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Projecting football fortunes of this year’s Final Four

Kentucky Wildcats' Lamb goes to the basket past Connecticut Huskies' Lamb during their NCAA Final Four college basketball game in Houston AP

Even as the preeminent sport in collegiate athletics continues to trudge ever so carefully toward a possible playoff, another is nearing the end of its annual month of madness.  College basketball, of course, is what we’re speaking of and, as you no doubt know courtesy of your busted brackets, its Final Four participants were decided over the weekend — Kansas, Kentucky, Louisville and Ohio State.

The first three have long been known as basketball schools rich in hoops history, although the Buckeyes have its own roundball tradition that’s not to be scoffed at, especially since the arrival of Thad “I’d Sweat Profusely in the Arctic” Matta.  This, of course, is a college football blog — for all of your “amateur” hoops needs, check out CollegeBasketballTalk.com — which means we need to weave the upcoming events in New Orleans into something that relates to our area of focus.

In other words, does a school’s success in one sport portend anything for another?  Of course not.  One literally has nothing to do with the other.  In fact, just one Div. 1 institution — Florida, 2007 — has won a national championship in football and men’s basketball in the same year, much to the chagrin of one of the schools participating in this year’s Final Four it should be noted.

Still, “we” thought it’d be a nifty and/or keen endeavor to take a look at the Final Four participants and see if the respective schools’ hardwood success this year will somehow give way to similar results on the gridiron in 2012.

(Here’s a hint: probably not.)

So, in order of projected success, here are thumbnail looks at how these basketball schools may fair in the “other” sport this coming season.

1. LOUISVILLE
Last Final Four appearance: 2005
Football record the following season: 9-3, No. 19 in final AP poll

If the first two seasons under Charlie Strong are any indication, the Cardinals are in this football thing for the long haul.  Despite “just” a 7-6 record overall in 2011, the Cardinals took home a share of the Big East title in Strong’s second year.  With somewhere in the neighborhood of 14 returning starters — including quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, who possesses most of the tools to be something very special at this level — as well as West Virginia’s departure for the Big 12, the Cardinals should be one of the — if not the — preseason favorites for what would be a run at a second straight conference crown.

2. KENTUCKY
Last Final Four appearance: 2011
Football record the following season: 5-7, 2-6 in SEC play

Even as the Wildcats took a step — or two — back from a first season under Joker Phillips in which UK won six games and qualified for a bowl, the program’s first win over Tennessee in more than a quarter of a century helped salve some of the wounds created by the five-win regression in 2011.  The biggest problem for UK in 2012, or any other year for that matter?  The conference in which it resides, one which you may or may not know has made its mark playing a high-level of football on an annual basis.  It’s highly possible that Phillips is a good, solid head football coach; in the SEC, however, “good, solid” simply won’t get it done, in 2012 or any other year.

3. KANSAS
Last Final Four appearance: 2008
Football record the following season: 8-5, Insight Bowl win

Two wins to start the 2011 season — over Div. 1-A McNeese State and the MAC’s Northern Illinois — gave way to 10 consecutive losses, including six by at least 28 points and four by at least 42 points.  Not so surprisingly, Turner Gill gave way to Charlie Weis at season’s end.  The former Notre Dame head coach inherited a mess, and he’s gone about cleaning it up in part by bringing in a handful of transfers that should be able to contribute immediately to the talent-deficient Jayhawks.  Still, it will be an uphill climb just to get back to respectability for Weis & Company, let alone make any type of Mark Mangino-level imprint on the Big 12 and grow up and spare me the weight jokes people.

4. OHIO STATE
Last Final Four appearance: 2007
Football record the following season: 11-2, loss to LSU in BcS title game

Were it not for NCAA issues, the Buckeyes would sit atop this mini-list.  Alas, sanctions have rendered OSU ineligible for the postseason in 2012, including the Big Ten’s second annual conference championship game.  All is not lost for the university in the state of Ohio, however, as the hiring of two-time BcS champion head coach Urban Meyer has reinvigorated a program tainted by scandal over last year and a half.  2012 for Meyer and his new coaching staff will be all about “the process”, particularly on the offensive side of the ball with the implementation of Meyer’s brand of the spread.  There may be no chance for any type of title for the football Buckeyes in 2012, but there is hope that 2013 and beyond will bring the type of gridiron success for which this football-first school is most known.

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