THOUGHTS OF THE DAY: MARCH 8, 2019
MIAMI GAME MOVED UP TO AUGUST 24
When the 2019 football season begins, the Florida Gators will take center stage. Instead of opening the season against Miami in Orlando on August 31, the opener has been moved up a week to August 24 which means the Gators will open the season on national television in a showcase game that is being billed as the Camping World Kickoff. That can only help re-establish the Florida brand and score points with recruits who won’t have to channel surf to watch all the schools that are after them.
The rescheduling works well for Florida for a couple of reasons. Since the Gators travel to Lexington to face Kentucky in the Southeastern Conference opener on September 14, it’s an open date and a chance to work out any kinks in the offense and defense before the home opener against Tennessee-Martin on September 7. Also, it gives the Gators three open dates during the regular season (the others are October 26, the week before the Georgia game in Jacksonville and November 23, the week before the FSU game. Three open dates will help the Gators stay fresher and keep legs from going dead in November.
IT MAY TAKE A WIN AT RUPP TO AVOID THE NIT
A week ago the Gators (17-13, 9-8 SEC) were just a win away from locking down a spot in the NCAA Tournament. That was then, this is now. Two games in which the Gators snatched defeat from the jaws of victory put UF in a most precarious position. It might take the Gators scoring the upset win Saturday at #6 Kentucky (25-5, 14-3 SEC) to avoid the NIT. While winning at Rupp isn’t impossible, it’s highly improbable since the Wildcats enjoy one of college basketball’s most distinct home court advantages.
Florida’s 79-78 overtime loss to LSU Wednesday night dropped the Gators down to a #10 seed in Joe Lunardi’s bracketology. A loss at Kentucky would be Florida’s third straight and might force the Gators to make a run at the SEC Tournament in Nashville to salvage any chances of making the NCAA Tournament. A loss at Kentucky followed by a 1-1 record at the SEC Tournament would give the Gators an 18-15 record, which probably would land them in the NIT.
SCANDAL LOOMS FOR LSU HOOPS COACH WILL WADE
After the Yahoo Sports reporting team of Pat Forde, Pete Thamel and Dan Wetzel revealed the FBI has wiretap recordings of LSU coach Will Wade discussing with convicted agent wannabe and middleman Christian Dawkins a payment offer made to Lavonte Smart and a potential offer to recruit Balsa Koprivica, who signed with Florida State, it’s difficult to imagine that Wade will find a way to weasel out of this. If the accusations are true – and it seems the FBI has the goods – it will probably mean Wade’s college basketball coaching career will come to a crashing halt.
There have been red flags galore when it comes to Wade and recruiting ever since he took over for the fired Johnny Jones in 2017. Considering how bad LSU was before Wade was hired, it’s hard to imagine how he landed a 2018 recruiting class that included 5-star recruits Naz Reid and Emmitt Williams and 4-stars Smart and Darius Days without some sort of hanky panky. If he was willing to buy Smart, then it seems logical that he would also be willing to purchase the services of Reid, Williams and Days.
When you add all these things together, it seems likely that Will Wade’s days are numbered as LSU’s coach. Although everyone should be considered innocent until proven guilty, wiretap recordings are next to impossible to refute so perhaps Wade and LSU should be working diligently to come up with an exit strategy. And, Southeastern Conference commissioner Greg Stankey should be taking a proactive stance to deal with and eliminate this problem as soon as possible, particularly with LSU needing only a win against Vanderbilt Saturday to clinch the SEC championship. How embarrassing would it be for Sankey and the SEC for LSU to win the league championship only to have it stripped down the road by the NCAA?
Another question: Does Sankey have the power to call for a vote from the 14 SEC school presidents to declare LSU ineligible for the SEC title and/or to force the Tigers to stay home instead of playing in the NCAA Tournament? Maybe the better question is would he?
And what will the NCAA do? LSU is talented enough to make a deep run into the tournament. If they were to make the Final Four or (gasp) win it all, it would be a major embarrassment for the NCAA to have to strip yet another national champion (See Louisville, 2013) of its title.
USA Today columnist Dan Wetzel is already calling for Wade to be fired and for LSU to be banned from playing in the NCAA Tournament. No doubt there will be others – probably lots of others – who voice their agreement with Wetzel.
Personally, I would like to see LSU do the right thing here, which would be to at least suspend Wade and Smart immediately and keep them suspended until all the evidence has been presented and it can be determined if cheating has taken place. That would be the intelligent thing to do but considering the LSU AD is Crazy Joe Alleva, I expect the wagons to be circled and for LSU to spend a small fortune fighting it.
Saturday’s SEC basketball games
FLORIDA (17-13, 9-8 SEC) at #6 Kentucky (25-5, 14-3 SEC)
#5 Tennessee (27-3, 15-2 SEC) at Auburn (21-9, 10-7 SEC)
Georgia (11-19, 2-15 SEC) at South Carolina (15-15, 10-7 SEC)
Texas A&M (13-16, 6-11 SEC) at Mississippi State (21-9, 9-8 SEC)
Ole Miss (19-11, 9-8 SEC) at Missouri (14-15, 5-12 SEC)
Alabama (17-13, 8-9 SEC) at Arkansas (15-14, 6-11 SEC)
Vanderbilt (9-21, 0-17 SEC) at #10 LSU (25-5, 15-2 SEC)
EVERY SEC TEAM’S RETURNING RUNNING BACKS
ALABAMA (3): Najee Harris (6-2, 230, JR; 117-783, 4TDs; 4-7 receiving); Brian Robinson Jr. (6-1, 221, JR; 63-272, 2 TDs; 5-84 receiving); Jerome Ford (5-11, 206, RFR; 7-37 in 4 games). Alabama averaged 198.4 yards per game and 5.21 per carry in 2018.
ARKANSAS (3): Rakeem Boyd (6-0, 200, JR; 123-734, 2 TDs; 23-165 receiving); Devwah Whaley (5-11, 209, SR; 82-368, 2 TDs, 8-87 receiving); Maleek Williams (5-11, 223, SO; 27-144, 2 TDs). Arkansas averaged 143.42 yards per game and 3.91 per carry in 2018.
AUBURN (5): JaTarvious Whitlow (6-0, 216, SO; 150-787, 6 TDs; 15-173 receiving, 2 TDs); Kam Martin (5-10, 193, SR; 103-458, 1 TD; 10-64 receiving); Shaun Shivers (5-7, 173, SO; 70-371, 3 TDs; 2-(-8) receiving); Malik Miller (5-11, 216, RJR; 19-68, 1 TD; 13-144, 1 TD receiving); Harold Joiner (6-4, 214, RFR; 3-9, 1 TD). Auburn averaged 167.46 yards per game and 4.25 per carry in 2018.
FLORIDA (4): Lamical Perine (5-11, 227, SR; 134-826, 7 TDs; 13-170, 1 TD receiving); Dameon Pierce (5-10, 216, SO; 69-424, 2 TDs; 5-20, 1 TD receiving); Malik Davis (5-11, 191, RFR; 13-61; 3-33 receiving in 3 games); Iverson Clement (5-11, 202, RFR; 4-17 in 2 games). The Gators averaged 213.15 yards per game and 5.27 per carry in 2018.
GEORGIA (7): D’Andre Swift (5-9, 215, JR; 163-1,049, 10 TDs; 32-297, 3 TDs receiving); Brian Herrien (6-0, 210, SR; 50-295, 3 TDs; 8-42 receiving); James Cook (5-11, 190, SO; 41-284, 2 TDs; 8-89 receiving); Prather Hudson (5-11, 200, RSO; 15-64; 1-10 receiving); Ian Donald-McIntyre (5-10, 207, RSO; 6-22); Lofton Tidwell (5-11, 210, RFR; 3-6 in 2 games in 2018); Zamir White (6-0, 215, RFR). Georgia averaged 238.79 yards per game and 5.9 per carry in 2018.
KENTUCKY (3): Asim Rose 6-1, 208, JR; 71-442, 5 TDs; 8-82, 1 TD receiving); Kavosiey Smoke (5-9, 219, RFR; 4-45, 1 TD in 2 games in 2018); Christopher Rodriguez Jr. (5-11, 218, RFR; 2-43 in 3 games in 2018). Kentucky averaged 199.38 yards per game and 4.84 per carry in 2018.
LSU (4): Clyde Edwards-Helaire (5-9, 212, JR; 146-658, 7 TDs; 11-96 receiving); Lanard Fournette (5-11, 206, SR; 12-106, 1 TD; 6-55 receiving); Tae Provens (6-2, 198, RFR; 4-13 in 2 games); Chris Curry (6-0, 219, SO; 8-2). LSU averaged 173.62 yards per game and 4.01 per carry in 2018.
MISSISSIPPI STATE (3): Kylin Hill (5-11, 215, JR; 117-734, 4 TDs; 22-176, 4 TDs receiving); Nick Gibson (5-11, 215, SR; 27-205, 1TD; 5-36 receiving); Robert Rivers (5-11, 210, SO; 5-36). Mississippi State averaged 223.62 yards per game and 5.66 per carry in 2018.
MISSOURI (4): Larry Rountree III (5-10, 210, JR; 225-1,216, 11 TDs; 14-62 receiving); Tyler Badie (5-9, 190, SO; 89-437, 2 TDs; 12-130 receiving); Simi Bakare (5-11, 205, SO; 11-53, 1 TD); Dawson Downing (6-0, 225, RJR; 8-14). Missouri averaged 202.38 yards per game and 4.76 per carry in 2018.
OLE MISS (3): Scottie Phillips (5-11, 211, SR; 153-928, 12 TDs; 10-105, 2 TDs receiving); Isaiah Woulard (5-9, 200, SO; 84-428, 4 TDs; 9-52 receiving); Keshun Wells (5-5, 175, SR; 4-21). Ole Miss averaged 164.08 yards per game and 4.7 per carry in 2018.
SOUTH CAROLINA (5): Rico Dowdle (6-0, 210, SR; 123-654, 4TDs; 14-133, 1 TD receiving); Mon Denson (5-10, 210, RSR; 86-432, 2 TDs, 6-60 receiving); Deshaun Fenwick (6-1, 220, RFR; 21-115, 1 TD); Caleb Kinlaw (5-10, 190, GR); Lavonte Valentine (6-0, 195, RFR). South Carolina averaged 152.77 yards per game and 4.47 yards per carry in 2018.
TENNESSEE (4): Ty Chandler (5-11, 201, JR; 115-630, 4 TDs, 19-183, 3 TDs receiving); Tim Jordan (5-11, 206, JR; 132-522, 3 TDs; 12-116 receiving); Jeremy Banks (6-1, 211, SO; 52-185, 3 TDs, 1-10 receiving); Princeton Fant (6-2, 222, RFR; 3-7 in 3 games in 2018). Tennessee averaged 129.08 yards per game and 3.7 per carry in 2018.
TEXAS A&M (5): Jashaun Corbin (6-0, 191, SO; 61-346, 1 TD; 10-85 receiving; Vernon Jackson (6-3, 240, SO; 7-49); Jacob Kinodi (6-2, 220, RSO; 3-26 in 2 games in 2018); Deneric Prince (6-1, 196, RFR; 2-21 in 1 game in 2018); Charles Strong Jr. (6-1, 220, 4-12 in 1 game in 2018). Texas A&M averaged 219 yards per game and 5.29 per carry in 2018.
VANDERBILT (3): Ke’Shawn Vaughn (5-10, 215, RSR; 157-1,244, 12 TDs; 13-170, 2 TDs receiving); Jamauri Wakefield (6-1, 220, JR; 78-352, 2 TDs; 6-51 receiving); Ja’veon Marlow (5-11, 190, SO; 5-46; 1-10 receiving). Vanderbilt averaged 167.54 yards per game and 5.02 per carry in 2018.
MORE SEC FOOTBALL STUFF
Harvey Updyke, the idiot Alabama fan who plead guilty to a felony for poisoning the trees at Toomer’s Corner in Auburn (sentenced to 6 months in jail, 5 years probation and $800,000 in restitution), is free to talk now that he is off probation. Updyke told CBS that one of the reasons he poisoned the trees was, “I wanted Auburn people to hate me as much as I hate them” … Alabama held a junior pro day Thursday, highlighted by a 4.25 40 run by rising junior wide receiver Henry Ruggs. Rising junior receiver Jerry Jeudy ran a 4.40 … All-American safety Grant Delpit will be given the honor of wearing the #7 jersey for 2019. Among his predecessors to wear #7 were Tyrann Mathieu, Patrick Peterson and Leonard Fournette … Kentucky redshirt sophomore LB Chris Whittaker has entered his name in the NCAA transfer portal. Whittaker makes the seventh UK player to enter his name into the transfer portal … Auburn redshirt senior LB Richard McBryde, who missed all of 2018 with a neck injury, has entered his name in the transfer portal. He has already graduated so he will be immediately eligible wherever he lands … Former Clemson QB Kelly Bryant says he never considered transferring out of Missouri without any penalties when the NCAA bowl ban was announced for the 2019. Bryant has already been named Mizzou’s starting QB in the fall by HBC Barry Odom … Alabama analyst Garrett Cox is leaving to join the Tennessee staff in a similar capacity … Out for spring practice at Tennessee are LB Darrin Kirkland (knee), RB Eric Gray (shoulder), DB Tyus Fields (surgery), OL Chris Akporoghene (surgery) and DL Kurott Garland … With the addition of grad transfer Nick Starkel (from Texas A&M), Arkansas will have six scholarship QBs on its roster this fall. And, this is with last year’s starter (Ty Storey) and backup (Cole Kelley) already transferred out.
RANDOM THOUGHTS: Tim Tebow hit a run-scoring single in the 6th inning in the New York Mets’ 6-4 spring training loss to the Washington Nationals. The hit raised Tebow’s spring training batting average to .250 … Former Gator Maurkice Pouncey signed a 3-year deal to remain with the Pittsburgh Steelers that will make him pro football’s highest paid center. Maurkice will have to squeeze by on $11 million a year the next three years … Baseball Hall of Fame pitcher Tom Seaver has been diagnosed with dementia. Seaver pitched 19 years in the majors, winning 311 games. He was named on 425 of 430 ballots on his first year of eligibility for the Hall of Fame … The Denver Broncos have traded QB Case Keenum to the Washington Redskins. Keenum who was signed to a 2-year, $36 million deal last March, became expendable when the Broncos signed Joe Flacco … UCF fans stormed the court Thursday night after the Knights knocked off Cincinnati, 58-55.