John Clay

College Football Playoff picks, SEC basketball openers and more random notes

Former Kentucky quarterback Patrick Towles guided Boston College to a bowl victory against Maryland on Monday.
Former Kentucky quarterback Patrick Towles guided Boston College to a bowl victory against Maryland on Monday. AP

Random notes:

▪  My New Year’s Eve College Football Playoff projections: Alabama over Washington and Clemson over Ohio State. Picked a CFP rematch before the season began and sticking with it.

▪  John Calipari is 6-1 in SEC openers at Kentucky. His lone loss came at Georgia in 2011.

▪  After defeating Kentucky last week, Louisville doesn’t get much of a break. The Cardinals play No. 12 Virginia at home on Wednesday night; No. 16 Indiana in Indianapolis on Saturday, then No. 24 Notre Dame in South Bend next Wednesday.

▪  Ex-Kentucky quarterback Patrick Towles threw for two scores and caught a touchdown pass in Boston College’s 36-30 win over Maryland in the Quick Lane Bowl. During his three seasons playing at UK, Towles caught two passes — an 11-yard reception from wide receiver Garrett Johnson against Mississippi State in 2014 and a 1-yard pass against Missouri in 2015 in which Towles caught his own tipped throw.

▪  Now ex-Buffalo Bills coach Rex Ryan leads Bengals Coach Marvin Lewis in playoff victories (4-0) and firings (2-0). Ryan earned his pink slip. He produced six straight non-winning seasons, dating back to his time as head coach of the New York Jets. And I predict Lewis will be coaching the Bengals again in 2017.

▪  Mississippi State began its season by missing a field goal on the final play which would have beaten South Alabama. Instead, South Alabama won 21-20. The Bulldogs ended their season blocking a field goal that would have won the St. Petersburg Bowl for Miami (Ohio). Instead, MSU won 17-16.

▪  Louisville basketball leads Ken Pomeroy’s rankings for defensive efficiency. There is a lot of college basketball left to play, but if Louisville holds that spot it would mark the fourth time (2004, 2012 and 2013 previously) in 14 years Rick Pitino’s team led the nation in that category. John Calipari has done it twice (2009 at Memphis and 2015 at Kentucky).

▪  Kentucky shot 39.7 percent in its loss to Louisville. Since coming to UK, Calipari’s teams are 18-23 when shooting less than 40 percent. They are 204-25 when shooting 40 percent or better.

▪  After Sacramento beat Philadelphia on Monday night, DeMarcus Cousins said he could see a day when the Sixers’ Joel Embiid could be the best center in the league. “After I retire,” said Cousins.

▪  I have no problem with LSU’s Leonard Fournette and Stanford’s Christian McCaffrey skipping their meaningless bowl games to begin preparations for the NFL Draft.

▪  Correction: Most bowl games are meaningless. The Music City Bowl is an exception. After a disappointing season, Tennessee needs to beat Nebraska on Friday.

▪  Neil Greenberg of The Washington Post picks Georgia Tech to beat UK in the TaxSlayer Bowl in part because the Cats ranked low in something called the “stuff rate” this season. Pro Football Outsiders defines “stuff rate” as “percentage of carries by running backs that are stopped at or before the line of scrimmage.” UK’s stuff rate was 12.9 percent. By comparison, Alabama’s “stuff rate” was 25.3.

▪  John Calipari’s podcast is something a coach can do during the season as long as he is winning. Cal can get away with it. Other coaches couldn’t. Same goes for Duke Coach Mike Krzyzewski, who has a radio show on Sirius/XM.

▪  On Monday, Santa Anita Park in Arcadia, Calif., enjoyed an opening day crowd of 46,514, its largest opening day crowd since 1994. And you thought horse racing was dead.

▪  Carrie Fisher, who passed away Tuesday at age 60, who I enjoyed as a writer even more so than an actress, to Esquire during a “What I’ve Learned” interview 15 years ago: “Nothing is just one thing.”

John Calipari’s SEC openers at Kentucky

Date

Opponent

UK

Opp

Dec

1/9/10

Georgia

76

68

W

1/8/11

at Georgia

70

77

L

1/7/12

South Carolina

79

64

W

1/10/13

at Vanderbilt

60

58

W

1/8/14

Mississippi State

85

63

W

1/6/15

Mississippi

89

86

W (OT)

1/2/16

Mississippi

83

61

W

12/29/16

at Mississippi

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