In the response to that column, most U of L fans thought my checklist set the bar far too low. I argued that it needed to be set low to provide a clear conclusion. If everyone can agree that the goals were achievable, then they should be able to agree on the results.
We’re now five games into the season, and for whatever reason, I viewed these five as a significant segment in themselves. U of L faced two good opponents on the road. Had its first Big East game at home, and faced a C-USA opponent at home. After these games we have a feel for who the Cardinals are.
And we have our first set of data to look at. All grades, of course, are pass-fail. But keep in mind, these are not final grades, but grades only at this moment, or for the season to date. So let’s look at the results so far, measured against what I listed as the minimum requirements for the season . . .
1). At least five wins, with no embarrassing blowout losses. I supposed we should have defined “blowout!” Let’s leave aside the blowout discussion for now. The Cards have won two, and getting to five is going to be a challenge. At the moment, the only games in which they can reasonably be expected to be favored will be Arkansas State at home, and Syracuse at home. And maybe not Syracuse. It’s tough to see them winning any of their remaining road games, which means they would have to sweep their three remaining home games. It’s do-able, but I don’t know that I’d call it likely. That also makes this week’s game at Connecticut crucial. Present grade: Likely fail.
2). A top-four finish in the Big East in the major offensive categories, yards, points per game and either rushing or passing yards (or efficiency). This was based on offense being Kragthorpe’s strength, and his having named himself offensive coordinator. After five games, U of L ranks sixth in the conference in total offense (360.4 ypg), last in scoring (21.2 ppg), seventh in rushing (134 ypg), third in passing (226.4 ypg), last in passing efficiency (117.6). Present grade: Fail.
3). No more than two home losses. The Cards have already dropped one home game to Pitt. They only have three home games left, all very winnable — Arkansas State, Syracuse and Rutgers. You’d think they could win two of those. Present grade: Likely pass.
4). Communication. This is an intangible, but I thought an essential element for Kragthorpe, that he find a way to communicate in a way that can resonate more with fans. I thought his ranting after the UK loss was unnecessary, but I do think it was sincere. When asked after the Southern Miss win about the rumors surrounding his future, I think he was fairly candid. Let’s face it, he’s not Rick Pitino in this area, but I think he’s been all right under difficult circumstances so far this season. He’s not acing it, but he is passing it. Present grade: Pass.
Let’s review. When it comes to a checklist like this, all the boxes need to be checked. And they are weighted toward importance, with the top goals being the more important.
You can see where things stand for yourself. Even in this modest listing (and I’m aware, goals this meager gall a great many fans), there’s still a chance, but it’s going to be tough.