THE DAY AFTER NEW YEAR RAMBLING
(1) Back in September, Kentucky linebacker Kash Daniel vehemently denied he deliberately tried to hurt Florida quarterback Kyle Trask in the fourth quarter of the Gators’ 29-21 comeback win over the Wildcats at Kroger Field in Lexington. Apparently, the denial wasn’t the truth because on the Paul Finebaum Show New Year’s Eve, Daniel issued an on-the-air apology to Trask. “I apologize to Kyle Trask for real,” Daniel said. “I apologize to Kyle Trask; I apologize to the University of Florida; I apologize to the University of Florida fan base. That was out of my league. I’m not about that. So, I’m sorry from the bottom of my heart. I allowed the outside noise to affect my play. I can’t do that.”
(2) Trevon Grimes (33 catches, 491 yards, three touchdowns) announced he will return for his senior season at the University of Florida, a wise move on his part. At 6-5, 214 with exceptional speed, Grimes is good enough right now to get drafted but he should help his draft stock next season with increased productivity. With the graduation of Van Jefferson, Tyrie Cleveland, Freddie Swain and Josh Hammond, Grimes and tight end Kyle Pitts should be Kyle Trask’s top targets next season.
(3) I doubt Lamical Perine will get drafted before the third or fourth round because it’s a deep running back board but I do believe he will have a productive NFL career. As he showed with that 61-yard touchdown run against Virginia in the Orange Bowl (and the 88-yard TD run against Auburn earlier in the year), he’s got good enough speed that once he gets in the secondary he’s hard to run down but he’s excellent in pass protection and can catch the ball, too.
(4) Paybacks are hell. That’s what Alabama scoring a touchdown in the final minute of the Crimson Tide’s 35-16 Citrus Bowl win over Michigan was all about. Jim Harbaugh has done his best to get under Nick Saban’s skin in a variety of ways but I think what really got Nick’s blood boiling were the satellite camps he held deep in the heart of SEC country (NCAA has since ruled against them). Nick got mad and while it took until yesterday afternoon, he got even. Harbaugh was, is and will always be a jerk. Saban can be a jerk at times, too, but he’s in the SEC so he’s our jerk.
(5) There is a lot of speculation that Tua Tagovailoa is going to return to Alabama for his senior season and further speculation that if Tua comes back, so will a whole bunch of draft-eligible juniors. If there is that domino effect with a Tua decision to return, Alabama will probably start the 2020 season as the odds-on favorite to win the national championship. If he elects to leave for the NFL Draft, he will be a top 15 pick even with the question marks about his health. If he comes back for his senior season, it’s unlikely Tua will be the top quarterback taken in the 2021 draft since Trevor Lawrence of Clemson will almost certainly be leaving early but if Tua could make it through the 2020 season healthy, he would easily be top five. We won’t have to wait long for Tua’s decision. He will announce on Monday if he’s staying or going.
(6) Auburn fans are already stacking the wood for the bonfire they plan to light under Gus Malzahn’s butt. The warm and fuzzy feelings he gave Auburn fans when Gus beat Alabama gave way to angry alums who think he needs to find gainful employment somewhere else after the Outback Bowl loss to Minnesota. Auburn’s vaunted defense stunk it up and the offense was an absolute disaster. That’s being kind.
(7) LSU linebacker Michael Divinity, who has been away from the team since before the Alabama game in November, is back with the team, just in time for the national championship game with Clemson. Divinity left the team because of what was described as a personal matter, but returned later on to begin practicing again. He didn’t play in either the SEC
Championship Game or LSU’s College Football Playoff semifinal game with Oklahoma.
(8) Another thought about Jim Harbaugh. He’s lost four straight bowl games and has never beaten arch-rival Ohio State, nor does it look like he’ll beat the Buckeyes any time soon. Harbaugh was hired by Michigan to do two things: Beat the Buckeyes and make it to the College Football Playoff. He’s been at Michigan five years now and the Wolverines are no closer to beating Ohio State and making the playoff than they were when they fired Brady Hoke. At least with Brady Hoke they weren’t paying him more than $8 million a year.
THE SEC SOOTHSAYER Indiana (8-4) 33, Tennessee (7-5) 28: The Vols benefitted from a very soft schedule on the back end to win their last five games. Indiana doesn’t play a whole lot of defense, but the Hoosiers have a dynamic passing game and they’ll score enough points to knock off the Vols in the Gator Bowl.
GOOD QUOTES FOR THURSDAY
From Michael Cassagrande of Al.com, Alabama wide receiver Jerry Jeudy, who could go in the top four of the NFL Draft, on why he refused to sit out the bowl game: “First of all, you know, I played football all my life, so I couldn’t just sit out there and watch my team play and my brothers be out there. So I just wanted to go to war with my brothers like I’ve been doing the whole season. I love playing football so I just wanted to come out there and compete with my brothers.”
From Andrea Adelson of ESPN, Nick Saban on Alabama’s need to make a statement in the Citrus Bowl against Michigan: “We have a culture of how we play football at Alabama, with great effort, great toughness, but also discipline to execute and accountability for everybody to do their job. That’s always been the trademark of what we do. Maybe in a couple games that we played, you know, half of the LSU game and maybe at Auburn, we didn’t really do that to the standard that I would like and to our expectation and I think our players realized that. They wanted to prove that this is the culture that was established for a number of years here by a lot of good players, and I think they have a lot of pride in that and I think they wanted to come out today and prove that this is what Alabama football, the culture of Alabama football is really all about.”
CONFERENCE BOWL STANDINGS SEC 6-2 Mountain West 4-2 Pac-12 4-3 Big Ten 4-4 ACC 4-5 Conference USA 3-4 Independents 2-1 Sun Belt 2-2 American Athletic 2-3 MAC 2-3 Big 12 1-5
RANDOM THOUGHTS: The Dr. Pepper “Fansville” commercials are horrible. I miss the heck out of Larry Culpepper … David Stern died yesterday, three weeks after suffering a brain hemorrhage. I can’t imagine he would have ever approved of the PC culture embraced by his successor Adam Silver. I can’t decide who is a worse commissioner: Silver or Major League Baseball’s Rob Manfred … Former Texas A&M running back Jashaun Corbin will transfer to Florida State. The Cocoa native played in two games, suffering a season-ending injury in game #2 against Clemson … Former Florida wide receivers coach (under Will Muschamp) and Washington offensive coordinator Bush Hamdan has joined the Missouri staff as an offensive assistant … Jason Garrett will meet with Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones today. Speculation is he’ll get a handshake, a pink slip and a check to buy out his contract … I still haven’t watched an NBA game this year. I’m not anticipating watching one any time soon.