▪ The emergence of second-year pro and former UK star Bud Dupree has made a difference in the Pittsburgh Steelers’ defense and could play a huge role in Sunday’s AFC Championship game.
Dupree came up big in Pittsburgh’s 18-16 win over Kansas City in an AFC divisional playoff game on Sunday night. Dupree registered four tackles, plus his hit on Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith led to Ryan Shazier’s second-quarter interception.
Outside linebacker is an important position in the Steelers’ 3-4 defense and it took Dupree some time to learn the spot. Now that he has, he’s creating havoc, which is what Pittsburgh will need Sunday against Tom Brady and the Patriots.
▪ North Carolina Coach Roy Williams won his 800th game on Monday night when North Carolina handled Syracuse at the Dean Dome. Only one college basketball coach has reached 800 wins faster than Williams, who took just 1,012 games to reach the feat. That one coach? Kentucky’s Adolph Rupp, who upon beating Mississippi 104-68 on Feb. 8, 1969, ran his record to 800-172 in 972 games.
▪ To mark Williams’ 800th win, the coach received a pair of customized Air Jordans from Michael Jordan himself, who sent the shoes in a wooden box with “800” inscribed on the top.
▪ The road to the Kentucky Derby will soon be heating up. In fact, Breeders’ Cup Juvenile winner Classic Empire, trained by Mark Casse, worked 5 furlongs in 1:02 4/5 on Monday at Palm Meadows in preparation for his 2017 debut in the Holy Bull Stakes on Feb. 4 at Gulfstream.
▪ Who knew that when Mitch Barnhart was hired as UK’s new AD back in 2002 he would one day have his fingerprints all over the SEC. Late last year, Florida hired Scott Stricklin away from Mississippi State to be its AD. Stricklin was once an associate AD at UK under Barnhart. On Monday, Alabama hired Greg Byrne away from Arizona to be its AD. Byrne was once an associate AD at UK under Barnhart.
▪ When Louisville says that Quentin Snider’s hip flexor injury will keep the guard out to two to three weeks, Cardinals fans should remember that going by Rick Pitino’s normal medical estimates, that means Snider will be back by the end of the week.
▪ That throw that Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers made to set up the winning field goal against Dallas on Sunday? Humans aren’t supposed to make those kind of throws.
▪ One team will fall from the SEC’s unbeaten ranks on Wednesday when Florida (5-0) visits South Carolina (4-0). Florida is ranked 19th. South Carolina is ranked 24th. And South Carolina visits Kentucky on Saturday.
▪ As for the national scene, did you predict that, by mid-January, Gonzaga would be the nation’s only undefeated team?
▪ Though Louisville consistently ranked among the nation’s leaders in total defense during Todd Grantham’s stint as coordinator at U of L, I’m not a huge Grantham fan. Thought the DC, who is headed to Mississippi State, took too many risks and gave up too many big plays.
▪ Speaking of Louisville, good to see ex-UK assistant Mike Summers back in the state for his second tour of duty with the Cardinals. Summers, who was on Joker Phillips’ staff at Kentucky and is the son-in-law of Joe B. Hall, spent the last three years at Florida. He’s also one of the best offensive line coaches around.
▪ In its latest NFL Draft rankings, CBS Sports has ex-UK star Boom Williams rated as the 30th-best running back. That tells you it’s a very deep class at that position.
▪ Congrats to Nick Zito, who over the weekend at Gulfstream, saddled his 2,000th winner.
▪ The newest catchphrase in coaching hires is “(fill in the blank) will be joining the staff in an undetermined role.”