Thoughts of the Day: January 13, 2021

Updated: Jan 14

A few thoughts to jump start your Wednesday morning:

GATORS WIN AS CASTLETON DOMINATES ON BOTH ENDS OF COURT

Colin Castleton came up big when the Gators (6-3, 3-2 SEC) needed him most Tuesday night, dominating in the paint at both ends of the court as the Gators rallied from nine points down in the final 6:28 for a much-needed 72-63 win over Ole Miss (6-5, 1-3 SEC) at the O-Dome. In helping the Gators end a two-game skid in which the two losses were by a combined 33 points, Castleton played his best game in a Florida uniform, leading the Gators with 21 points, 10 rebounds, eight blocked shots and three assists. The eight blocked shots were the second most in a game by any Gator in school history.


The Gators looked like a beaten team when Devontae Shuler converted a turnover into a layup that gave the Rebels a 61-52 lead. Instead of going down for the count, the Gators found themselves, playing better at both ends of the court in the last 6:28 than they have all season.


Castleton explained the turnaround: “We were in a timeout and I think we were, I don’t want to say exactly, but we were down … and I kind of just stopped the guys and was like, ‘We gotta dig in. We have to figure out what we have to do to win this game, like we are not losing this game no matter what shape or form, we are not losing this game.’ We did what we needed to do, got the stops and hit some big shots.”


The Gators held Ole Miss to only two free throws the rest of the way, finishing the game on a 20-2 run that was 14-0 in the final 4:38. With Castleton all but eliminating points in the paint in the second half – Ole Miss managed only eight, just four on second chances – the Gators forced the Rebels to try to win the game from the outside. As long as Shuler and Luis Rodriguez were making shots, Ole Miss had a chance to score a road win, but eventually the shots stopped falling against a defense that kept switching from a 1-3-1 zone trap to tight man-to-man.


The Gators helped themselves at the foul line all night, hitting 22-26 that included of their last 15. Tre Mann, who finished the game with 17 points, seven rebounds, three assists and three steals, went 8-8 from the line. Noah Locke, who hit the 3-pointer that gave the Gators the lead for good with 2:37 to go, finished with 15.


Next up for the Gators is a road trip to Starkville to face Mississippi State.


Tuesday SEC Scores FLORIDA (6-3, 3-2 SEC) 72, Ole Miss (6-5, 1-3 SEC) 63 Alabama (10-3, 4-0 SEC) 85, Kentucky (4-7, 3-1 SEC) 65 Wednesday’s SEC Games Auburn (6-6, 0-4 SEC) at Georgia (7-3, 0-3 SEC) Arkansas (10-2, 2-2 SEC) at LSU (8-2, 3-1 SEC) Texas A&M (6-4, 1-3) at Mississippi State (8-4, 3-1 SEC)


GATORS FINISH OUTSIDE TOP 10 IN BOTH POLLS For the first time in the three years Dan Mullen has been Florida’s HBC, the Gators finished outside the top 10 in both polls. The season-ending three-game losing streak plunged the Gators to 13th in the AP poll, 12thin the Coaches. Most of the early projections for 2021 will have the Gators in the 14-17 range but Dennis Dodd of CBSSports.com placed them 12th.

FINAL ASSOCIATED PRESS TOP 25 POLL: (1) Alabama 13-0; (2) Ohio State 7-1; (3) Clemson 10-2; (4) Texas A&M 9-1; (5) Notre Dame 10-2; (6) Oklahoma 9-2; (7) Georgia 8-2; (8) Cincinnati 9-1; (9) Iowa State 9-3; (10) Northwestern 7-2; (11) BYU 11-1; (12) Indiana 6-2; (13) FLORIDA 8-4; (14) Coastal Carolina 11-1; (15) Louisiana 10-1; (16) Iowa 6-2; (17) Liberty 10-1; (18) North Carolina 8-4; (19) Texas 7-3; (20) Oklahoma State 8-3; (21) Southern Cal 5-1; (22) Miami 8-3; (23) Ball State 7-1; (24) San Jose State 7-1; (25) Buffalo 6-1


FINAL COACHES TOP 25 POLL: (1) Alabama 13-0; (2) Ohio State 7-1; (3) Clemson 10-2; (4) Texas A&M 9-1; (5) Notre Dame 10-2; (6) Oklahoma 9-2; (7) Georgia 8-2; (8) Cincinnati 9-1; (9) Iowa State 9-3; (10) Northwestern 7-2; (11) BYU 11-1; (12) FLORIDA 8-4; (13) Indiana 6-2; (15) Coastal Carolina 11-1; (15) Iowa 6-2; (16) Louisiana 10-1; (17) North Carolina 8-4; (18) Liberty 10-1; (19) Oklahoma State 8-3; (20) Texas 7-3; (21) Southern Cal 5-1; (22) Miami 8-3; (23) Ball State 7-1; (24) San Jose State 7-1; (25) Buffalo 6-1


MOON AND DEAN RETURNING FOR 2021

The Gators got some good news for the defense when buck Jeremiah Moon elected to forego the Senior Bowl and return to UF for 2021. Moon was expected to have a big year in 2020 but injuries limited him to four games with 14 tackles and a sack. Safety Trey Dean III will also return after a season in which he had 34 tackles, an interception and a sack. Dean has three interceptions in his UF career and he’s been a consistent contributor on special teams.


WHO PLAYS QB NEXT YEAR IN THE SEC ALABAMA: Bryce Young, a former 5-star recruit who completed 13-22 passes for 156 yards and a TD in mop-up duty, is the expected starter. No other QB saw even a snap in 2020. Alabama has signed 4-star Jalen Milroe, the 4th-ranked dual threat QB in the country.

ARKANSAS: K.J. Jefferson, who got a start when Feleipe Franks was injured, is the heir apparent. He completed 20-41 passes for 295 yards and three TDs while running for 67 yards and two more TDs. No other QB took a snap. The Razorbacks signed two QBs for 2021, 3-star Lucas Cole, the 21st-ranked dual threat in the country, and 3-star Landon Rogers, the 36th-ranked dual threat.

AUBURN: Two-year starter Bo Nix (2,415 yards, 12 TDPs; 388 rushing yards, 7 TDs) is the only QB who took a snap in 2020. The Tigers signed Dematrius Davis, the 8th-ranked dual threat QB.

FLORIDA: Emory Jones (18-32 passing, 221 yards, 2 TDPs; 217 rushing yards, 2 TDs), who spent the last two years as Kyle Trask’s backup, is the expected starter but he will be challenged in the spring by Anthony Richardson (1-2 passing for 27 yards and a TD; 7-61 rushing). The Gators signed 4-star Carlos Del Rio Wilson, the 11th-ranked pro style QB in the country, and 3-star Jalen Kitna, the 35th ranked pro style QB.

GEORGIA: JT Daniels, who started the last four games (1,231 passing yards, 10 TDPs), is the expected starter. There isn’t another QB on the roster who took a snap. Daniels is expected to be pressed in the spring by 5-star signee, Brock Vandagriff, the nation’s 2nd-ranked dual threat QB

KENTUCKY: Joey Gatewood is the expected starter. He threw for 109 yards and ran for 62 as a backup in 2020. Beau Allen threw for 40 yards in two games off the bench. The Wildcats signed 3-star Kaiya Sheron, the 33rd-ranked pro style QB in the country.

LSU: The Tigers could have a full-fledge quarterback controversy on their hands. Myles Brennan threw for 1,112 yards and 11 touchdowns in three games before he was injured and lost for the season. TJ Finley got five starts, throwing for 941 yards and five touchdowns after Brennan went down. Max Johnson led LSU to wins in the final two games and finished the season with 1,069 passing yards for eight TDs while running for 119 and two more TDs. LSU signed 4-star Garrett Nussmeier, ranked 8th among the nation’s pro style QBs.

MISSISSIPPI STATE: Will Rogers started seven games as a true freshman and finished with 1,976 passing yards for 11 touchdowns. The Bulldogs signed 4-star Sawyer Robertson, the 10th-ranked pro style QB and got a transfer from Southern Miss in Jack Abraham, who threw for 7,067 yards and 41 TDs in three years.

MISSOURI: Connor Bazelak started eight games as a redshirt freshman, throwing for 2,366 yards and seven TDPs while running for two more. He will be the starter. Shawn Robinson started two games, throwing for 185 yards and a TD and Brady Cook threw for 72 yards and a TD. The Tigers signed 3-star Tyler Macon, the 15th-ranked dual threat nationally.

OLE MISS: No returning QB in the SEC put up better numbers than Matt Corral, who threw for 3,337 yards and 29 touchdowns while running for 506 and four more. John Rhys Plumlee, who threw for 65 yards and a TD while running for 94, may switch to slot receiver. The Rebels signed 4-star Luke Altmyer, the 14th-ranked pro style QB in the country.

SOUTH CAROLINA: Ryan Hilinski has transferred out and Colin Hill won’t return so next in line is Luke Doty, who threw for 405 yards and two touchdowns while running for another 91. The only QB signed is 3-star Colten Gauthier, the 23rd-ranked pro style QB in the country.

TENNESSEE: Virginia Tech transfer Hendon Hooker (2,894 career passing yards, 22 TDPs; 1,033 rushing yards for 15 TDs) didn’t come to Knoxville to sit the bench. Harrison Bailey (578 yards, 4 TDPs) and Brian Mauer (9 passing yards, 41 rushing yards) return. Two other QBs (Jarrett Guarantano and JT Shrout) transferred out. The Vols signed 4-star Kaidon Salter, the 4th-ranked dual threat in the country.

TEXAS A&M: Kellen Mond is gone, leaving Haynes King (59 passing yards, 1 TD; 42 rushing yards) as the only QB with any experience. The Aggies signed 4-star Eli Stowers, the 7th-ranked dual threat in the country.

VANDERBILT: Ken Seals started all nine games as a true freshman, throwing for 1,928 yards and 12 touchdowns. Mike Wright threw for 51 yards and a TD while running for a TD in backup duty. The Commodores did not sign a QB.


OVER, UNDER, AROUND AND THROUGH THE SEC

ALABAMA: Chris Low of ESPN is reporting that Nick Saban is zeroing in on Bill O’Brien as his next offensive coordinator. O’Brien has worked as the offensive coordinator for Bill Belichick to go with head coaching gigs with Penn State and the Houston Texans of the NFL.

ARKANSAS: Linebacker Deon Edwards’ time in the transfer portal was short-lived. He’s pulled his name and has decided to return to Arkansas for the 2021 season.

AUBURN: Linebacker Chandler Wooten, who opted out for 2020, is returning to Auburn for 2021 … Defensive back Christian Tutt, who had declared for the NFL Draft, seems to have changed his mind and wants to put his name in the transfer portal.

GEORGIA: Punter Jake Camarda, O-lineman Jamaree Sayler and outside linebacker Adam Anderson announced they will return for 2021

KENTUCKY: Pitcher Ben Jordan, who also played a couple of games last season for the UK basketball team, passed away. The 6-9 Jordan was expected to be Kentucky’s closer in 2021.

LSU: The Tigers continue to get no answers in their attempt to find a new defensive coordinator. The latest to turn them down is Mississippi State’s Zach Arnett ... Linebacker Ray Thornton placed his name in the transfer portal.

MISSISSIPPI STATE: Center James Jackson (6-3, 345) has entered his name in the transfer portal. He started two games in 2020. Zach Arnett is a popular guy these days. In the last week, the MSU defensive coordinator has turned down both LSU and South Carolina.

MISSOURI: Former offensive coordinator Derek Dooley has sued the school over the remaining money owed on his contract when head coach Barry Odom and the rest of the Missouri staff was fired after the 2018 season.

SOUTH CAROLINA: Obviously, not everyone is happy with the hire of new coach Shane Beamer. Five-star 2022 quarterback Gunner Stockton has pulled his commitment.

TENNESSEE: Former Auburn defensive coordinator Kevin Steele has been hired as an assistant. He’ll be paid $450,000 a year … Corner Shawn Shamburger, who had 16 starts in four years, has put his name in the NCAA transfer portal … Running back Ty Chandler, whose career totals at UT were 2,045 rushing yards and 13 touchdowns, has transferred to North Carolina.

TEXAS A&M: Connor Blumrick, who played quarterback, tight end and special teams the last four years, is transferring to Virginia Tech for a chance to play quarterback once again. VANDERBILT: Quarterback Danny Clark has entered his name in the transfer portal. Clark began his career at Kentucky before transferring to junior college. He didn’t see action for Vandy in 2020 and has three seasons of eligibility remaining.


ONE LAST PITHY THOUGHT: NCAA president Mark Emmert says he “couldn’t disagree more” with the idea that Division I football should break away from the organization. Of course he is going to say that. The NCAA needs the money football brings in to pay for Emmert’s big salary and the salaries of that incredibly bloated bureaucracy. Here’s a hard dose of reality for Emmert, who had an unusual accident the other day when an intelligent thought struck him: It’s not a question of IF the Division I football schools split from the NCAA, but simply a matter of WHEN. The only hope Emmert has is for the Power Five schools to split off and the Group of Five schools elect to stay.

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