everyone involved. Despite what President-elect Donald Trump had to say on the air, this was an excellent football game.
And the Heisman goes to…
Lamar Jackson! In other news, the sky is blue and water is wet. Jackson was far and away the most electrifying college football player in the country this year, despite stumbling down the stretch against Houston and Kentucky. Jackson’s 3390 passing yards and 30 touchdowns, combined with his 1538 rushing yards and 21 touchdowns, earned him the honor, which gave the University of Louisville a first Heisman trophy.
ESPN’s 30 for 30 “Catholics vs. Convicts” aired last night, and it was phenomenal. The film goes in-depth about a t-shirt business run by some Notre Dame students, which culminated in the (in)famous “Catholics vs. Convicts” shirts ahead of the showdown between 1987 defending national champion Miami Hurricanes and eventual 1988 National Champion Notre Dame. 10/10 would recommend, objectively, without any connection to either school’s fanbase. (My dad was in the stands for that game, it was his sophomore year at ND. Here’s his shirt).
Contact writer John Horlander on Twitter @John_Horlander, or by email: [email protected].
As one of my favorite Youtubers Spencer Owen would say, “That was a misery compiler!” UofL once again came out and disappointed us against a subpar team who the Cardinals should have easily dispatched. Blame who you want, but at the end of the day a loss is a loss and that goes for the whole team.
With losses now to two unranked teams (thanks, Memphis), Louisville will surely plummet out of the top 15 and possibly out of the top 20. A team that started with so much promise and college football playoff hopes just a mere two weeks ago is now just another above average team. Where did it all go wrong?
First off I’d like to give Kentucky the credit they deserve. The Wildcats had every right to just accept the idea that losing this game was inevitable, but instead they came out guns blazing and took it to the UofL defense.
Last week I said we would have to watch out for the dangerous rushing attack of UK, and though they did rack up 243 rushing yards, no individual broke 100 yards on the day so that was a win for the defensive line. Unfortunately the secondary decided they didn’t want play football and gave up a whopping 338 yards on 16-27 passing from Stephen Johnson, who just last week against Austin Peay went 5-9 for 101 yards. Now one of the three bombs he threw for touchdowns was undoubtedly luck with Lamarques Thomas pulling up with a hamstring injury. This injury freed up Garret Johnson for a pitch and catch touchdown, but like they say sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good.
Then, at the beginning of the fourth quarter with the game tied at 31, Dorian Baker should have been called for offensive pass interference but instead made a spectacular grab to take a seven point lead in the fourth. But these are just 14 of the 41 points that the Wildcats scored against the UofL defense.
The real culprit as to why the Cardinals lost this game are the Cardinals themselves. The big difference in this game was turnovers. UK finished with two and UofL had four, including a costly fumble by Lamar Jackson that eventually lost the Cardinals the game. And even though Lamar did throw for 281 and had 171 yards rushing, he had three interceptions to add to his costly fumble.
Jackson will still win the Heisman but this was definitely a game he will want to forget. But not all the blame can be put on Jackson, once again we saw a Cards offensive line that couldn’t keep pressure off the quarterback, though only allowing 1.5 sacks they disrupted the rhythm of Jackson and forced him to run more than he would’ve liked. And though Jackson did fumble and give Kentucky the last possession of the game, that possession started at their own 10 with 1:48 left in the game. Austin MacGinnis did have to kick a 47-yard field goal to win, that’s still no excuse for why the Louisville defense couldn’t get a stop on 3rd down and let Kentucky drive down the field and get into field goal range.
These last two weeks are a lot like saying, “fool me once shame on you, fool me twice shame on me.” Houston fooled the Cards when they came out with more tenacity and never let the Cards in the game.
With UK the Cards have no one to blame but themselves, they knew it was a rivalry and still they just couldn’t get the job done. Petrino has some thinking to do to get this team sorted out before its bowl game.
Imagine a world where you don’t have the front-runner for the Heisman trophy playing quarterback for your team who has led your team to 9 victories this season and hopefully a 10th next week. Imagine never being ranked in the top 25 let alone the top 10 this entire season and imagine having more open seats in the stadium than filled seats. Finally imagine your season being over already and you having nothing to play or cheer for. Well welcome to the reality of 45 FBS teams that are currently bowl ineligible and most likely will remain that way heading into the final week of the season. What I’m trying to stress is that even though Louisville may be out of playoff contention, but their season is far from over and needs to be recognized as one of the most successful Louisville seasons in recent years.
Since 2006, Louisville has only won double-digit games 3 times. In 2006 the Cardinals beat 3 ranked teams and finished that season with only one loss. In 2012 (aside from beating #3 Florida in the Russel Athletic Bowl) and 2013 the team had high win seasons with incredibly sub-par opponents (thanks, Big East). The 2013 Louisville team never played a ranked opponent so when you have now NFL elite quarterback Teddy Bridgewater taking the snaps you are expected to do as well as the Cards did that season. Now this season has been filled will numerous big name opponents with Florida State currently ranked 17th, Clemson at 4th and Houston who will definitely be ranked after this week. Though this year the cards have soon to be Heisman winner Lamar Jackson, these are still very big games two of which were road games in prime time adding to the already harsh environments.
Now of course for the 2016 Cards to become the 4th double digit win team in the last 11 years for the program, they still need to beat the University of Kentucky. Last week Kentucky dismantled winless Austin Peay 49-13. Kentucky is now bowl eligible for the first time under Mark Stoops so this is already a successful season for the Wildcats but what would put the icing on the cake would be if they could knock off the mighty Cardinals who they haven’t beat at Papa John’s stadium since 2010. Kentucky has a 3-pronged rushing attack spear headed by Benjamin Snell Jr. who had 152 yards on 14 attempts also scoring 2 TDs on the day. The Cardinals must take this rushing attack seriously or we may see a possible repeat of last week’s failure.
With double-digit wins looming large on the horizon for the Cardinals now is not the time for the fans to turn our backs on our team. Petrino’s team has fought tooth and nail to get to this point and found ways to get through adversity. Now it’s our turn as fans to show our support for our team. We need a packed house when the other team from Kentucky comes to town to show that Louisville fans and its team will not lie down and will continue to fight till the end of this season.