Thoughts of the Day: January 21, 2020

GATORS HAVE HAD RECENT SUCCESS AGAINST LSU

With the exception of that rather large egg the Gators laid in Columbia, Missouri, Florida (12-5, 4-1 SEC) has been on its best roll of the season. Winners of five of their last six, the Gators bounced back from the 91-75 loss to Missouri with consecutive home wins over Ole Miss and then 4th-ranked Auburn with the Auburn win probably the best effort of the season at both ends of the court.


“We played well,” Florida coach Mike White said Monday afternoon before the Gators flew out to Baton Rouge for their game tonight with league-leading LSU (13-4, 5-0 SEC). “I mean, we defended a top-five team at a high level and got into as decent an offensive rhythm as you can get into against that type of defense.”


It was the second half that brought out the best in the Gators. During a first half in which White had to constantly shuffle his lineup to compensate for foul trouble that kept Andrew Nembhard and Keyontae Johnson on the bench for a very long stretch. If not for fouls (Auburn was 10-10 from the line) and turnovers (Tigers got 12 points off 12 UF miscues), Auburn would have had its most miserable half of basketball in perhaps the last two years. The Gators stayed out of foul trouble in the second half, turned the ball over only three more times, and they shot 55.2% from the field overall and 62.5% from the three-point line. Auburn shot only 25.5% overall from the field for the game, just 17.4% from the three-point line.


The Gators should play with a high level of confidence against LSU. Not only do the Gators have the momentum of the win over Auburn, but they beat LSU in overtime in Baton Rouge last year and then followed that up with a win over the Tigers of the quarterfinals of the SEC Tournament in Nashville. Last year LSU won the SEC championship. This season, the Tigers are on the same track as the only team in the SEC with an unbeaten league mark (5-0).


“Their starting five offensively is just terrific and defensively they’re disruptive as well,” White said. They change defenses, they play really hard. They’re really good.”


The Florida team that went 2-0 last week is really good too. White thinks it could be an outstanding game if the Gators do their part and play with the same intensity and efficiency of the wins over Ole Miss and Auburn.


“If we play really well – we’re going to have to play really well – it should be a really good game.”

SEC BASKETBALL Tuesday’s games FLORIDA (12-5, 4-1 SEC) at LSU (13-4, 5-0 SEC), SEC Network Georgia (11-5, 1-3 SEC) at #15 Kentucky (13-4, 4-1 SEC), ESPN Texas A&M (8-8, 2-3 SEC) at Missouri (9-8, 1-4 SEC). ESPNU Ole Miss (9-8, 0-4 SEC) at Tennessee (11-6, 3-2 SEC), SEC Network Wednesday’s games South Carolina (10-7, 2-2 SEC) at #16 Auburn (15-2, 3-2 SEC), ESPNU Arkansas (14-3, 3-2 SEC) at Mississippi State (11-6, 2-3 SEC), SEC Network Alabama (10-7, 3-2 SEC) at Vanderbilt (8-9, 0-4 SEC), SEC Network


FLORIDA DEFENSE GOT BETTER IN 2019

The numbers don’t lie. Florida’s defense, despite giving up six touchdowns and 511 yards of offense in the LSU game, was improved in nearly every category in 2019.

Here is where the Gators ranked nationally in 2019 and their numbers from 2018: Total defense: 304.8 yards per game (9th nationally; 343.3 yards per game in 2018

Scoring defense: 15.5 points per game (7th nationally; 20.0 per game in 2018)

Rushing defense: 102.8 yards per game (8th nationally; 162.54 per game in 2018) Pass defense: 202.1 yards per game (32nd nationally; 180.8 per game in 2018) Interceptions: 16 returned for 160 yards (tied for 9th nationally; 14 returned for 266 yards in 2018) Turnovers forced: 23 on 16 interceptions and seven fumble recoveries (tied for 20th nationally; 14 interceptions and 12 fumble recoveries in 2018) Sacks: 49 for 318 yards in losses (4th nationally; 37 for 217 yards in losses in 2018) First downs allowed: 213 (8th nationally; 231 in 2018) Third down defense: 36.4% on 67-184 (40th nationally; 37.44% on 73-195 in 2018) Red zone defense: 14 TDs and 9 FGs allowed (#3 nationally; 18 TDs and 11 FGs allowed in 2018)

Some final numbers of note (they don’t keep national rankings of these stats): Yards per play allowed: 4.9 per play in 2019; 5.12 in 2018

Yards per rush attempt: 3.19 per attempt in 2019; 4.29 in 2018

Yards per pass attempt: 6.7 per attempt in 2019; 6.2 in 2018


MORE STUFF ON A TUESDAY

(1) Feleipe Franks made it official Monday that he will transfer to Arkansas. Barring something dramatic and unforeseen, he’ll be the starter so he will have a chance to show the NFL scouts that he’s (a) healthy again and (b) that he’s progressed as a decision maker. When healthy, Franks has all the physical attributes the NFL looks for – he’s big, strong, fast and has a gun for an arm. What has always been the questionable aspect of his game is the maturity to make the good decisions at critical junctures of games. At Arkansas he will be working with former Florida Atlantic and FSU offensive coordinator Kendal Briles.


(2) I guess it was inevitable, but the college basketball program steeped in the most tradition – Kentucky – finally succumbed to the corporate sponsorship naming rights for Rupp Arena. The iconic basketball arena will now be known as Rupp Arena at Central Bank Center. It’s understandable that Kentucky changed the name of its football stadium from Commonwealth Stadium to Kroger Field. Kentucky football has little to no tradition when it comes to football. But basketball? Oh well, money talks.


(3) Former Georgia defensive back Otis Reese, a 4-star when he signed out of high school, is transferring to Ole Miss. It’s highly unlikely Reese will get a waiver to play immediately from the NCAA but even if he did, he would have to petition to SEC commissioner Greg Sankey and odds are long and hard that Sankey would give him the okay.


(4) Former Alabama offensive lineman Scott Lashley has transferred to Mississippi State, where he will be immediately eligible as a graduate. Lashley played in eight games in 2019 including 58 snaps as the backup right tackle to Jedrick Wills, who has declared for the NFL.


(5) Jimbo Fisher has hired two new assistant coaches at Texas A&M. He hired Tyler Santucci away from Wake Forest to coach linebackers and then raided Mike Norvell’s newly put together staff at Florida State for secondary coach T.J. Rushing.


(6) For a coach whose seat is so hot it’s practically on fire, Derek Mason has troubles that simply won’t go away. In the past couple of months, Mason has lost four quarterbacks including three who started games in the Commodores 3-9 season. First Riley Neal ran out of eligibility. Then Mo Hassan announced he’s transferring out followed by Deuce Wallace. Now backup Allan Walters has entered his name in the NCAA transfer portal. The Commodores signed a juco transfer and two high school QBs, none of whom are enrolled. The only QB currently on campus is walk-on sophomore Jack Bowen.


(7) Kentucky lost a game on the road to South Carolina then went to Fayette Nam to beat an Arkansas team with 14 wins before a full house at Sam Walton Arena. For that Kentucky dropped five spots to #15 in the Associated Press basketball poll. Duke, meanwhile, lost to a Clemson team on the road – the same Clemson team that South Carolina beat at Clemson – and then lost at home to Louisville. For that, Duke only dropped five spots to #8 in the AP poll. Having watched Duke play several times already, I’m really not sold on them as a top ten team or Final Four contender. I’m also convinced Kentucky would clean the Dookies clocks, but there is this perception problem we have about SEC basketball. The SEC probably has as many good teams as the ACC but perception is and will always be that the ACC is a better league.


(8) The rumbling out of Baton Rouge is that Bo Pelini is going to be the new defensive coordinator to replace Coach O. Pelini was the DC for Les Miles in 2007 when LSU won the national championship. Dallas Cowboys passing game coordinator Kris Richard has emerged as a candidate to take Joe Brady’s spot on the coaching staff. He played at Southern Cal when Coach O was an assistant there under Pete Carroll. New Orleans Saints wide receivers coach Ronald Curry is another candidate for Brady’s old job and might be the top candidate given that he and Brady worked together with the Saints and the passing game Brady incorporated into the LSU offense was straight from the Saints playbook.


GOOD QUOTES FOR A TUESDAY Nicole Auerbach of The Athletic with Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott on another year without a team from that league in the College Football Playoff: “In the conversations I have had with coaches and athletic directors, we’re careful not to overact. Utah had a chance to play into the Playoff. Utah and Oregon were in the top 10 most of the season. If Utah wins that game, they’re in. It’s not like the Pac-12 was prevented from being in. Utah just didn’t win the championship game. Oregon, who won our championship game, had they not tripped up against Arizona State two weeks before, they’d be in. There’s no impediment to the Pac-12 being in the Playoff. A couple of plays here or there and we are in the Playoff.”


Jenny Ferentas of Sports Illustrated on the explosiveness of the Kansas City Chiefs’ offense since Patrick Mahomes became the starting quarterback: “The power of Mahomes is so influential that once he became the Chiefs’ starter, punter Dustin Colquitt, who is also the holder for extra points, started storing the gloves he wears for PATs in his jersey at all times. He’d never done that in his 15-year career, but a Reid offense run by Mahomes can score in a split-second, and Colquitt couldn’t risk being caught without his equipment. Last week, Mahomes rallied Kansas City out of a 24-0 deficit in a single quarter. This week, when the Chiefs fell into a 10-0 hole against the Titans, they didn’t even need a fiery sideline speech by their young QB.”


RANDOM THOUGHTS: Jalen Hurts says he has no regrets regarding his transfer from Alabama to Oklahoma. Adding his Oklahoma stats to those accumulated at Alabama, Hurts threw for 9,476 yards and 80 touchdowns and ran for 3,274 yards and 43 TDs … Following the Tennessee Titans 35-24 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs, defensive coordinator Dean Pees retired. He spent 47 years in coaching including 16 in the NFL and was the DC for Super Bowl champs with the Baltimore Ravens and New England Patriots … At age 24, Kansas City’s Patrick Mahomes is the fifth youngest Super Bowl QB. Of the other four, only Ben Roethlisberger of the Pittsburgh Steelers won his game.

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