Top 10 story lines for college football 2010 in Ky.

Includes hope, change, race

mstory@herald-leader.com,Mark StoryJuly 16, 2010 

President Obama hasn't enjoyed much electoral success in Kentucky. Yet he should feel some kinship with the commonwealth this autumn. The predominant themes for the 2010 college football season in Kentucky are hope and change.

All three of our state's Football Bowl Subdivision schools have new head coaches. So does Murray State of the Football Championship Subdivision.

Amid the upheaval, here are my top 10 story lines for Kentucky college football in 2010:

10. Can Joker gin up his own honeymoon? Two years running the Kentucky offense while in the purgatory known as "head coach in waiting" and some controversial late-game play-calling in three bitter 2009 defeats robbed Joker Phillips of a fan honeymoon after he finally replaced Rich Brooks.

In 2010, can Joker beat the teams — say Louisville, South Carolina, Tennessee — it would take to generate a loving feeling from the UK fandom?

9. Can Taggart put the 'W' back in WKU? After vowing to be patient during the transition to major-college football, the Western Kentucky University administration fired David Elson before the Hilltoppers even completed their first full season in the FBS.

Of course, 20-game losing streaks tend to drain patience.

Former Western star quarterback Willie Taggart answered the call to come home to the Hill and inherits 18 returning starters who will try to give WKU its first win since the fourth game of 2008.

8. A bigger Pizza Pit. Louisville will unveil this season an expanded Papa John's Cardinal Stadium that will have 33 new luxury suites and will see its total capacity go from 42,000 to some 56,000.

Given that U of L has averaged more than 40,000 fans a game only three seasons in the history of the new Cardinal Stadium (which opened in 1998), it will be interesting to see if there are fans to fill the new seats.

7. Return of an Air Raid. After going a dreadful 13-43 over the past five seasons, Murray State has turned its football program over to former Hal Mumme protege Chris Hatcher. The 37-year-old, who won a Division II national championship as head coach at Valdosta State, aims to reinvigorate Murray's flagging fortunes by filling the air with footballs.

6. What do UK's 'smurfs' do for an encore? A season ago, smallish playmakers Derrick Locke (5-foot-9, 191 pounds) and Randall Cobb (5-11, 191) all but single-handedly carried the Kentucky offense to its fourth straight bowl. Operating behind a less-seasoned line in 2010, can Locke and Cobb stay healthy and stay (as) productive?

5. Without a bakery, can EKU get turnovers? Last season ended as a nightmare for the proud Eastern Kentucky football program. The Colonels lost four of their final five games to finish 5-6 and snap EKU's 31-year consecutive winning-season streak.

Ball security was the issue for Dean Hood's team. EKU was minus-10 in turnover margin over its final five games. That has to change if Eastern is to again be Eastern in 2010.

4. Will the Kentucky defense rest? With standouts Corey Peters, Sam Maxwell and Micah Johnson gone from last season's front seven, the front line of Kentucky's defense appears to be the most pressing question that must be answered if the UK bowl streak is to reach five straight seasons.

3. Can offense generate 'Strong' start for U of L? Charlie Strong largely earned his street cred by coordinating fierce Florida defenses for Urban Meyer. However, his hopes for early momentum at Louisville probably rest on a veteran offense with eight returning starters being able to carry a defense that has only four starters back.

2. Who wins the UK QB battle royale? Mike Hartline has experience; Ryan Mossakowski has promise; Morgan Newton has some of both. How Joker Phillips handles Kentucky's three-man quarterback scenario will be a telling test for a first-year head coach.

1. Making history. Whatever happens in the win/loss columns, the 2010 college football season in Kentucky will always have historical resonance. The commonwealth will become the first state ever to have three African-American head coaches — Kentucky's Phillips, Louisville's Strong, Western's Taggart — working at the highest level of the sport.

That, too, might give the current occupant of the White House reason to feel a certain kinship with Kentucky college football, 2010.

This is an endnote here an dhdjbfv jhbdvf djfbvjd vhbdfjv jdbvf jdfjbvh jvfjkdbfReach Mark Story at (859) 231-3230 or 1-800-950-6397, Ext. 3230, or mstory@herald-leader.com. Your e-mail could appear on the blog Read Mark Story's E-mail at Kentucky.com.

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