A few thoughts to jump start your Saturday morning.
GOING FOR 15 STRAIGHT WINS
What happens when an offensively challenged team meets the country’s most tenacious defensive team? Well, it typically gets ugly early and on paper, that is what is to be expected today when Alabama (9-13, 3-6 SEC) comes to the O-Dome to face Billy Donovan and the 3rd-ranked Gators (20-2, 9-0 SEC), who are looking to win their 14th straight game and 28th in a row at the O-Dome. Alabama struggles to score against bad defenses. Florida’s defense ranks fifth in the country in scoring, allowing only 57.4 per game; ninth in the country in shooting defense, allowing opponents to make only 38.6% of their shots; and seventh in defensive efficiency, giving up only 0.876 points per possession. In home games this season the Gators are giving up only 21.8 points in the first half and just 31.6 in the second half. Another key stat: Florida is 11th nationally in fewest fouls per game at 15.9. Add it all together and on paper it should be a tough game for Alabama. In that the Gators haven’t had a great shooting night in awhile, expect Alabama to pack everything in the paint and dare Michael Frazier and Scottie Wilbekin to to beat them with jump shots.
ANOTHER 10 FOR GATOR GYMNASTS
Florida’s #1 gymnastics team destroyed Kentucky in Lexington Friday night, 197.175-195.450. In football that’s about like winning by six touchdowns. The big news of the night was Bridget Sloan, who made it three straight weeks that a Gator gymnast has scored a perfect 10. Bridget did hers on the balance beam where she is the NCAA champion from 2013 (also NCAA all-around champ). She also won the uneven parallel bars and finished second in the vault and floor exercise, wrapping up her night with a 39.675 to also take the all-around title. She is the first gymnast in history to win the world, US and NCAA all-around titles in a career. The Gators will host Arkansas next Friday night at the O-Dome. If you haven’t seen the Gators in person, just know that they’re #1 and the defending NCAA champs for a reason. This is a dynasty in the making.
CODY RIGGS RUMORS
After two weeks of speculation, we know the rumors that Cody Riggs would be transferring out are true. Riggs will take advantage of the NCAA transfer rule that allows him to play immediately after getting his bachelor’s degree by enrolling in a graduate program. The latest rumors seem to center around four schools – Notre Dame, Ohio State, Miami and Arizona State. Although it’s close to home, Miami makes the least sense since all four starters in the secondary last year were sophomores. Notre Dame and Arizona State both lose a senior safety. Riggs almost went to Notre Dame out of high school and Arizona State is dad Gerald’s alma mater. The school that actually makes the most sense is Ohio State. Urban Meyer originally recruited Riggs and he lost both safeties.
CREATIVE SCHEDULING MODELS
SEC commissioner Mike Slive and ACC commissioner John Swofford have had a discussion about a scheduling model that would see the teams play eight conference games and one SEC-ACC matchup. It’s an interesting concept and wouldn’t be all that difficult to implement since four SEC schools already play an interleague matchup with an ACC team (Florida-FSU; Georgia-Georgia Tech; South Carolina-Clemson and Kentucky-Louisville). Slive is already looking at matching up SEC teams with teams from the Big 12. Perhaps with the anticipated boost in revenue from the SEC Network we’ll see fewer and fewer we’ll take a beating at your place for a paycheck games.
SELLING THE SEC IN THE MIDWEST
Give credit to Kentucky coach Mark Stoops for bringing in a top 20 recruiting class to Lexington. Critical to the Wildcats’ success was the effort in Ohio, where they took the innovative approach of selling kids on the idea that you can play in the Southeastern Conference and still be close to home. Eleven members of the class came from Ohio. If Stoops is to turn Kentucky into something other than an SEC doormat he’s going to have to find a solid recruiting base because he doesn’t have one in Kentucky which doesn’t produce many Division I players much less ones who are capable of competing in the SEC. Ohio is a logical place to recruit since it has a very large population and produces plenty of D1 talent. We’ll see in a year or two if this approach works, but it’s a nice start.
A SIGN OF THE TIMES
Pete Thomas, who started six games for North Carolina State last year, has transferred out rather than compete with former Gator Jacoby Brissett and hot shot freshman Jalan McClendon for the starting job in the spring. This is the third transfer for Thomas in his career. He spent two seasons at Colorado State before transferring to NC State and sitting a year before getting his shot under center this past season. Transferring out at the first sign of competition is a growing trend in college football. I’m not sure anyone can do anything about it. It’s a sign of the times.
ZOOKER TO THE PACKERS
Ron Zook, who really is one of the good guys in the coaching profession, has decided that two years of water skiing on Lake Weir and being the analyst in the booth for Conference USA and American Athletic Conference games is about all he can stand. He will be joining the staff of the Green Bay Packers, coaching outside linebackers. Zooker is set for life with money so it’s not about having to coach but wanting to coach. Zooker seriously contemplated going to Louisville as Bobby Petrino’s recruiting coordinator and secondary coach.
TWO MORE YEARS FOR JAMEIS?
That’s what Jimbo Fisher says. He’s selling. I’m hesitant to buy. Jameis Winston will be a third year sophomore next year at Florida State. If he were eligible for the NFL Draft this year he would be the first player taken and it’s doubtful that will change next season. Additionally, he’s 20 years old and will be 21 next January, which means he can also be eligible for the Major League Baseball Draft. I don’t think he will play Major League Baseball, but he’s a first round talent and it never hurts to have some leverage. That certainly worked for John Elway, who spent one summer in the minor leagues and gained a whole lot of leverage with the Denver Broncos. Now, Famous Jameis could stay two years just like Jimbo says, but when I look at the situation I’m really hesitant to buy into that notion, particularly since Jameis stood on the Heisman podium and talked about the family’s financial struggles after his dad lost his job three or four years back.
MUSIC FOR TODAY
One of the best songs Creedence Clearwater Revival ever did was a version of the old Screaming Jay Hawkins blues ballad “I Put a Spell on You.” Nina Simone did a great version of the song back in 1965 and I once heard Ray Charles do it live, but the combination of the lyrics, melody and John Fogerty’s voice were the perfect confluence. This is the lead song for the first CCR album (entitled Creedence Clearwater Revival) that also included “Suzy Q” which remains one of my favorite songs of all time.