Sports information directors from around the country are constantly flooding my inbox. Game notes and press releases are constantly coming in to my inbox every day and I try to at least skim through each as they come in or when I have a chance to catch up. This evening I received one from Louisville and came across an interesting little stat about the series between Louisville and Kentucky.
According to Louisville’s records, the team winning the rushing battle has won each of the last 18 meetings between the bitter in-state rivals. This led me to quickly check the rushing numbers after two games and wouldn’t you know that Kentucky has been more productive on the ground out of the gates? Of course, Louisville also has a Heisman Trophy contender throwing passes for them, so perhaps this rushing stat is not quite as relevant this weekend.
Louisville has run the football 68 times for a total of 277 yards (averaging 4.07 yards per attempt) and two touchdowns. They did this against Ohio and Eastern Kentucky, far from top-level competition. Though only accounting for a small sample size, Louisville ranks 83rd in rushing offense. Again, having Teddy Bridgewater playing quarterback helps overcome any perceived lack of a running game. Louisville ranks fifth in the nation in passing offense. Louisville added former Auburn running back Michael Dyer to their roster this season but is listed third on the depth chart this week. Louisville’s running game is instead led by Senorise Perry and junior Dominique Brown.
Meanwhile, Kentucky has rushed for more than 200 yards in each of their first two games, against Western Kentucky and Miami Ohio. Kentucky has rushed 71 times for 478 yards (averaging 6.73 yards per attempt) and four touchdowns. Kentucky ranks 32nd in run offense, again using a small sample size of just two games.
Can Kentucky find a way to get the ground game moving once again? Louisville held Kentucky to just 93 yards on the ground last year while rushing for over 200 yards on offense. Kentucky’s running game is spearheaded by senior Raymond Sanders and junior fullback Jalen Whitlow and adds some young blood with freshman Jojo Kemp. The Wildcats are looking to get back to playing competitive football, and there will be no better opportunity to make a statement than by utilizing a strength in the running game to their advantage if possible against Louisville.
If there is one stat you are keeping track of in this weekend’s game, perhaps that will be it.
Just in time for their toughest stretch of the season, No. 8 Wisconsin may be without one of the team’s most important defensive players.
Badgers linebacker Vince Biegel is set to miss the next several weeks after undergoing surgery to insert a screw in his cracked foot.
“He’s been playing on it for the last couple weeks, and it was bothering him a little bit,” Biegel’s father Rocky told ESPN. “He had X-rays last night and confirmed it was cracked. He either plays on it, and then if he breaks it, then he’s going to be out for eight weeks. Either way, he’s got to have surgery on it. So he can keep playing until it breaks or try to go through the season with it and try to fix it. At any time, he could break it all the way through. It was just a crack and they’re just putting a screw in it. It’s a very, very minor crack.”
No matter how minor it is, losing Biegel for as long as a month is a huge blow to a defense that has been among the best in the country this season. Wisconsin does have a bye week after traveling to No. 4 Michigan on Saturday but also have to play No. 2 Ohio State and division rivals Iowa and Nebraska to close out October.
Biegel has nine tackles on the year and a sack but is among the most experienced players on the team having played in 46 games at Wisconsin, including 32 starts. Redshirt freshman Zack Baun is expected to take his place.
If there is one bright spot for head coach Paul Chryst and defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox however, it’s that the Badgers’ linebacking corp is one of the best in the country. Still, as good as Jack Cichy, T.J. Edwards and T.J. Watt have been this year, they’ll have to step up their games with an imposing schedule coming up.
Houston is looking to avenge their only loss of the 2015 season on Thursday night against Connecticut but the Cougars will have to do so a little short-handed.
According to the Houston Chronicle, the team is down a whopping four starters and a key backup against the Huskies: starting linebackers Tyus Bowser (head injury) and Matthew Adams (coaches’ decision), running back Duke Catalon (head injury), cornerback Brandon Wilson (lower leg) plus backup tight end Alex Leslie (ankle injury).
Catalon has already missed a game this season and is arguably the biggest loss for the team as that will force them to rely on quarterback Greg Ward Jr. (who missed last year’s game) even more against UConn. The transfer from Texas is averaging 4.7 yards a carry on the year and had a big game against Oklahoma in the opener.
Coach Tom Herman and the sixth-ranked Cougars still should be able handle their business at home against a conference foe but the mounting injuries this early in the season are starting to get a little concerning if you’re a Houston fan.
Despite the wishes of Alabama head coach Nick Saban, the Crimson Tide depth chart officially became a little thinner on Thursday.
After nearly a day of speculation, Alabama announced that quarterback Blake Barnett is no longer a part of the Crimson Tide football team.
“We received word this afternoon that Blake Barnett has officially withdrawn from school and is no longer with our program,” Saban said in a statement. “The quarterback position is a very unique position where only one player can play. We are very disappointed any time a player leaves the program who feels he can compete for a starting position elsewhere, rather than here at Alabama. We wish Blake the very best of luck in the future.”
Barnett started the opener against USC and has thrown for 219 yards and two touchdowns on the year. However the redshirt freshman lost the starting job to true freshman Jalen Hurts and has only played sparingly in the first month of the season.
Saban recently said he wanted Barnett to remain with the program but it seems pretty obvious that playing time would be limited as the team’s backup signal-caller and a transfer would be forthcoming. Now it appears the only question is where to for the former five-star recruit, who is a Southern California native and was recruited by nearly everybody coming out of high school.
Wisconsin has been one of the pleasant surprises to begin the 2016 season but a lot of folks are not counting on the Badgers to remain in the top 10 of the polls after one of the most brutal schedules in the month of October you can find.
Having already played (and beat) defending conference champion Michigan State last week, Wisconsin travels to No. 4 Michigan, has a bye week, then hosts No. 2 Ohio State. They’re not done after that though, traveling to Iowa and then hosting No. 15 Nebraska in a stretch that should determine the West division champion before the month is up.
Longtime head coach and current athletic director Barry Alvarez is well aware of what awaits his team and is no fan of such an unbalanced schedule.
“I remember when that schedule came out (in 2013) and I thought, ‘How the hell did you kick out something looking like that?” Alvarez told CBSSports.com. “I think you could take a look at the general strength of some programs and split them up. Michigan, Ohio State and Michigan State have been good for a long time. Penn State Nittany Lions normally is in that group. Just make sure someone doesn’t get all three year in a year. That’s hard to do. That’s something the ADs are going to have to talk about some day.”
The Big Ten recently moved to a nine game conference slate which means an additional crossover game between divisions. Wisconsin has been the beneficiary of some weaker schedules in the past (Rutgers/Maryland in 2014/15) but seem to be the poster child this year for drawing all of the major powers from the East division.
Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany cautioned against reading too much into the Badgers’ schedule in 2016 and wants to see how the current format works out — but didn’t rule out any future changes.
“If I was an AD, I would probably be saying the same thing (as Alvarez),” Delany said. “If I was a football coach, I know I would.”
The conference has released the league schedule through 2019 but you can bet the next set of Big Ten games will likely break up some of the more historically successful programs a little more when it comes to division crossover games. Until then though, ‘On Wisconsin’ will have to be more than the school motto in October for Alvarez and his Badgers.