A few thoughts to jump start your Thursday morning.
GATORS ONE WIN AWAY FROM #1 RANKING
The Gators already get the best shot from everybody they play. When you’re ranked #2 nationally and have a 13-0 record in SEC play, you’ve got a great big target on your chest and present a storm the floor opportunity every time you go on the road. You can bet they’re already plotting that possibility in Oxford where the Gators travel Saturday to face Ole Miss in a 12 noon start – 11 a.m. local time. A win in Oxford and the Gators are all but assured of ascending to the #1 national ranking by virtue of Syracuse’s loss to Boston College Wednesday night. Ole Miss needs a signature win to get back into the NCAA Tournament picture and a win over Florida would definitely help. Throw in the incentive of denying the Gators the #1 ranking and you’ve got a game that the Gators better come ready to play from the opening whistle.
MORE SENIOR MOMENTS
There is something to be said about been there and done that. Florida’s four seniors have all been through their share of trials and tribulations during their years in Gainesville but all the battle scars and all the heartache is paying off in a very big way. This is a tough team, hardened by close losses in the past so when a game is on the line like it was Wednesday night at the O-Dome against Auburn, Patric Young, Scottie Wilbekin, Casey Prather and Will Yeguete don’t panic but know exactly what they have to do to bring home a win. Against Auburn, Young scored all 17 of his points in the second half to go with seven rebounds, three assists and two blocked shots. Patric was 7-9 from the foul line. Remember when he was a liability there? No longer. Prather scored 16 and pulled in nine rebounds to go with two assists and a couple of steals. He was 4-5 from the foul line. Wilbekin had 15 points, one rebound and four assists with only one turnover. Yeguete scored five points, all from the foul line (5-6) and had eight rebounds to go with two assists. Combined the seniors accounted for 53 of Florida’s 71 points and 25 of the 39 rebounds. They had 11 of the Gators’ 14 assists and hit 20-24 from the foul line.
WITH 28 DAYS UNTIL SPRING PRACTICE BEGINS …
Here are two questions that will have to be answered during the 15 days in March and April that the Gators are allowed to practice: (1) With the extra months of nutrition and work with the strength and conditioning staff, has Trenton Brown dropped enough tonnage to become an effective tackle? If he’s quick enough to handle a pass rusher off the edge, he will be a real asset because with his size he will be a pile driver in the running game. (2) Has Alex McCallister gained enough strength and weight to get on the field on a regular basis? He’s got the speed and the length to be a real force coming off the edge, but at 238 he doesn’t have the power to win the handfights at the line of scrimmage.
AND THESE QUESTIONS FOR THE REST OF THE SEC
Can Ole Miss find some help in the middle of the defensive line? The Rebels were 0-4 last year in games in which they gave up more than 200 rushing yards. There was a stretch of three straight games – all losses – when they gave up 254, 282 and 241 yards … Who will emerge at quarterback at Tennessee? The Vols return three who started games last year – Justin Worley, Nathan Peterman and Joshua Dobbs – but the talk in Knoxville centers around redshirt freshman Riley Ferguson, who longtime Vol watchers claim would have been the starter as a true freshman if not for injuries that forced him to take a redshirt.
OKLAHOMA SELF-REPORTS POTENTIAL NCAA VIOLATION
Oklahoma self-reported a potential NCAA violation, a crime so heinous that you wonder how these people can live with themselves. It seems that three football players ate too much pasta at a banquet back on May 10, 2013. To have their eligibility reinstated, the three had to donate $3.83 each to charities of their choice. Now the NCAA issued a statement that piling on the pasta did not break any NCAA rules but Oklahoma was definitely right to self-report. The NCAA rulebook is so expansive and so vague that even something as trivial as a player eating too much at a banquet could indeed be a violation of the rules. It really is time for the power conferences to set their own agenda and rewrite the rule book.
A NEW TWIST ON STAND YOUR GROUND
Nick Saban’s daughter Kristen was recently sued by a sorority sister who got into a physical fight because Kristen wouldn’t take down a not so nice comment on Facebook. Sarah Grimes was offended when Kristen Saban wrote “No one likes Sara, yayyyy!” on her Facebook page. Grimes got in Saban’s face, yelled and screamed and Saban shoved, which led to the fight. Grimes says she suffered a concussion and nasal problems that required surgery. When her case was presented before Judge James H. Roberts Jr. in Tuscaloosa County Court, he threw it out, citing Alabama’s “stand your ground” law and the fact that Grimes initiated the fight.
RIGGS TO NOTRE DAME
Just as Gator Country football beat reporter Nick de la Torre predicted, Cody Riggs transferred to Notre Dame where he will be eligible to play immediately since he has his Florida undergraduate degree. There are two spots open in the Notre Dame secondary, at corner and safety where Bennett Jackson and Austin Collinsworth (son of former Gator Cris Collinsworth) graduated. In his Florida career, Riggs started 25 games, was in on 107 tackles and picked off one pass.
MASTERS CHAMPIONS DINNER: KANGAROO ANYONE?
They hold a champions dinner in Augusta the night before the Masters begins every April in Augusta. The reigning champ gets to select the menu. In 1988, for example, Sandy Lyle chose haggis – the lungs, liver and kidneys of a sheep mixed with suet, oatmeal and onions and cooked in a sheep’s stomach. I’ve never eaten haggis although it was on the menu at a late night spot in New York where I had dinner after the 2007 NBA Draft. This year Adam Scott is not ruling out the possibility of kangaroo although I, for one, would hope he would choose something else if he wants people to think Australia is something other than a dead end on the cuisine trail. The meat is stringy, often too tough and doesn’t have a whole lot of flavor, which causes people to overcook it. Then it gets soft and mushy. Let’s just say I’ll take a burger from Five Guys any day.
MUSIC FOR TODAY
When Spyro Gyra released “Morning Dance” in 1979 a lot of hard core rock and roll fans started listening to jazz for the first time. Jay Beckenstein’s fusion of contemporary jazz with Latin rhythms turned the band into an overnight sensation and they’ve been doing quite well ever since. Now, 30-plus albums later, they’re still touring the world. They will be playing at Jazziz Nightlife in Boca Raton on April 13-14 before taking off for a month in Europe. This is “Jubilee,” the second cut off their “Morning Dance” album.