Ho hum, familiar cast of characters for college football playoffs

Its the time of year when I unveil my college football final four and teams to watch. I’ll blindly predict who will be in the college football playoff. When I say blindly. I mean blindly.

I haven’t seen any of these teams play a game. I couldn’t if I wanted to because practices are closed to most everyone. Even if I could I couldn’t gather much from practice because after all it is just. Practice.

Let’s get this out of the way right away. Alabama is No. 1 in just about every preseason poll. They should be. It doesn’t take a genius to figure that out. The Crimson Tide have one of the best coaches of all time in Nick Saban and have had 10 top 10 finishes and won five of the last nine national championships.

According to the Alabama media guide, the Crimson Tide return 12 starters, seven on defense, three on offense and two specialist. That doesn’t sound like a lot, but believe me Bama has players, as will quickly become obvious against the University of Louisville on Saturday.

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Half a century of covering Louisville sports for Ed Peak

Our man Ed Peak (left), a veteran sportswriter, teams up with Gary Graves of the Associated Press to cover the Kentucky Derby on the first Saturday in May, as well as many University of Louisville games.

Editor’s Note: More on Ed Peak from the man who knows him best, Ed Peak. I first met Ed while we were young sportswriters at the Courier-Journal; he was part of the Friday night high school sports crew, I was on the copy desk. He reminisces about some of the high and low points along the way of a 50-year-plus career of covering local sports.

By Ed Peak

I have been involved in reporting sports since my freshman year of high school. That’s 50 years. I take pride in reporting the facts. I try not to slant the news right or left.

Taking solace that in all my years I have never once jumped out of my seat in a press box to show my emotions for a team I was covering with a loud yahoo. I have never withheld information about a team or individual. Good or bad. I learned old school.

I was covering a Kentucky Colonels basketball game for my college newspaper, The Quadrangle, of Jefferson Community College. The late Earl Cox, then Sports Editor of The Courier-Journal sat next to me. He said to me.”Ed, how would you like to work at the C-J taking high school games on weekends over the telephone. We pay well.”

I jumped at the chance. The C-J was one of the top newspapers in the country at the time. I got to work with one of the greatest Prep Sportswriters in Bob White. I got to work with Dave Kindred, Dick Fenlon, Billy Reed. Mike Sullivan, Tev Lauderman, Jim Bolus, Russ Brown, Ron Coons, Johnny Carrico, Rick Bozich and Eric Crawford just to name a few. I learned from some of the best.

About the same time, 1972, Wayne Perkey, asked if I would do a high school “Game of the Week” for his morning radio show on WHAS 840. I was also asked to help with the Saturday, “Telescore84” scoreboard show that preceded University of Kentucky football games. It was all sports scores and information. I was very fortunate to have these gigs. I learned a lot and appreciate all the help along the way. I learned to be “Fair and Balanced”.

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At least one coach believes Louisville can beat Alabama

Photo by Cindy Rice Shelton

By Ed Peak

Anyone who would bet against Alabama in the opening game versus Louisville, Saturday, Sept. 1 in Orlando’s Camping World Kickoff would be … crazy.

The Crimson Tide comes into the game having won five of the last nine National Championships and three of the last the six.  Alabama has won 26 Southeastern Conference titles — double the number of second place Georgia and Tennessee with 13 each. The school has produced 125 First Team All Americans including at least two every year since 2008. In 2011 the Crimson Tide had seven.

I'm sure the talking mouths on the local sports talk radio shows will have a field day with those comments. What is he supposed to say 'We're going to lose 200-0.'?

The boys from Tuscaloosa are preseason ranked No. 1 by Street & Smith’s, Athlon preseason publications, USA Today Coaches Poll and The Associated Pres. Sports Illustrated and Lindy’s Sports have the Tide ranked No. 2.
Alabama opened as a 25.5-point favorite and has remained there for months.

The Cardinals come into the game with a sophomore quarterback, Jawon “Puma” Pass, who has never started a game and was the backup to Lamar Jackson in each of the last two seasons. Louisville’s strength lies in its offense with a bevy of wide receivers with speed. Sophomore Dez Fitzpatrick, junior Seth Dawkins and seniors Jaylen Smith and tight end Mickey Crum can all catch the ball. Freshman Tutu Atwell is fast and has impressed during fall camp.

The offensive line has size and speed in sophomores Mekhi Becton (6-foot-7, 335), center Cole Bentley and seniors Kenny Thomas, Lukayus McNeil (6-6, 324) and Linwood Foy (6-4, 299). The running backs should be solid in sophomore Trey Smith, Dae Williams and Colin Wilson. In all the Cardinals return seven starters on offense.

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Louisville football going to expose some so-called experts

One thing I’m sure about is the Louisville Cardinals football team is better than a fifth place finisher in the Atlantic Division of the Atlantic Coast Conference

Editor’s Note: Card Game is pleased to welcome veteran sportswriter Ed Peak, who has covered UofL sports in some fashion since 1973, first as a student reporter, as a correspondent for the Courier-Journal, a freelancer for the Associated Press and the old United Press International, as well as Louisville ScoreCard, Fox Sports and CBS radio.

By Ed Peak

I love this time of year. College football is just around the corner and Major League Baseball is in the home stretch. I also love all those opinions about college football teams. Preseason polls, predictions by the so-called experts. We are less than three weeks away from the start of the season and everyone has an opinion about their team.

The preseason college football magazines have been on the newsstands since mid May. I agree with the pundits on a couple of things. The defending national champion Alabama Crimson Tide should be ranked number one, Georgia No. 2 and Clemson third. Everybody else, I’m not so sure about.

This will be a fun team to watch, but young and probably a year away from being really good.

One thing I’m sure about is the Louisville Cardinals are better than a fifth place finisher in the Atlantic Division of the Atlantic Coast Conference. Street & Smith has them fifth. Athlon Sports has them pegged sixth. Lindy’s Sports has them 38th overall.

There is every reason to think they could finish second or third in the ACC’s Atlantic Division. Clemson is the favorite and should be.The Cardinals have a difficult schedule this season opening with Alabama in the Camping World Kickoff. Difficult to win with a first time sophomore quarterback. The next two games are winnable at home, Indiana State and Western Kentucky.

The first road game is not easy, at Virginia. But I think the Cards take care of the Cavaliers. The next two home games are very pivotal, Florida State and Georgia Tech. By this time quarterback Jawon “Puma” Pass should be established. I think Louisville wins both.

Another pivotal game follows at Boston College. Louisville should have beat the Eagles last season. That was one of the most hurtful losses a year ago. The Cards will be ready this time and win. Wake Forest comes to Cardinal Stadium the following week and Louisville just didn’t play well against the Demon Deacons a year ago. Louisville plays well and gets a W.

That gets us to Saturday, November 3rd at Clemson. Louisville rolls into Death Valley on a seven game winning streak (7-1). But the Tigers, with one of the best defensive front fours in college football, prevail.

The Cards win at Syracuse, beat North Carolina State and Kentucky at home finishing 10-2. Optimistic? Yes. Impossible. No. I think an appearance in the Belk Bowl in Charlotte, North Carolina is possible and a ranking in the Associated Press and USA Today Coaches Poll by the end of the season.
One thing that does bother me is I haven’t seen this Cardinals team in person. I like to see a team before making opinions. I did see the spring game. But I don’t know how much you can take from that.

With all the speed the Cards have I think they are improved. A new defensive coordinator in Brian VanGorder will make a difference. The defense is a year older and has talent in Dorian Etheridge, Jonathan Greenard, Khane Pass, G.G. Robinson and Russ Yeast. Others that could have an impact are C.J. Avery, Henry Famurewa, London Iakopo, Dee Smith and Cornelius Sturgill.

The offense will have to rally around Pass, the key returning player after backing up Lamar Jackson. The Cards have good receivers in Dez Fitzpatrick, Jaylen Smith, who says he will be ready for the opener after an emergency appendectomy. Seth Dawkins will figure in the mix as well.The running backs should be solid with Dae Williams, Colin Wilson and Tobias Little.

The offensive line should be improved with experienced veteran starters returning in seniors Lukayus McNeil and Kenny Thomas. Sophomore Mekhi Becton (6-3, 360) gives the Cards some bulk while Robbie Bell and Cole Bentley have started games.

Louisville should have one of the strongest kicking games in college football with juniors Branton Creque as a field goal and PAT specialist and punter Mason King. Creque, a Lou Groza Award candidate, has made 97 of 99 extra point kicks and 33 of 39 field goals in two seasons. King averaged 43.9 yards per punt last season and had 10 points of 50 yards or more and placed 10 kicks inside the 20-yard line.

This will be a fun team to watch, but young and probably a year away from being really good.